Did somebody say how about some classic Italian sardine pizza’, well- here’s a recipe that harks back to the early 1500s. With the advent of tomato sauce that was finally added to this dish in the 1700s, this historic Naples dish came into popularity. The name of this dish originated as a Focaccia-like pizza bread that originated in the province of Liguria. It’s essentially focaccia bread, anchovy paste, and sliced onions on top.
The original word Pissala is a local dialect for anchovy paste and is one of the preferred toppings that go onto this pizza. Over the years, this has favored whole sardines or anchovies that have been desalinated. This means they’ve been macerated in butter and olive oil for 6-7 weeks, making the fishy flavor all but missing. This gives a wonderful flavor, but still, this gives most people the willies just looking at cooked little fishies on their pizza.
How the heck did an Italian recipe finds its way into French cuisine as a culinary treat?
It seems a certain admiral and lord named Andrea Doria presided over Genoa, was originally a strong ally to France. His love for the Ligurian food included the Pissaladiéra which he brought with him everywhere he traveled. To this day, the French hold claim to this iconic pizza with some even saying it was originally invented in France!
- Basic baking tray (deeper than cookie tray)
- Food processor
- Grinding vessel
- Small bowl
- Large bowl
- Spaghetti fork
- Regular cooking pan
- Kitchen oven
- Assorted kitchen spoons
- Kitchen roller
- Silicone pastry sheet
- 2 Cup White flour (unbleached)
- 1 Cup Warm water 90-105F degrees
- 1 Tablespoon Bakers yeast (sucanat)
- 5 Tablespoon Olive oil
- 1 Teaspoon Salt
- 2 Cloves (crushed)
- A dash of fennel seeds (crushed)
- 1 Tin Sardines with olive oil (what the sardines come in) -mashed into mixing vessel
- 5-6 Small Anchovies (canned- so use a whole tin)
- 1 Kilo Onions (sliced thinly in a food processor)
- 2-3 Twigs fresh thyme
- Dried herbs (bay leaves or your choice)
- Black olives (pitted)
How to make your pizza dough
First, you add your baker’s yeast into a small bowl of warm water and add a little bit of granulated sugar. This helps to activate the yeast, so let this sit for at least 10 minutes beforehand to see that it’s reacting. Into a separate larger bowl, add your flour and salt and mix these together and break up any lumps in your flour with a kitchen spoon. After your yeast is activated, pour one cup of water into your flour.
This is then followed by the yeast and water mixture to get good hydration. For this, you want to start with 65% water, which will tell you the percentage depending on the amount of flour used. For 2 cups of flour, this is roughly 1 cup of water. But you should always convert this based on hydration percentages. 65% of the water will be around three-quarters of a cup. The overall dough texture should be a medium sticky dough.
Mix these all together with 5 tablespoons of olive oil until you have your mixed dough. When this is done mix the ingredients with your hand. Take just enough extra flour to further mix this into a ball so it can be rolled with your hands. You want this to be mixed well enough to allow all of your dough to react with the yeast mixture. Then place this back into your original bowl and put a towel over it.
Place it somewhere that is warm (around 80F degrees) for one hour, so it will proof.
Take your vessel that can crush the cloves, fennel seeds, and anchovies and use the grinder to mash them individually into small bits. The clove and fennel should be very fine, so these need to be ground up first. After this, your anchovies and sardines are next. You’ll need to add olive oil to get this mixture to make the paste smooth as you grind it down into a nice creamy paste.
When you’re done you can add more olive oil so that this paste is easily spread onto your dough later. The ideal texture should be similar to warm paste or creamy icing. Let this sit to the side until you need it.
Adding toppings and cooking your onions:
Since you might want to use the leftover anchovies that come from a tin, you’ll likely have enough to use as extra toppings. It’s your choice, so look for anchovies that aren’t too especially salty or fishy. Ones that are stored in olive oil are a good choice since you can add 2 tablespoons of fresh melted butter in a small bowl and give the entire mixture less of a fishy taste.
Try doing this at least 2-3 days before you make your pizza and store it in a plastic container. Keep in a cool place like the fridge to keep out germs. Now you need to cook your onions in a frying pan. You add enough olive oil into the pan over medium heat. The point is- that you’ll want to caramelize the onions to get the onion flavor into your pizza. This process will take at least 10- 25 minutes.
Keep an eye on your onions as they render down and get to a nice caramelized point and use the spaghetti fork to move them around. When the onions are done, remove the bay leaves and thyme so you don’t have these in the final onion mixture.
Cooking your pizza
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and grab your cooking tray. Add a bit of flour to the bottom of the tray and scatter it around. This will keep your dough from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Now you can take your dough and roll it out using some scattered flour. The dough needs to be at least one-half-inch thick. You can trace your cutting line by placing your cooking tray over the dough to get a good fit.
Use the excess pieces for individual pizza bite strips. To put the dough into your tray simply flip your pastry sheet into the cooking tray. Then remove the silicone sheet from the top of this. It should fit perfectly inside your cooking tray. Using a spoon put your sardine and anchovy paste and place this onto the dough just like you would add tomato sauce. After this, you add the caramelized onions over the top of this.
Top this off with black olives, placed in rows that are spaced from each other. This will give you just enough space to lay down your leftover anchovies in between the olives. Take your anchovies from the fridge and put this into the microwave to re-melt the butter. It will further allow your anchovies to soak in that buttery oil flavor. Then you’re ready to put your pizza into the oven.
Cook your pizza for at least 20 minutes and until it gets nice and crisp. Let it sit for 5 minutes before you slice this into small rectangle-shaped pieces.
Serve on small plates and always have slices that are no more than 2 x 3 inches pieces. This recipe is to be enjoyed as a starter before any meal. It’s not really meant to be the entire meal, so you can serve up to 2 small slices for 4-5 people. Pizza scissors or food shears are the choice tool in France for slicing your pie. Enjoy this with a nice red wine while the rest of your meal is being cooked.