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Friday, May 28, 2010

Spinach Scacciata - A Sicilian Family Heirloom

Most of my youth I lived in Middletown, Connecticut, a small town on the Connecticut river most known as the home of Wesleyan University, a "little" ivy league liberal arts college. We moved there so my mom could get her Masters' degree but what most influenced me about living in Middletown were the abundance of Mom and Pop Italian eateries.

As I've written before, I worked at Mazzatta's Italian Restaurant, making pizza, calzones, and scacciatas (prounced SkaChaTa). Most of the world knows pizza and calzones - pizza everyone knows and calzones are pizza dough pockets stuffed with ricotta cheese and assorted goodies. While calzones are good when you're in the mood for lots of creamy cheese studded with veggies or some pepperoni or sausage, my favorite choice from the restaurant were the scacciatas - pizza dough wrapped around garlicky broccoli, spinach or potato topped with mozzarella and sausage.

I was not alone in my obsession with scaccaitas. Every major holiday customers would order huge sheet pans of scacciatas from Mazzattas (sheet pans are 18"x26" - that's a whole lotta scacciata!) Easter and Christmas scacciatas were particularly popular and I can recall hours of making multiple sheet pans for a single order. Yet, no one I have met, in either the U.S. or throughout my travels in Italy has heard of these delicious scacciatas. Finally, I did talk to someone who thought the word itself sounded like a Sicilian dialect term, which seemed to confirm my theory that scacciatas must have originated with a single family that brought it to Middletown and popularized the dish. This fit with the legend of Middletown as I was told it; the city was founded in 1650 but when four families from Sicily settled in Middletown in the early 1900s, the Italian American population grew to represent more than two thirds of the inhabitants of the town. So I present to you what I consider a Sicilian family heirloom, although of unknown family heritage!

While this can just as easily be made with broccoli, I chose spinach since the farmers' market had my favorite spinach, bloomsdale. Bloomsdale spinach is an heirloom variety that is more substantial than the flat leaf spinach usually found in the grocery stores and I love its crinklely texture, similar to Swiss chard.

I don't mean to mislead you; this is true peasant food but it takes several steps to prepare it. This version of the recipe is for 2-3 three people, but it is worth doubling it since you will be so disappointed when it is all eaten up so quickly!

Spinach Scacciata

calzone/pizza dough for one 12 inch pizza (like this)
2 lbs fresh spinach, washed and steamed
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1 link of sweet Italian Sausage, casing removed, crumbled and cooked on stovetop
olive oil
salt

Day before serving, make marinated spinach mix. Heat olive oil over medium low heat and add minced garlic and saute until garlic just begins to brown; remove from heat and blended into spinach and add salt to taste. Refrigerate overnight or for at least 4 hours.

The day you plan to serve the scacciata, make calzone/pizza dough. DO NOT USE the Neapolitan style dough I use for pizza; that dough is too thin for stuffing. When dough has risen, punch it down and stretch it out into a circle.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees (or as high as your oven will go). Place spinach mixture on one side of the circle, leaving at least a 1 inch border. Place sausage on top of spinach and distribute mozzarella and parmesan cheeses over top. Gently pull dough over mounded mixture and seal edges by twisting dough in a pretzel like motion (like you are twisting two pieces of dough together with your thumb and forefinger) and tuck tail under the scacciata.

Transfer the scacciata to a greased cooking sheet and lightly flatten the top. Poke the top of the scacciata several times to create steam holes and lightly oil top. Bake for 20-25 minutes until top is nicely browned. Remove from oven and allow to cool at least 5 minutes and then cut into wedges and serve.

Hugs!

33 comments:

Sophie said...

Now, this is one tasty dish!! I so love every flavour in here!

MMMMMMMMMMMMM,...fantastic & very tasty food!

Joseph said...

My Sicilian grandmother used to make something like this. It has taken me a long time to find a recipe because she called it "banada" or "mpanada" -- which I have since learned is the local dialect word. I'm going to give this a try and see if it approaches my childhood memories of eating banada at her table. Thanks.

Kirsten Lindquist said...

Joseph, let me know if it works out. This is truly one of my all time favorite foods. Where did you grow up? Hope it lives up to your memories!

nicholas africano said...

