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Sfincione di San Giovanni (Sicilian Christmas Pizza)


Bruno DiFabio, a World champion pizza chef born to Italian immigrants and owner of 10 widely lauded pizzerias, has offered his take on the Sicilian Christmas pizza. Casual and quick, pizza is hardly something someone would imagine having a place on their dinner table at Christmas. However, the Sfincione di San Giovanni, also known as a Sicilian Christmas Pizza, is only served on special occasions including Christmas Eve, New Year's Eve, Good Friday, and on the feast of San Giovanni. Aptly described by its name — Sfincione translates to "thick sponge" — the dish features a soft, tender dough and a flavorful sauce. This unusual twist on a common dish is ideal for holiday indulgences and impressing guests.


Note: you will need a "teglia" pan (usually 12-by-18 inches) or two 10-inch rounds



  • 1 Pound of high-gluten flour
  • 1 1/2 Cup tap water
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • 2 Tablespoons condensed milk
  • 1 packet dry active yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)

Sfincione Sauce

  • 3 medium yellow onions, coarsely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon of capers
  • 3 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 Cup red table wine
  • 3 Cups water
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Breadcrumb Topping

  • 2 Cups coarse plain breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 Teaspoon paprika
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 1/4 Teaspoon cracked pepper
  • 1 Teaspoon minced fresh garlic
  • 2 Tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh oregano
  • 4 Tablespoons (2 ounces) of extra-virgin olive oil

Classic Palermitana Sfincione di San Giovanni

  • 20 oil-cured Sicilian olives (pitted)
  • 10 anchovy fillets (canned in oil or freshly gutted and marinated for 24 hours in salt and extra-virgin olive oil)
  • 1/2 Cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 Pounds Caciocavallo cheese
  • Sfincione Sauce
  • Breadcrumb Topping



Combine tap water and yeast, giving a little stir, then setting aside for 5 minutes. 

Stir once again to make sure the mixture is not clumpy.

Add flour and mix in a mixer for 5 minutes on speed one.

Create a well in the dough and add the salt.  Mix for 2 minutes on speed one.
Create a well in the dough and add the condensed milk. Mix for 2 minutes on speed one. Create a well in the dough and add the extra-virgin olive oil. Mix for 2 minutes on speed one or until it resembles a complete dough ball.

Set the dough in a lightly oiled plastic container with a top. Refrigerate this dough ball for 48 hours. After this "cold rise fermentation period," allow dough ball to come to room temperature before slacking out the dough.



Sfincione Sauce

Heat a large sauce pan on the stovetop. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil. Allow to shimmer. Add onions, and capers. Sauté on high heat for 10 minutes.

Add red wine and cook on medium-high heat until almost all liquid is gone. Add tomato paste. Continually stir on medium-high heat for additional 2 to 3 minutes.

Add 3 cups of water and reduce down until mixture is very thick.

Transfer to food processor and pulse until it is sauce-like.

Breadcrumb Topping

In a 350-degree oven, toast breadcrumbs for 8 to 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients and mix well.

Classic Palermitana Sfincione di San Giovanni

Take dough out of the fridge and let stand at room temperature for 2 hours or until it has reached ambient temperature.

Generously grease the "teglia" pan with the extra-virgin olive oil.

Work the dough on the counter surface using only extra-virgin olive oil.  Do NOT use flour. Slack out the dough until it is a little bit bigger then the pan you are using.  Then place inside the pan, gently pulling the dough into the corners.

Add a little bit more extra-virgin olive oil to the top and gently coat the entire top of the dough using your fingers. 

Cover "teglia" pan with plastic wrap, and let sit in the room-temperature oven for 2 hours. Take off the plastic wrap.

Break the anchovies in half or thirds and gently press them into the dough, dispersing all of them evenly.

In a 450-degree oven, cook the Sfincione until it has just started to turn color and take out.

Distribute the Caciocavallo cheese evenly. Using a spoon, evenly disperse the desired amount of Sfincione Sauce. Break the oil-cured Sicilian olives in half and evenly distribute them on top of the Sfincione Sauce.

Evenly distribute the Breadcrumb Topping on top of the Sfincione Sauce.
Return to the oven and allow to cook until the crust is a deep golden brown.