Homemade Sicilian-Style Pizza
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The secret to making excellent Sicilian-style pizza at home? It’s all about the parbake. Parbaking allows the focaccia-like crust to stabilize and ensures the toppings do not overcook. If you can make focaccia — and you know you can — you can make excellent Sicilian-style pizza. 🍕🍕🍕
Ever since posting this Detroit-style pizza recipe last summer, I’ve longed to make a really good Sicilian-style pizza. If you are unfamiliar, Sicilian-style pizza is similar to Detroit-style with its focaccia-like crust, but it’s baked on a sheet pan.
It’s also not quite as fussy as Detroit-style, its assembly not governed by quite so many rules. To refresh, with Detroit-style pizza, cheese goes on the dough first, it’s spread all the way to the edges in order to create a frico crust, the dough is proofed overnight with the cheese embedded into it, the sauce is distributed in three racing stripes, it’s baked in a rectangular blue steel pan.
With Sicilian-style pizza, the criteria to classify it as such is simpler: focaccia crust, topped like a pizza, baked on a sheet pan.
And so I started my experiments by simply topping my favorite focaccia dough recipe with sauce and cheese and baking the ensemble at high heat on a standard sheet pan. Much to my disappointment the high-hydration crust couldn’t handle the weight of the toppings. The slices, as a result, slumped under the sauce and cheese, and they tasted soggy and doughy.
To compensate, I tried baking it longer, which helped, but which resulted in overcooked cheese and toppings.
From there, I experimented with dough recipes from other sources, and while the bottom crust of the pizza indeed better withstood the heft of the toppings, I didn’t like the texture, which lacked any resemblance to a light, airy focaccia. And the cheese, as with my previous experiments, was similarly overcooked.
I had nearly given up when in a final effort to gain insight, I bought Peter Reinhart’s Perfect Pan Pizza and found a promising note:
“The Sicilian-style pizza is the only one in this book whose crust is partially baked in advance. Once the crust is baked, it becomes very stable and won’t buckle under the weight of sauce and toppings.”
Interesting, I thought, though I wasn’t completely optimistic because I had attempted a parbake at some point (for a different experiment), and I didn’t get great results: my dough had puffed way up, doming in the center, making it difficult to spread sauce and toppings over the surface.
But I read on and found a detail that gave me real hope. Just before parbaking his dough, Peter dimples one more time “through the middle — but not at the perimeter — of the pizza.”
And Friends! Guess what? It worked! By dimpling only throughout the center of the dough, the focaccia base baked mostly evenly, making it easy to spread toppings and cheese over the top. And the finished crust, even under the weight of sauce, cheese, and a heap of sautéed vegetables and pepperoni, baked up light and airy, just like focaccia.
I am so excited about this recipe. The parbake is game-changing! You can do it up to 24 hours in advance, which is convenient for meal prepping. If you have made this overnight, refrigerator focaccia recipe, this Sicilian-style pizza will be a total breeze. And if you’d prefer to make a sourdough base, use this sourdough focaccia recipe through step 5.
Read on to learn more about Sicilian-style pizza and the keys to having success with it as well as for various topping inspiration and step-by-step instructions.
What is Sicilian Pizza and How it Differs from Grandma Pie
While the definition of Sicilian-style pizza as we know it today is debatable, the indisputable original Sicilian pizza is something called sfincione, a focaccia-like dough topped with onions, bread crumbs, and caciocavallo cheese. It’s traditionally served on New Year’s Eve.
If you go to a Sicilian-style pizzeria today, you’ll find slices that resemble sfincione with their focaccia-like foundation but the toppings will vary as much as they would in any slice shop. According to Peter Reinhart’s Perfect Pan Pizza, Sicilian-style pizza is actually an American invention, originating in communities like New York City’s Brooklyn and Queens.
Before researching Sicilian-style pizza, I thought the category was synonymous with “Grandma” pie. I have since learned, there’s a (fuzzy) distinction. For some, a grandma pie is one that is baked once, whereas a Sicilian-style pizza is baked twice: once without any toppings (or partially topped) and then again with more toppings. For others, it’s the opposite. And for others still, it’s the height of the slice and the length of the fermentation that matter.
The common thread, it seems, is that the crust should closely resemble focaccia.
