Many baked unsweetened specialties
which are neither a bread nor an entrée are cooked in Sicily and consumed as a snack, appetizer or
for a hearty meal. The word focaccia derives from Latin focacius
meaning cooked under the ashes. In Sicily, the focacce are
baked for special occasions and they are always part of the Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve festivities.
Some food historians claim that the sfincione and all the other
stuffed breads called “impanata’’, or “scacciata”, crushed, or “coddirune” stuck together, were introduced in Sicily by the Moors. The sfincione
actually goes back centuries long before the Greeks’ or Romans’ controlled Sicily, the simple flat bread was the major
component of the everyday diet.
When used as the
staple food for soldiers and sailors, it had to be kept for many days; therefore, oil and olives were added to
preserve it and make it more palatable and acceptable for a longer period of time. Over time, the additions
of onions, cheese, and finally tomato, produced what is today’s sfincione.
The Iraqi simbusak that the Saracens
were eating in the Iberian Peninsula or in Sicily, was a very different product consisting of fried chickpea dough
on the outside, stuffed with meat or cheese; plain chickpeas fritters had been
for long time, part of the traditional Sicilian cuisine.
In the Iberian
empanada, like the sfincione, was there before the Moors, and the similarity between an empanada and a simbusak is
enormous, due to the diversity of the basic ingredients, the cooking and the preparation procedures.
Perhaps a distant cousin of the simbusak is the “pane e panelle”, bread and chickpea fritters, where the casing is
the bread and the fried chickpea fritters became the stuffing.
The empanada, under other names was
prepared and consumed in many European countries. The Moors mastered the making and introduced the empanada in
and other Moslem
countries while the Spanish and the Portuguese immigrants brought it to the Americas
Another theory is that the Syrian Sephardic Jews, who, after the Diaspora were in great numbers in Sicily,
introduced to the island the sambusak, a baked flaky sesame seed pastry, in the shape of a half-moon, filled with
meat or cheese, and traditionally eaten on the Sabbaths and Hanukah.
The Jewish sambusak influenced the production of some desserts and snacks made nowadays, consisting of a pastry
similar to a turnover, stuffed with various creams, marmalades, cheeses, meat or fish.
In every city, in every family a specialty that goes under this category is baked using different methods and
In Palermo the classics fincione is prepared in three manners:Palermo
Bagheria style and in the style of the convent of San
is famous for the schiacciate
stuffed with the locally grown purple cauliflower, called u bastardu,
salted anchovies, and cheeses and for the crispeddi stuffed with anchovies and aromatized with dill or
crushed fennel seeds.
the impanata is made with bread dough, slightly bitter broccoli rape, sweet
sausages and with tasty and racy caciocavallo cheese to
produce a unique and unequaled focaccia with contrasting and interesting tastes.
The impanata prepared in Messina is made with short dough without sugar
and stuffed with swordfish, onions, tomatoes, celery, capers, raisins, pine nuts, olives and cheese. In the Nebrodi
Mountains meat, cheese and vegetables became the main ingredients.
U pastizzu or ‘mpanata is made
in Ragusa, with bread dough stuffed
either with cauliflower, spinach, sausage or lamb in combination with caciocavallo cheese and tomato. The
scacce are in the shape of large turnovers and stuffed with tomato, eggplant, cauliflower or other vegetables
mixed with fresh local cheese.
FuataNissena is a small thin focaccia made
; it is
covered with tomatoes, anchovies, and pecorino. The
‘nbruliateare made with two sheets of phyllo dough; they stuffed
with pork and primosale, a fresh cheese, rolled up and baked as
The guastedda ‘nfighiulata is a round focaccia made in
Enna; it is stuffed with cheese and sambuco flowers
produced by the elderberry shrubs or trees.
Porto Empedocle the baked bread dough stuffed with olives and scallions are called ‘nmiscati, whereas the “mignulati” are stuffed with sausage meat and cheese.
Cuddiruna is a rectangular focaccia stuffed with onions,
tomatoes, potatoes, anchovies, herbs and cheese. The “cuddiruna in
bianco”, a “white” version is made using cauliflower instead of tomato.
An oval focaccia layered with tomato, cheese, anchovies, garlic, oil and abundant oregano is baked
in Trapani . The oregano is called
riano and this focaccia is called rianata.
Go to the Baked
Delicacies menu for more information and recipes.