My Grandparents were from Cimmina, Sicily and my Nonna used to make a variation of this she call scaccianedu {sp?}. Hers was filled with ground beef seasoned with fresh basil, hard goat cheese, tomato, sugar. One of my all-time favorites. She would use her homemade bread dough for these. I smell them now...

nicholas africano said...
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Kirsten Lindquist said...

thanks for stopping by Nicolas, it's really one of my favorites!

BeckyC said...

Hi Kirsten,

I am of Sicilian descent, born and raised in Middletown and this has been a staple food in my life.

I, too, was shocked that I could not find it elsewhere and after living in California for 10 years, I had to try to recreate the memory of how I had seen it made as a child.

Now, back in Middletown, I can tell you that good scacciata has been hard to find, so I have continued making my own. (Although, there have been a few Italian restaurants in town that seem to be bring it back).

My favorite was always potato and spinach. I also add sundried tomato, which is amazing. Outside of that, I also blanch fresh spinach and use a small amount of italian sausage.

It was great to see this post!

Ciao!

DCNancy said...

My Sicilian grandmother was from New Britain, CT and also made "banada." I learned that the empanada originated in the Galician region of Spain which was where all the sailors were. Since Sicily is a big island I'm sure there were lots of Spanish sailors coming there and bringing their empanadas with them. This morphed into "banada" and that's what my grandma called them! It almost sounded like "banatha" the way my grandma said it. I've never heard anyone outside our family mention them so it's pretty exciting finding this discussion!

Zilpha said...

The first (and ONLY) time I had scaciata was in MIDDLETOWN, CT! (I went to high school there.) It was at a classmate's house. They were true Italians and the scacciata was delicious! So delicious that I never forgot it. But their version had potatoes in it, too. YUM!

Zilpha said...

Looks like Becky from Middletown made the kind I had had with potato. So tasty!

Diane Philbrook said...

My grandma made "a scaccia" with tomatoes onions garlic and ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan. But it was ib a pie pan and had a top crust too. I never found a recipe. Have been trying for 30+years.

Diane Philbrook said...

My grandma made "a scaccia" with tomatoes onions garlic and ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan. But it was ib a pie pan and had a top crust too. I never found a recipe. Have been trying for 30+years.

Judy Phelps, Hard Row to Hoe Vineyards said...

I grew up in Hartford and East Hampton. My mother made ska-cha from a recipe from my stepfathers Sicilian heritage. Glad to find a recipe for it and also the correct spelling. I am inspired, going to make some tomorrow.

tom the blogger said...
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tom the blogger said...

I lived and taught at the university in Middletown for almost a decade. Scacciatta was my favorite of all dishes, and I never understood why it was not wildly popular, more so than Pizza--which I consider to be inferior.
We always got our scacciatta at D&S--which is now closed.
I'd really love to have their recipe. It was fabulous--and better the second day cold out of the fridge!

Zach Siegel said...

My Sicilian grandmother makes our family-favorite "scotch" - abbreviated from "scaccia", I recently learned. For us, it's a baguette-ish loaf stuffed with a spinach, garlic, parmesan, and raisin mixture. Crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, a dry pizza-ish dough with a little olive oil in it works best.

Her parents were horse-drawn-carriage-, olive oil-, and wine-purveyors in rural Brooklyn, NY when they came at the turn of the 20th century. I guess the grapes made their way into the scaccia, which I haven't seen done outside of our family. Try it! It's great! Email me if you want the recipe!

Dami860 said...

What type of flour should be used for this?

Thanks!

KrisG said...

My mother-in-law made scacciata, too. Her family was from Middletown, and owned a restaurant at one time. I never hoped to find a recipe even close to hers, but I think this is it. She used spinach, and also made one with cauliflower. Now, if I can just find the caponata! Thanks.

NJ GiGi said...

My family is Sicilian and we always have scacciata on any holiday. My grandmother made it with spinach and sausage with oil cured olives and three cheeses. I am making this for our 4th of July meal this year in honor of a daughter who died too young and always requested this on her birthday which was the 5th of July.

Michael Brandson said...

