Focaccia Caltanissetta Style

Impanata Nissena

Mpanata Nissenise

 

The rich farmland of the province of Caltanissetta produces grain and a variety of vegetables, making agriculture an important contributor to the local economy. In this province, high quality red wine (the Nero di Avola), fine olive oil (the extra virgin Colli Nisseni DOP) and a large quantity of pecorino cheese are produced in the surrounding hills and fertile mountains.

  Carretto Siciliano

 

The inhabitants of Caltanissetta, called Nisseni, and of the entire province prefer plain cooking, largely with the use of the local vegetables. Meat dishes are rarely cooked apart from holidays or special occasions. The people residing by the shore consume fish, which they catch themselves and are easily affordable.  

The impanata Nissena is prepared for special occasions. They are ordinarily stuffed with cauliflower and eel, and for Christmas, with baccala’, salt cod and a special tomato sauce.

The classic mpanata Nissena is made with three layers of dough, but if the middle layer is not cooked to perfection, the result is a regrettable waste of efforts and ingredients.

The following recipe follows the rubric of the standard Sicilian mpanata, which is made with two layers of dough with the stuffing in between them.

 

 

Ingredients:

 

For the Dough 

·   2 lb flour 

·   2 oz fresh active yeast or 3 envelopes of dry yeast 

·   4 tablespoons olive oil 

·   ½ teaspoon sugar 

·   Pinch of salt 

·   Water 

Or buy 2 lb. of bread dough in your local Italian bakery and work 4 tablespoons of olive oil into the dough. 

 

 

 

 

In a bowl, mix ½ cup of warm water with the yeast. Add the sugar and ½ cup of flour and mix until it is well blended and a soft dough is formed. If it is too dry, add some water; if it is too watery, add some flour. Set aside, covered, in a warm place. 

After 45 minutes to 1 hour, combine risen dough with remaining flour. Add some lukewarm water, the oil and a pinch of salt and knead to obtain an  elastic dough similar to bread dough. Make a ball, cut across the top to allow it to rise again, cover and put in a warm place until it almost doubles in size, 1 to 2 hours. 

 

For the Stuffing

The Cauliflower 

·   Florets of a medium head of cauliflower, about 1½ lb, rinsed 

·   1 medium onion, finely minced 

·   3 tablespoons olive oil 

·   2 cups red wine 

·   Salt and pepper 

 

The Eels 

·   2 lb eels, skin removed and cut into 1½-inch pieces 

·   2 garlic cloves, crushed 

·   ¼ cup chopped parsley 

·   3 bay leaves 

·   3 tablespoons olive oil 

·   Salt and pepper 

  

The Other Essentials 

·   ½ cup toasted breadcrumbs 

·   ½ cup grated Piacentino or pecorino cheese 

·   Greased baking pan (13 x 8) 

·   2 tablespoons of olive oil for washing 

 

 

 

 

The Cauliflower 

·   Preparation  

In a 4-quart saucepan, over a medium flame, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil with the onions and cook until the onions are translucent. Add cauliflower and sauté for 5 to 7 minutes or until the onions are light golden in color, stirring frequently. 

 

  OnionsOlive OilCauliflowers

 

Add wine and increase to a high heat to allow the alcohol to quickly evaporate. Lower heat to low, add salt and pepper and simmer for an additional 10 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed, stirring occasionally. Set aside. Should the result be too moist, add some breadcrumbs. 

 

The Eels 

·   Preparation  

Clean the eels and dry on a clean paper towel or kitchen towel. 

In a 3 ½- or 4-quart sauté pan, over a medium flame, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil. When the oil is hot but not smoking, add the eels, garlic, bay leaves and salt and pepper. Sauté until the eels are scorched on all sides.

Add the parsley and 1 cup of water.

 

 

  EelsGarlicgrated Cheese

 


Lower the flame and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

If needed, add a few tablespoons of water.

Remove from flame and, using a slotted spoon, place in a colander to drain. Set aside. When it is cool, discard bay leaves and garlic, remove the bones from the eels and mince them finely. Place in a bowl and mix in the breadcrumbs and cheese. Set aside.

 

The Assembly 

When dough is ready, split it into 2 pieces. Briefly knead each piece and roll one to cover the greased baking pan (13 x 8). Make sure that the dough goes a little over the edge of the pan. 

Pour the minced eels into the pan and evenly spread the cauliflower over it.
Moisten the edge of the impanata with water and knead the other piece of dough, roll and place it on top. Pinch it all around to make sure it is firmly sealed.

Cut 2 or 3 slits on top to allow the vapor to escape.

 

The Baking 

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and wash top of the mpanata with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. 

Return to oven for an additional 15 to 20 minutes until light golden brown.
Serve hot.