Scaccia; Sicilian Lasagna Bread

IMG_6719My mother gave me several issues of the magazine Saveur that she was finished with.  They have been sitting on the coffee table in the living room for several months and recently, I found myself flipping through one, Issue 182 from April 2016.  The cover promised a Taste of Sicily, and I went through the article in search of bread recipes and I wasn’t disappointed.

IMG_6697Scaccia is favorite snack food in Sicily and can be easily found in shops and is made with many thin layers of semolina bread stacked with tomato sauce and a traditional cheese called Caciocavallo, a traditional stretched cheese curd.  Having never traveled to Sicily, I will accept that fact and add this to it, it is not easy to find here!  The recipe looked easy enough and after checking my pantry for semolina flour, I mixed up a batch of the dough.  This recipe instructs you to also make the tomato sauce but I suspect that you could use just about any sauce, homemade or purchased.  Caciocavallo, which translates as cheese on horseback in English, is similar to Provolone in flavor and is made from either sheep or cow’s milk and as much as I would like to try it, I didn’t go out in search of it and just substituted some grated Asiago.

IMG_6698First, the dough is rolled out into a large rectangle.  The result is a very thin sheet which gets topped with sauce and cheese before being folded up.  Then more sauce and cheese, more folding and finally, a log of layered dough, sauce and cheese is folded in half  and placed into a pan lined with parchment paper.

IMG_6699The loaf is not given a rising period but I did let mine sit for at least 30 minutes while the oven preheated.

IMG_6702Looking at the loaf, I was worried.  Knowing that only 1/4 teaspoon of yeast was used to leaven the dough was obvious; it did not appear to rise much, if at all.

IMG_6720After baking the loaf for nearly and hour, I was surprised to see that it did rise a small amount.  The aroma that filled the kitchen was undeniably that of lasagna or of a similar baked tomato sauce and pasta dish.  Having waited for about 20 minutes, I carefully sliced into loaf and revealed the layers of spongy dough, tomato sauce and cheese.  Not only did it smell like lasagna, it tasted like it too, both in flavor as well as the texture of the interior.

The verdict, this is a recipe that I will turn to when I want something besides the usual layers of pasta, sauce and cheese, especially for a pot luck or picnic-it travels well and can left to cool, sliced an hour or two later without being reheated.  This recipe has a lot of potential for variations.  The sauce could be varied; pesto, alfredo, butternut squash and mushrooms all come to mind.  Even the cheese could be swapped but, I look forward to finding a chunk of Caciocavallo so that I can taste it.

If you can find a copy of issue 182, open it to page 70 and get to work, take note that a detailed set of instructions with illustrations on the folding methods is also included on page 74.  For those of you that would rather just see the recipe, rejoice!  Saveur magazine has the recipe posted on their website and it is available for free, find the recipe here, and the folding instructions here.

finding inspiration at the grocery store; $10 tomato sauce

$10 tomato sauce

Maintaining a blog page that centers around food means I spend time looking for recipe ideas.  Using someone else’s recipe (with proper credits of course) is always a possibility but it does not say much for my own abilities in the kitchen.  Having a constant stream of original recipe ideas is challenging and I never know where inspiration may strike.  As some of you already know, I am a member of the Tuesdays with Dorie baking group and once a week, we post a recipe from either Baking with Julia or Baking Chez Moi.  But that is only one day out of seven and what will I do for the other six days?

On a recent trip to the grocery store, I found my inspiration in the pasta and tomato sauce aisle.  Actually, to be more accurate, I found myself stunned that anyone would pay nearly $10 for a jar of tomato sauce.  When I was growing up, the only tomato sauce we ate was my mothers homemade cooked they way my great-grandmother taught her to make sauce.  It has always been the standard by which I judge tomato sauce.  As my children were growing up, I found myself struggling to keep up and generally relied on a jar of sauce from the store.  When money was short, and it frequently was, a jar of sauce and a pound of pasta could feed us affordably and there would be leftovers.  Needless to say, $10 for a jar of sauce nearly knocked me down; I am in the wrong line of work it seems!

It wasn’t hard to figure out what I would be making, photographing and posting on the blog after that.  With so many interesting flavors to choose from, I decided I would make up a batch of sauce and leave the high dollar jars at the store.  Knowing I had some butternut squash to work with, I decided on a batch of butternut tomato sauce.  The two flavors compliment each other well.  The squash which adds a nice velvety texture to the sauce also has enough natural sweetness to balance the acidity of the tomatoes without the addition of sugar.


Because I like a tomato sauce with more than tomatoes in it, I also chopped up some carrots, celery, mushrooms and onions too and tossed them with the butternut squash and a little olive oil.  

Roasting vegetables gives color as well as flavor and after about 45 minutes at 425 degrees, the vegetables were soft enough.  First, they went into the pot with all of the other ingredients and I let it simmer a bit then I pureed the mixture.  If you use a regular blender for the job, be sure to do it in small batches, cover it but leave a small gap for steam to escape and drape a towel over the top of the blender.  Hold the top in place and blend on low-speed.  Do not do this unless you are holding the top down or the lid could pop off and send hot sauce flying all over!

IMG_2626Perciatelli is a hollow spaghetti tube and it was the perfect choice for such a creamy sauce.  Some folks will tell you that you should never toss cook pasta with oil to keep it from clumping.  The oil will make the pasta slippery and keep the sauce from sticking to it.  Maybe so but I generally add the oil anyway, but I do make an effort to add only the smallest amount possible.


Roasted Butternut Tomato Sauce

makes about 3 pints

1 1/2 pounds of butternut squash

2 medium carrots

1-2 stalks celery

3-4 cloves garlic

1 medium onion

1 cup button mushrooms, about 8-10

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 (28 oz) can plum tomatoes

3-4 sprigs fresh basil

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

1-2 bay leaves (one if fresh are used)

3/4 teaspoon turmeric

3/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 1/2 cups vegetable broth, divided

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Preheat the oven to 425.  Peel the squash and cut into large cubes.  Peel the carrots and cut them along with the celery into 1″ slices.  Roughly chop the onions.  Halve the garlic cloves and the mushrooms and combine all of the vegetables in a bowl with the olive oil.  Toss to coat and dump them onto a baking sheet that is lined with parchment paper or foil.  Roast the vegetables until the carrot and squash are fork tender, about 45 minutes.  Dump the roasted vegetables into a heavy bottomed stock pot with at least a 3 quart capacity.

Add the tomatoes to the pot and using your hands, crush the tomatoes a bit to break them up.  Add the basil, thyme, bay leaf, turmeric and smoked paprika.  Add 1 cup of the broth and bring the mixture to a gentle simmer.  Allow the sauce to simmer for about 30 to 45 minutes.  Using an immersion blender (if you have one) or a regular blender, puree the sauce; be sure to take precautions with a regular blender-read the warning above!  Return the sauce to the pot and using the additional 1/2 cup of broth, adjust the consistency of the sauce to your preference.  Season with the salt and pepper and serve with your favorite pasta.  Garnish with additional fresh parsley sprigs and grated Romano cheese if you like.  The sauce can be canned using the same method for tomato sauce or it can be frozen in containers.

IMG_2633Personally, I am planning to grow butternut squash and plum tomatoes in the garden just so I can make more sauce this summer!