I’ve always been a fan of thick-crust pizza probably because I’ve always been a fan of bread. Well, really carbs in general. In my neck of the woods, most restaurant pizza is Neopolitan style, which is great – I have no complaints. But it’s not the only kind of pizza I want to see in the world. I adore New York style, and I can get down with Detroit, but my true love is Sicilian-style pizza or Sfincione. Today’s Rosemary Focaccia with Mortadella and Pistachio Labneh features a pillowy Scilian-style pizza crust topped with rosettes of shaved mortadella, dollops of earthy and tangy pistachio labneh, and torn fresh mozzarella. This pizza is by no means a traditional sfincione but my goodness, is it delicious. So let’s make it!
Sicilian-style pizza goes by the name sfincione a play on the Sicilian word sficina which means sponge or spongy. So from the jump, you know you’re in for a chunky crust. The most traditional form of sfincione features a fluffy focaccia-like crust topped with tomato sauce, anchovies, a sprinkling of cheese, and breadcrumbs for extra crunch. It is delicious without further bells and whistles, so if you pledge allegiance to this OG pie, please know I totally understand. It is delicious! But things are going to get a little weird so I suggest you bail now. With the disclaimers out of the way, let’s tackle this overdressed bit of bread.
This Rosemary Focaccia with Mortadella starts predictably enough with the dough. This is my favorite bare-bones focaccia recipe. You can find it in a few different recipes on this blog. But today’s batch has rosemary baked right into the dough rather than just sprinkled on top. I started doing this after having a particularly delicious bit of rosemary-laced focaccia at Bar Vendetta here in Toronto. Don’t sleep on the rosemary, it really does sell this dough.
But before you even get to the rosemary, you first have to sprinkle some dry active yeast in some warm water. Add a little honey to this, yeast loves sugar. This is a great way to get the yeast going and to test its vitality. Let the mixture sit for 10 minutes or until foamy. If the mixture doesn’t foam, that means your yeast is kaput and should be thrown out and replaced.
Once your yeast is nice and happy, add some olive oil and salt. Now, you can add the rosemary. Add half of the all-purpose flour. Click the bowl into a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment and mix on low until a loose dough forms. Add the remaining flour in 1/2 cup increments, waiting for each addition to fully integrate before adding more. Only add as much as you need to form a dough that cleans the sides of the bowl and is slightly tacky to the touch. I like to finish off my dough by hand, kneading it until it is smooth and silky.
Transfer the dough to an oiled 9×13” pan. Drizzle a little oil on top of the dough and spread to coat. Cover and let rise for an hour and a half. Once the initial rise is complete, the dough should have expanded enough to fill the corners of the pan. Encourage this further by pressing your fingers into the dough to expand it and create a series of divots. These divots will become perfect reservoirs for the olive oil we will be drizzling over the dough.
Once the dough is oiled, give it a sprinkle of sea salt and a little more fresh rosemary. Pop it into the oven and bake until crisp, golden, and delicious. About 20-25 minutes. Take the crust out of the oven and remove it from the pan. Leave the crust to cool for 10 minutes prior to topping. We want it warm, not scalding hot.
Before we get to topping this bread-tacular beast, we have to rewind a little. Once the rosemary focaccia dough comes together and is nestled into its greased pan for its rising time, it’s time to put the pistachio labneh together.This process can be very quick if you’re willing to shell out (pun very much intended) the money for shelled and peeled pistachios. I wasn’t willing but I did manage to pony up for shelled but not peeled lightly seasoned roasted pistachios.
In order to get the skins off of the pistachios in a somewhat timely fashion, I plunged the nuts into recently boiled water. Wait a few moments and then drain them. Place the nuts between two pieces of paper towel. Rub the nuts aggressively to loosen the skins. Now for the potentially frustrating part, remove the skins off of each nut. This whole enterprise is optional. We’re peeling the nut to preserve the vibrant green color. If that doesn’t matter to you, these skins will in no way impact the flavor. This is purely for aesthetics, so if you’d rather not follow this admittedly fussy step, you don’t have to.
Transfer the pistachios to a food processor and blitz until very fine. Pile the nuts on top of a cup of Greek yogurt and add a little salt. Stir to combine and place the mixture in the center of a couple of layers of cheesecloth. Form the cloth into a bundle and suspend it over the sink or a bowl. Let drain for at least 2 hours but don’t exceed 8 – I think it loses its silkiness and/or spreadability if you leave it to drain for too long.