I grew up in San Francisco where my Sicilian grandmother made "sciaccia" in two ways, the first one was simply with spinach, swiss chard, onions, garlic and olive oil using the same dough she made for her pizza. She would make it into a loaf stuffed with those ingredients and when you cut it open when hot the smell was unforgettably amazing. The other filling was sliced red potato, onion and roma tomatoes. I miss my grandmother and I am glad for the memories of her.

John Smith said...

I'm from Buffalo, New York. My Sicilian grandmother from Campobello di Licata, Prov. Agrigento made what she called "imbrugliulata" Lots of olive oil in the basic bread dough. this made the dough flaky and rich with oil. The filling was simple. Spinach sauteed with onion, oil, sometimes a bit of ground beef, sometimes with whole olives, and sometimes with a little boiled and sauteed cauliflower. the entire affair was rather free form and long.The aroma! I can still taste it in my memory.

John Smith said...

I'm from Buffalo, New York. My Sicilian grandmother from Campobello di Licata, Prov. Agrigento made what she called "imbrugliulata" Lots of olive oil in the basic bread dough. this made the dough flaky and rich with oil. The filling was simple. Spinach sauteed with onion, oil, sometimes a bit of ground beef, sometimes with whole olives, and sometimes with a little boiled and sauteed cauliflower. the entire affair was rather free form and long.The aroma! I can still taste it in my memory.

msrocky said...

What a delight to see "banada" recipes. My wonderful aunt always made this for Christmas Eve after midnight Mass. She made it with broccoli,lots of lightly sauteed onions, grated locatelli cheese and Italian sausage. Yum. I plan to make it for Super Bowl Sunday. We are originally from Long Island, NY.

Sally-Ann Famularo said...

My grandmother lived on Middletown rd. Just down from the park.. She made sciaccata all the time with with sausage. I can still smell it!

Sally-Ann Famularo said...

My grandmother lived on Middletown rd. Just down from the park.. She made sciaccata all the time with with sausage. I can still smell it!

Franca Di Pasquale said...

My parents are from Sicily, moved to Australia and my mum regularly makes sciaccata. I love the crust

MarcellineCazz said...

You can get great scacciata in Hartford, CT, too. The Franklin Avenue area in particular. My favorite is spinach, potato, caramelized onion, and sausage. Ordering it without sausage is a great Friday night meal during lent.

Hugh Brown said...

My Neopolitan grandmother and Sicilian grandfather lived in Middletown, CT and my grandmother was an amazing cook. I learned to make her pizza and scacciata in high school. (Won two pizza bake-offs with both in college.) The only time I ever heard anyone outside of the family mention scacciata was I was cooking a joint Italian meal with the late actor Vincent Schiavelli at a mutual friends. He knew of the dish from his Sicilian grandfather who was a well known chef. (A recipe is in Vincent's Sicilian cookbook.) My grandmother's dough was different from most pizza doughs, and besides the broccoli, sausage, and garlic she always used capers. (Parmesan and mozzarella occasionally.) One of my favorite cold weather dishes.
My grandfather was an electrician and had one of the first TVs in Middletown. My mom remembers the house being filled with friends and neighbors to watch the first televised boxing match in 1939 and my grandmother made many trays of scacciata,

George Gonzalez said...

Hi Kirston...I just happened on this old blog when searching for recipes. Well what I was looking for was this exact recipe from Mazzotta's. I too lived in Middletown and everything was good at Mazotta's. Anyhow I used to make this all the time and am so happy you published it. I am making the broccoli potato sausage today. It has become a family favorite. Cheers from Berlin Ct

Sebastiana said...
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Sebastiana said...
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Sebastiana said...
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Sebastiana said...

My Sicilian Nonna whose family was from Canacattini Bagni (and my nonno from Siracusa) made an amazing, addictive empanada filled with a mélange of spinach, garlic, raisins, pine nuts, and good olive oil (others sometimes add sausage) - she called it "Banadi" or "Banati" and it got very popular in our Boston area family. We even had a Banadi competition! I wonder if it came centuries ago from Spain? I know there was a large Spanish when the Aragonese/ Spanish Hapsburgs came to Sicily in 1282 (sadly also bringing their the black death and their inquisition which expelled or converted many Sicilian Jews) until 1713. Could this dish be that old or brought later by sea merchant? We do have distant family lore that a part of my Nonna's family came from Spain, surname was Lenarse.