In the Sicilian hilltop town of Ragusa, among the Baroque buildings, churches, and other UNESCO World Heritage landmarks, one of the highlights of any visit is a ubiquitous street food known as scaccia.
Scaccia is perhaps best described as a cross between a calzone and lasagna—a stuffed bread full of thin layers of dough. When scaccia emerges from the oven, the outermost layer is completely crispy, nicely browned, and charred in spots, yet the inner layers have a tender, noodle-like texture to them from the absorption of moisture from the tomato sauce and cheese. So, you get the best of both worlds, the crispy (and, according to some, the best) parts of lasagna and the al dente-ness of properly cooked pasta (hence the term “lasagna bread”).
The noodle-like consistency comes as the result of the combination of durum semolina and water. I’ve come across recipes for scaccia that substitute 00 flour, a type of soft wheat with a high protein/gluten content, for some of the semolina.
As with many Italian dishes and many street foods, scaccia has an inherent rusticity to it. The beauty of this is that when you’re rolling out the dough, you don’t have to be overly concerned if it’s not the perfect shape or size. You want the layers fairly thin, and from there it’s just a matter of layering the fillings, folding, and repeating.
When choosing a filling, your options are endless. Typical fillings range from a straightforward combination of tomato sauce, garlic, basil, and cheese to fresh ricotta with onions, sausage, tomatoes. My favorite (so far) is pan-fried eggplant with fresh ricotta, grated Parmesan, and basil. The flavors remind me of an eggplant Parmesan, but instead of breaded eggplant, the eggplant is encased in layers of “noodles.”
As for baking, a pizza/baking stone is ideal, as it retains heat and, to an extent, mimics a wood-burning oven. A stone absorbs and radiates intense heat to create a flavorful, crispy crust.
No matter how it looks when it comes out of the oven, your scaccia will be a delicious carb fest. It’s best eaten hot out of the oven.
I like my scaccia on the saucy side, so I scaled up the amount of sauce. Any leftover sauce is ideal for dunking the scaccia. I divided the dough in half and made one version with tomato, basil and cheese, and a second version with tomato, pan-fried eggplant, fresh ricotta, grated Parmesan, and basil. Use this as a guide, but definitely feel free to swap in your favorite fillings.
3 cups (500 grams) durum semolina flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons of olive oi, plus extra for brushing the top of the scaccia
1 cup water
For the tomato sauce:
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 to 4 salt-cured anchovies stored in olive oil (a not-so-secret ingredient that adds notable depth of flavor), jarred or canned
3 to 5 cloves of garlic, minced
Red pepper flakes
42 ounces crushed canned tomatoes
Salt to taste
Handful basil leaves
1/2 bunch fresh basil
about 1/2 pound thinly sliced caciocavallo or pecorino cheese
1/2 bunch fresh basil
1 small eggplant, sliced, pan-fried in olive oil
About 1 cup fresh ricotta cheese
Place the semolina flour and salt in a large bowl. Add the olive oil. Slowly add the water, mixing until completely combined. Remove from the bowl and knead 5 to 7 minutes, until smooth. Cover with plastic and let rest 30 minutes.
For the sauce, heat the oil in a saucepan. When hot, add the anchovies, breaking up with a wooden spoon. Add the garlic and pinch of red pepper flakes, and sauté another minute. Add the tomatoes, season with salt, tear up a few basil leaves and add to the sauce. Bring to a boil, decrease heat, and simmer about 10 to 15 minutes, until thickened. Taste, adding more seasoning as needed.
With a baking stone in it, preheat your oven to its maximum temperature for at least 1 hour. You want the stone to be piping hot.
Once the stone is heated, divide the dough in two. Keep one piece wrapped in plastic. Lightly dust your work surface with semolina. Roll out the dough, very thin, into a rectangle (for ease of transfer, I like to roll the dough on parchment paper). Spread a thin layer of sauce. Lay cheese on top. Add a few torn basil leaves.
Lengthwise, fold the right and left sides in so they meet in the middle. Spoon another thin layer of sauce, cheese, and basil. Widthwise, fold the top and bottom ends in so they meet in the middle. Repeat with another thin layer of sauce, cheese, and basil. Fold the dough in half like a book. Brush the top lightly with olive oil.
Repeat with the second piece of dough, layering and folding.
With a pizza peel, slide the scaccia (on its parchment) on to the hot stone and bake for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 400F and continue baking until the top is crispy and well-browned, about 60 to 70 minutes.