Once the pistachio labneh is good to go and your focaccia is warm but not flaming hot, it’s time to top your rosemary focaccia. Start by transferring the labneh to a large piping bag fitted with a large round tip. Pipe dollops of the labneh all over the focaccia. Use only as much as seems sensible to you. You may have some labneh left over and that is far from a bad thing. Try it on toast. If you don’t have a piping bag or you’d rather not clean one, you can just spread the labneh over the focaccia and call it a day.
Next, fold and coil slices of mortadella up and nestle them between the dollops of labneh. Once the mortadella is on there, take a ball of fresh mozzarella and tear it into pieces. Lay the pieces on all over the focaccia and finish with a sprinkling of crushed red pepper flakes, rosemary needles, and fresh sage blossoms if you happen to have any. I am a very inconstant gardener, so my sage does tend to flower fairly frequently.
And that’s everything you need to know about this Rosemary Focaccia with Mortadella and Pistachio Labneh. I very untraditional take on Scilian-style pizza or sfincione but delicious nonetheless.
Rosemary Focaccia with Mortadella
- 1 9×13" pan
- 1 Food Processor
- 1 Large Piping Bag optional
- 1 large round tip optional
- 1⅓ warm water
- 2¼ tsp active dry yeast
- 1 tbsp honey
- 4 tbsp olive oil divided
- 1 tbsp kosher salt
- ¼ cup fresh rosemary needles
- 3½ cups all-purpose flour
- 170g (6oz) lightly seasoned shelled pistachios
- 1 cup Greek yogurt 3% milk fat or higher
- ½ tsp salt
- 12 slices mortadella
- 1 ball fresh mozzarella torn
- crushed red pepper flakes for sprinkling
- fresh rosemary needles for sprinkling
- honey for drizzling
For the Focaccia
- Pour the water into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the yeast and honey and let stand for 10 minutes or until foamy. **1⅓ warm water, 2¼ tsp active dry yeast, 1 tbsp honey
- Add the salt, rosemary, half of the olive oil, and half of the flour. Mix on low until a loose dough forms. Start adding the remaining flour in half-cup increments, waiting for each addition to become fully integrated before adding more.4 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp kosher salt, ¼ cup fresh rosemary needles, 3½ cups all-purpose flour
- Once the dough cleans the sides of the bowl and is only slightly tacky to the touch, transfer it to a lightly floured surface and knead for 5-7 minutes or until the dough is smooth and silky.
- Stretch the dough to roughly fit an oiled 9×13 baking pan. *** Drizzle the surface of the dough with a little olive oil to prevent it from sticking. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside to rise for an hour and a half or until doubled in size.
- While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 400°F. Once the dough has risen, create a series of divots on the surface of the dough using your fingers. Gently coax the dough into the corners of the pan. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake for 20-25 minutes, rotating once halfway through, or until golden.4 tbsp olive oil
- Take the focaccia out of the oven and remove from the pan. Let cool for 10 minutes prior to topping.
For the Pistachio Labneh
- Bring a small pot of water up to a boil. Take it off of the heat and immediately add the pistachios. Leave them to soak for 2 minutes.170g (6oz) lightly seasoned shelled pistachios
- Drain the nuts and transfer them to a plate lined with a paper towel. Place another paper towel on top and rub. This will help loosen the skin on the nuts. Peel the skins from the pistachios and place them in a food processor. **** Blitz until very fine.
- Place the nuts in a bowl and add the yogurt and salt. Stir to combine. Transfer the mixture to two layers of cheesecloth. Gather the cloth to form a bundle and suspend it over the sink or bowl. Set aside to drain for a minimum of 2 hours but not more than 8.1 cup Greek yogurt, ½ tsp salt
- Transfer the Pistachio Labneh to a large piping bag fitted with a large round tip. Pipe dollops of labneh all over the focaccia but only use as much as you think necessary, don't feel obligated to use it all.
- Nestle the slices of mortadella on top of the focaccia and top with the mozzarella, crushed red pepper flakes, and rosemary needles. Finish with a drizzle of honey and slice and serve.12 slices mortadella, 1 ball fresh mozzarella, crushed red pepper flakes, fresh rosemary needles, honey