5 Tips for Sicilian-Style Pizza
Making great Sicilian-style pizza is a real balancing act. As noted above, the parbake was the piece of the puzzle that allowed everything to work for me, giving the unencumbered high-hydration dough time to stabilize while ensuring the toppings that would eventually blanket it did not overcook. But there are a few more keys to making good Sicilian pizza every time. In sum:
- Use a high hydration, focaccia-like dough for the crust.
- Invest in a good pan, such as this Winco Sicilian pizza pan. I hate to suggest buying one more piece of kitchen equipment, but until I bought this pan, the bottom crust of my pizza would not brown or crisp as nicely as I wanted. This happened with my Detroit-style pizza experiments as well — as soon as I invested in that Lloyd blue steel pan, I achieved the evenly golden, slightly crisp crust I was looking for. Black pans conduct heat better than shiny metal pans, which helps the crust brown. You, of course, can make this recipe on a standard sheet pan, but I worry you might not be satisfied with the crust. I suspect this is why many Sicilian- and Grandma-style pizza recipes call for a lot of oil in the pan — it must help with both browning and crisping. See recipe notes if you would like to use the Lloyd Sicilian-Style Pizza Pan (slightly smaller than the Winco pan mentioned above) or the Lloyd Detroit-Style Pizza Pan.
- Butter your baking pan before adding the olive oil. This prevents sticking but also helps to nicely brown the bottom (see photo above).
- Take care with your final dimpling. Dimple throughout the center not the perimeter to ensure an even parbake.
- Parbake for 11 to 12 minutes at 500ºF on a preheated Baking Steel or pizza stone. Lower the temperature for the final 10-12 minute bake. I find 475ºF to be the right temperature to ensure everything cooks through without getting overcooked. And for me, an 11 minute parbake followed by an 11 minute final bake is the magic formula.
With Sicilian-style pizza as with Detroit-style, you can use a heavier hand than you would with a more Neapolitan-style pizza. For each Sicilian-style pizza I make, this is what I like:
- 12 ounces of cheese — whole milk, low-moisture mozzarella or a combination of mozzarella and Cheddar or Monterey Jack or Pecorino (or, if I’m being honest, the Trader Joe’s 12 oz bag of grated Quattro Formaggi)
- 1 heaping cup of tomato sauce
For additional toppings, here are a few favorite combinations:
- 6 ounces of pepperoni + crushed red pepper flakes (out of the oven)
- Sautéed vegetables (mushrooms, onions, and peppers), recipe below
- pepperoni + sautéed vegetables
- pickled jalapeños + pepperoni + hot honey, inspired by “The Colony” from Emmy Squared in Brooklyn
Note: Some Sicilian-style pizza recipes call for the “upside-down” assembly method where the cheese goes on before the sauce. This technique helps prevent the dough from getting soggy because the cheese acts as a barrier between the dough and sauce. I don’t find this to be necessary when a parbake is employed, but it’s something to keep in mind for your own experiments.
This is my favorite pepperoni from Vermont Smoke & Cure:
This pepperoni is great, too, and it’s already sliced, which is convenient:
If you’re up for it, it’s best to grate whatever cheese you are using yourself as opposed to buying pre-grated cheese. That said, grating cheese is a serious tricep workout, and if you’re not up for it, there are some good grated cheeses out there. As noted above, I love Trader Joe’s Quattro Formaggi — it’s so flavorful and it melts nicely. I also recently discovered this larger-shred Tillamook Mozzarella, and I really like how it tastes and melts as well. Hannaford’s sells it.
How to make Sicilian Pizza, Step by Step
Gather your ingredients: 4 cups (512 g) all-purpose or bread flour, 2 teaspoons (12 g) salt, 2 teaspoons (8 g) instant yeast (SAF is my preference), 2 cups lukewarm (454 g) water:
Whisk together the flour, salt, and yeast first:
Add the water:
Use a spatula to stir the two together.
Slick the dough with olive oil:
Then cover the bowl (with a lid or plastic wrap or something to make it airtight). Stick the bowl in the fridge immediately; leave it there to rise for 18 hours or longer—two to three days will give you an even lighter crust.
Uncover the bowl, then…
… deflate the dough. Using oiled hands grab a portion of the dough and stretch it up and toward the center. Turn the bowl slightly and repeat until you have created a rough ball.
Prepare your pan for baking with both butter and olive oil. I’m using this 12″ x 18″ Winco Sicilian Pizza Pan. (See recipe notes if you would like to use the Lloyd Sicilian-Style Pizza Pan (slightly smaller than the Winco pan) or the Lloyd Detroit-Style Pizza Pan.)
