How to Make Italian American-Style Sicilian Pizza

Once you master this pan-baked pie, it’ll quickly become your go-to

November 27, 2023 6:19 am
Sicilian Slab Pizza on a wooden board
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The Washington Post via Getty Images

What do you imagine when you think of pizza? Maybe a classic New York slice comes to mind, or perhaps you reminisce about the time you had Chicago deep dish. But there’s one pizza type that, while oft overlooked, rivals any other style on the planet, in my opinion: the Sicilian. 

While inspired by traditional Sicilian pizza, the U.S. version has its roots in Italian American communities. Traditional Sicilian pizza, “sfincione,” is a square-shaped, thick-crust pie topped with tomato sauce, onions, anchovies and herbs. Cheese, if added, is more of a garnish than a main character. The American adaptation began in Italian immigrant communities in the United States, particularly in New York City, when people adjusted their traditional recipes to both suit local tastes and accommodate available ingredients. 

The American Sicilian pizza is known for its thick, airy, focaccia-like crust, generous portions of cheese and a rich tomato sauce. Often sold by the slice (are you a corner or side kinda person?), it’s most prevalent in the northeast and Midwest, from Connecticut all the way to Michigan. In fact, Detroit-style pizza draws a lot from the Sicilian. 

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For those of us with Sicilian grandmothers, this is the pizza we grew up with (and the one I compare every subsequent slice to). The technique is a bit different than, say, a New York Neapolitan pizza, as the dough is much stickier because of the high water content. The advantage is the dough requires minimal shaping and no board stretching, making it a great candidate for rookie pizza makers. If there’s a trick to homemade Sicilian pizza, it’s patience — the double rise is the difference between hard, flat pizza and light, crisp slices.

To try it at home, give the below Sicilian pizza recipe a go. And remember, practice makes perfect — if you don’t get it right the first time, try, try again.

Sicilian-Style Pizza

Servings: 4

  • 3.25 cups (360 grams) bread flour
  • 2 tsp. active dry yeast
  • 1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. (256 ml) warm bottled water
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tsp. table salt
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1.5 cups crushed tomatoes
  • 3 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 16 oz. mozzarella cheese, sliced
  • 3 Tbsp. grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 3 Tbsp. grated Romano Cheese
  • 1 to 2 cups toppings (pepperoni and banana peppers are my favorite)
    1. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or other large bowl), combine water, sugar, yeast and one cup of flour. Gently combine and let stand for 5 minutes. 

    2. Following the rest period, begin to mix, using either the hook attachment on a stand mixer or two well-oiled hands. Gently add in remaining flour, salt and oil. Combine for 5 minutes on medium-low speed, scraping the bowl as needed to keep the dough in the bowl, or hand knead for 10 minutes. The dough will be very tacky. Transfer dough to a large bowl (sprayed with non-stick oil will help), and let rise in the fridge overnight or up to 3 days. 

    3. Before pizza day, prepare the sauce. In a small saucepan over medium heat, add 2 Tbsp. of olive oil, followed by the tomato paste and garlic. Cook, stirring continuously, for 3 minutes, then add the crushed tomatoes, Italian seasoning and a pinch of salt. Bring to a simmer, stirring well to melt in the tomato paste. Simmer, covered, on low for 20 minutes, stirring often. Set aside and cool for future use. 

    4. Remove the dough from the fridge four hours before cooking and let it warm to room temperature for two hours. Grease an 18 x 13” baking sheet with olive oil or cooking spray, then transfer the dough to the baking sheet. Work the dough into a general even layer, pressing into the corners. Cover and let the dough proof in the pan for 2 hours.

    5. Following the second proof, preheat your oven to 475 degrees F. Using the tips of your fingers, gently work down any large bubbles or inflated spots. Top pizza with the slices of cheese, followed by the sauce, toppings and, finally, the grated cheese. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until the crust is deeply crisp and golden. Slice into squares and enjoy the world’s finest pizza.


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