When I was a boy, Mom occasionally treated us all to home-made pizza. She’d make standard pepperoni or sausage pizzas for us kids but Dad’s was a special order. His pizza was called spianata and, unlike our kiddie versions, his was topped with only garlic, onion, rosemary, salt and pepper, resembling a rather plain focaccia. Yet, for so few ingredients, it made a very tasty pizza back then, while Zia and I use it today as a perfect accompaniment for any number of dishes.
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The recipe I’m about to share starts with what is called a “sponge.” Fairly common to many Italian/European breads, it’s a mixture of water, yeast, and flour that’s allowed to rise overnight. The mixture, in a sense, ferments and the resultant bread is more flavorful, almost sourdough-like. (In fact, I often add some of my sourdough starter to the sponge instead of yeast.) Of course, you needn’t start with a sponge but the spianata is so much more flavorful if you do. Once the sponge has “spent the night,” the rest of the recipe is pretty straight-forward and you should have no trouble following it.
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For the sponge
- 1 cup flour
- 1 cup warm water
- 1 tsp active yeast
For the spianata
- 1/2 cup olive oil, divided
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 cups flour
For the topping
- 1/2 of a small onion, sliced thin
- 1 clove garlic, sliced thin or grated
- 3 tbsp fresh rosemary, coarsely chopped
- olive oil
- coarse salt & pepper
- Proof the yeast in warm water, add to the flour to make the sponge, mix well, cover, and set aside. The sponge should be allowed to rise for at least 8 hours but no more than 20. 12 to 16 hours is usually best, in my experience. When you are ready to proceed, the sponge’s surface should be mottled with bubbles and it should have a strong yeast scent.
- To the sponge, add the flour, 1/4 cup olive oil, and salt. Knead dough for 5 minutes. Dough should not be sticky. If it is, sprinkle with flour and continue kneading until absorbed.
- Place dough in an oiled bowl, cover, and let rise until doubled — from 1 to 2 hours. (If using only sourdough starter, it could take longer.)
- Punch the dough down, turn it onto a floured work surface, cover with a towel, and let rest for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, coat a 9″ x 12″ sheet pan with the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil.
- After resting 15 minutes, place dough onto the pan and use your fingers to begin stretching it to fit the pan. When it covers about 2/3 of the pan, flip the dough over and continue stretching the dough until the entire pan is covered and there’s enough dough to create a ridge around the pan’s edge. Cover with a towel and let rise until doubled again, about 1 hour.
- Pre-heat oven to 425*. Place garlic and onion into a small bowl and moisten lightly with olive oil.
- Once doubled, remove towel and, with your fingers, poke the surface of the dough repeatedly. Sprinkle surface with garlic, onion, rosemary, coarse salt & pepper.
- Bake on oven’s center rack for about 25 minutes. The spianata should be lightly browned.
- Allow to cool slightly before cutting and serving.
Like most breads, spianata can be frozen easily. Once it is fully cooled, wrap it tightly in aluminum foil and place in your freezer. When you are ready to serve it, place it, still wrapped in foil, in a pre-heated 350* oven for about 25 minutes. Enjoy!
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Wow, that looks good, really moist. Thanks for mentioning it!
No, Greg, thank you for the idea of caramelized onions. This will be a big hit back home and I can’t wait to share it with them.
John, I have a question for you…I’ve got a pizza-sorta-thing in mind – vegetarian – wondering if you think this might be a suitable crust. It sounds delicious, I love the idea of the rest time in the fridge overnight. I’ll be posting something soon – as in very soon I think – so would love your expert opinion! Thanks! spree
This is a very moist crust, Spree, thanks to the olive oil. It makes up for the lack of a “real” topping. I’d be a little leery of using that much oil if toppings were to be applied. I would, by all means, make a sponge but cut the amount of olive oil, in particular using much less to coat the pan. I hope this helps. There’s nothing worse than making a pizza at home and having it turn out badly. Such a disappointment! Good luck!
Thank you SO much for the input John, so helpful…I’ll be sure and let you know how it goes!
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I really need to set some time to explore the treasures in your archives John.
Thanks to Spree I found this one and I can’t wait to try it!
Why, thank you, Sawsan! I hope you do try this spianata. You’ll find it is a moist bread, due to all of the olive oil. If you think that may be a problem for you, the amount can be reduced and the bread will still be flavorful. Personally, I love it this way, especially when served with a hot bowl of soup. 🙂
The spianata looks sensational! I have not been good with the bread baking. You have inspired me to give it another try! Thank you!!
You are most welcome, Judy! I hope you do try to make some. Because of the oil, this is one moist, flavorful piece of bread. No matter when I serve it, as an appetizer, with a salad, or with the main course, it is always devoured. It is very well-liked.
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So simple John! The recipe not you !!!
That’s the key, Claire. It is very simple and easy to make — but a very tasty bread.
Terrific bread! Although I’m partial to pepperoni on my pizza, the simplicity of this really appeals to me — I’ll bet the texture of the bread is wonderful. And I just happen to have a whole bunch of rosemary growing on my kitchen window sill! 😉 Really good stuff — thanks.
I really do enjoy this bread, John, and it’s so easy to make. I even made one on Day One of this dreaded disease and had a piece with my soup for days afterward. I hope you do give it a try.
Looks delicious, John! Thanks for sharing 🙂
Thanks. This is an easy, delicious bread to make and it goes nicely with soup, Giovanna.
I can’t wait to make this! Looks absolutely delicious 🙂
Thank you. I hope you’ll like it as much as we do. It’s a family favorite and its aroma will fill your kitchen while it bakes. 🙂
Oh I love your family spianata. Focaccia with onions is one of my son Simone favorite dishes. Thank you for your suggestion to discover this recipe.
You are so welcome, Silva. Have you shared the focaccia recipe that you prepare for your son, Simone? I would love to see it. Thank you for checking this recipe and for your kind words.
I posted the recipe of my onion focaccia “Solo per cipolle lovers” on June 6th, last year. If you are going to read it, tell me please if you like.
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