Transfer your dough ball to the pool of olive oil and turn it to coat.
Let sit for 2.5 to 3 hours or until it has poofed considerably.
Dimple and stretch the dough to fit the pan. As soon as the dough resists, stop and let it rest for another 30 minutes.
Then stretch it again to fit the pan. At this point, the dough can hang out in the pan for several hours. Cover it with plastic wrap to ensure the dough does not dry out if you plan on doing so. Dimple one last time throughout the center of the dough before transferring it to the oven to parbake it.
Parbake the dough for 11-12 minutes at 500ºF on a preheated Baking steel or pizza stone.
Then, top as you wish. I’m using my go-to homemade tomato sauce here.
Top with cheese:
Then add pepperoni or sautéed vegetables or sausage or whatever you wish:
Transfer to the oven for another 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest in the pan for another 5 minutes before transferring the pizza to a board to rest.
Shower with pepper flakes, if you wish.
Cut into squares and serve.
Here’s the sautéed vegetable + pepperoni one:
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The base of this recipe is this overnight, refrigerator focaccia dough. If would like to make a sourdough version, follow the recipe for this simple sourdough focaccia bread recipe through step 5; then proceed with the recipe.
- As always, for best results, use a digital scale to measure the flour and water.
- As with the focaccia recipe, a long ferment is best. I often let the dough sit in the fridge for 2 days before proceeding.
- You’ll need a 12″ x 18″ sheet pan for this recipe.
- I highly recommend investing in something like this Winco Sicilian Pizza Pan (also available on Amazon), which conducts heat better than a traditional sheet pan and will therefore brown the bottom more evenly.
- Lloyd makes a Sicilian-style pizza pan, but it’s a little smaller than the Winco one mentioned above. If you would like to use the Lloyd pan, I recommend scaling the dough recipe slightly. See measurements below the recipe box.
- If you have a Lloyd Detroit-style pan and would prefer to use that here, see the notes below the recipe for scaling the dough recipe to fit that size pan.
- I love SAF instant yeast. I buy it in bulk, transfer it to a quart storage container, and store it in my fridge for months. You can store it in the freezer also.
- If you are using active-dry yeast, simply sprinkle the yeast over the lukewarm water and let it stand for 15 minutes or until it gets foamy; then proceed with the recipe.
- Flour: You can use all-purpose or bread flour here with great results. If you live in a humid environment, I would suggest using bread flour. If you are in Canada or the UK, also consider using bread flour or consider holding back some of the water. Reference the video for how the texture of the bread should look; then add water back as needed.
- Cheese: I know the idea of using grated cheese for some of you may be off-putting, but there are a few brands I like, and it saves some time using them: Trader Joe’s sells a Quattro Formaggi blend that’s great, and Tillamook sells a large-grate mozzarella that I also really love.
For the dough:
- 4 cups (512 g) all-purpose flour or bread flour, see notes above
- 2 teaspoons (12 g) kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons (8 g) instant yeast, see notes above if using active dry
- 2 cups (455 g) lukewarm water, made by combining 1/2 cup boiling water with 1 1/2 cups cold water
- olive oil
For the pizza:
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 12 ounces of grated cheese, such as whole milk mozzarella or a mix of Monterey Jack, Cheddar, and Mozzarella, see notes above
- 1 cup (+ a few spoonfuls) tomato sauce, such as this one or this one, or your favorite jarred sauce
For a veggie pizza:
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
- 1 green (or other) bell pepper, diced
- 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
For a pepperoni pizza:
- 6 ounces pepperoni, I love Vermont Smoke & Cure, sliced as thinly as possible — if you want the pizza to be really loaded with pepperoni, you’ll need more like 12 ounces
- crushed red pepper flakes
For a pickled jalapeño & pepperoni pizza:
To make the dough:
- Make the dough: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and instant yeast. Add the water. Using a rubber spatula, mix until the liquid is absorbed and the ingredients form a sticky dough ball. Rub the surface of the dough lightly with olive oil. If your bowl has a lid, cover the bowl. Alternatively, transfer the dough to a vessel with a lid or cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap to ensure the dough doesn’t dry out in the fridge.
- Transfer dough to the fridge for at least 18 hours but ideally longer: 24 to 48 hours. Longer is fine, too: I’ve kept the dough in the fridge for 3 days before proceeding.
