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The scacciata, as they call it in Catania, is also known as breaded (in dialect ‘mpanata) in Syracuse and Nissen, or as scaccia in Ragusa, or as mbigliulata in Agrigento, is a typical Sicilian handmade baked product. It is bread stuffed with tomato sauce, various vegetables, broccoli, cauliflower, eggplant, potatoes, cheese (such as ricotta, tuma, or caciocavallo), sausage, shrimps, black olives.
The dish was born at the end of the seventeenth century as an essential dish of peasant tables. In Sicily, the recipe was handed down and expanded according to the culinary voices of the time. In the rural tables of the Kingdom of Sicily and then Two Sicilies was developed, this simple dish made of bread, vegetables, and meat often the leftovers of an abundant dinner or a recurring lunch. It appeared in Sicilian tables at the beginning of the eighteenth century with a recipe based on vegetables and potatoes. It reached its success when Moncada himself, prince of Paternò, in 1763, wanted it on his table during Christmas celebrations. Since then, the tradition places it as a Christmas dish with a recipe handed down from generation to generation. Today scacciata has a vast diffusion in Sicily and significant commercialization of handicraft type.
The Sicilian word scacciata means “crushed.” The alternative name impanata (breadcrumbs) could denote its derivation from the Spanish empanada in use in the Siracusa area.
This dish has a characteristic quality due to its primary ingredients. Bread dough must be well leavened as well as vegetables must be fresh. Genuineness is its direct quality. However, it is considered its calories are about 823 Kcal, counterproductive for a diet regimen. According to the recipe, scacciata must have a proper shape and color; it must be bronze when cooked, compact, dry, and soft stuffing. The addition of salt and some spices (black pepper, cinnamon, and curry) is optional. Still, it is a condition that the vegetables are typically broccoli and fresh cauliflowers of the Etna areas. The type of cooking determines the product; if cooked in a wood-fired oven, it takes on its characteristics, whereas cooking in an electric oven will compromise its success.
Description and variants
The body of the scacciata consists of a base of leavened bread dough, laid out in an oval baking dish, filled with broccoli, cauliflower, potatoes, spiced meat (sausage or braised), and cheese (tuma). This is used to fill the circular base up to the edges and cover it with a bread dough layer. The outer layer is wet with egg yolk or extra virgin olive oil to give it the bronze appearance when cooked. The outer dough is pierced with a suitable tool to avoid air bubbles. It is put in the oven until it is cooked until it takes on the bronze aspect, and finally, it is left to cool for about half an hour, and then it is portioned and served at the table.
The signs of recognition of the scacciata are its shape and appearance, which must be respectively oval the first and bronze-golden color the second. When baked, it must have an excellent aroma and not present external bubbles, burns, undercooked areas, or excessive dough layers.
In the Modican area, and therefore in the Ragusa area, the Scaccia takes on a rectangular shape; the short side, before baking, is closed with the hand’s fingers; this closing technique is called “djiru” or “rieficu.” The final result is a braid or helicoid that runs along the part that has been closed. Ricotta cheese is also preferred inside the Scaccia. It is combined with onion, vegetables, or sausage; tomato is often used and combined with salted anchovies and parsley.
In the Syracuse area, potatoes are usually served with sausage and cheese or vegetables such as chard.
In the Catania area, instead, onions, potatoes, sausage, cheese (Tuma), anchovies, and vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli, or caliceddi are preferred.
The main characteristics of the production process of scacciata are the pans in which it is cooked. It was cooked, until the beginning of the century, in oval terracotta pans with apparent problems. These were then abandoned for the steel pans of rectangular shape and then oval, very hygienic and durable over time.
The scacciata is consumed mainly during the Christmas period. The massive artisan preparation takes over from tradition, and it is also found on the table every day because of its commercialization. Nowadays, it is part of daily use, and it is found in portions as a “hot dish.” Considering the per capita consumption, on a sample of 20.000 people, it is 80%, with a proportion of one out of two during Christmas time.
Variants with egg, spinach, zucchini or celery, and arugula fillings are allowed. Variants of the dough are puff pastry or leavened pizza dough, whereas shortcrust pie is not recommended.
Regional Recipe from Sicily