Prepare the pan for baking:
- Grease a 12″ x 18″ sheet pan with butter. Pour 2 tablespoons of olive oil into the center of the pan. (Note: This greasing step may seem excessive, but with some pans, it is imperative to do so to prevent sticking. Moreover, it adds flavor and helps brown the bottom crust perfectly.)
Prepare the pizza for baking:
- Remove the dough from the fridge and use lightly oiled hands to release it from the sides of the bowl. Then, again with oiled hands, grab an edge of dough and pull up and to the center. Turn the bowl slightly and repeat until you’ve shaped the dough into a rough ball.
- Place the dough ball in the pan and turn to coat. (Note: You do not need to cover the dough here. The coating of oil should be sufficient to prevent the dough from drying out.) Let rest for 3 hours. With lightly oiled hands, stretch the dough to fit the pan — tent your hands, and use your fingers to dimple and stretch. You will likely not be able to get the dough to stretch all the way to the edges. When the dough resists, let it rest again for 30 minutes; then stretch it again using the same technique.
- At this point, the dough can hang out in the pan for a couple of hours (if your kitchen is on the cool side). I’ve baked it 30 minutes after this point, and I’ve baked it two hours later. If the dough is going to hang out for a while, cover it with a sheet of plastic wrap.
Bake and Top the Pizza:
- If you have a Baking Steel or pizza stone, place it on a rack in the middle or lower third of your oven, and heat your oven to 500ºF.
- Using oiled hand, dimple the dough one last time with the exception of the perimeter — this is important. It will help the dough bake more evenly.
- Transfer pan to the oven and place on heated Baking Steel or pizza stone for about 10 to 11 minutes or until evenly golden.
- Remove pan from oven and lower the oven to 475ºF. (Note: my oven doesn’t change temperature so quickly, so I actually turn the oven off during this period. Just before I return the pan to the oven, I turn the oven back on to 475ºF. Also: You can do this parbake hours ahead of time or even a day ahead of time.)
- Spread the sauce evenly over the dough. Top with the grated cheese. Then top as you wish:
- For the veggie pizza: In a large skillet over high heat, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. When it shimmers, add the mushrooms and let cook undisturbed for about a minute. Season with salt; then stir. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until the mushrooms are beginning to brown. Transfer to a bowl. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the skillet; then add the peppers and mushrooms. Cook for 1 to 3 minutes, or until slightly softened. Season with salt; then transfer to the bowl with the mushrooms. Toss to combine. Taste and adjust with salt as needed. Spread this mixture over the cheese. Add some sliced pepperoni if you wish.
- For the pepperoni pizza: Arrange the sliced pepperoni over the cheese.
- For the pepperoni + pickled jalapeño pizza: Arrange the sliced pepperoni and pickled jalapeños over the cheese.
- Transfer pan to the oven and bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until the cheese is melted and just beginning to brown in spots.
- Remove the pan from the oven and let the pizza rest for 5 minutes in the pan. If you are making a pepperoni pizza and are using the crushed red pepper flakes, sprinkle some of the pepper flakes over the top. If you are using the hot honey for the pickled jalapeño pizza, drizzle some over the top.
- Run a knife or spatula around the pan’s edges. Then, carefully remove the entire pizza from the pan, transferring it to a cutting board. I like to use a serrated knife to cut this pizza. You can cut the pizza into however many pieces you wish. I’ve been doing 20 squares.
To Scale the Dough for a Lloyd Sicilian-Style Pan, Use These Proportions (and please use a scale!):
- 488 g (3 3/4 cups) flour
- 11 g (2 teaspoons) salt
- 8 g (2 teaspoons) yeast
- 432 g (1.75 cups + 2 tablespoons) water
To Scale the Dough for a Lloyd Detroit-Style Pan, Use These Proportions (and please use a scale!):
- 277 g flour (2 cups + 2 tablespoons)
- 8 g salt (1.5 teaspoons)
- 6 g yeast (1.5 teaspoons)
- 245 g water (1 cup + 1 tablespoon)
- Note: My calculations lead me to think that a Detroit-style pan needs about 532 grams of dough. So another way to do it would be to make the recipe as written, use 532 grams of it for the Detroit-Style pan and use the remainder for something else — pizza, mini rolls, etc.
- Prep Time: 24 hours
- Cook Time: 20 minutes
- Category: Pizza
- Method: oven
- Cuisine: American, Sicilian
Keywords: Sicilian, pizza, parbake, olive oil