Pizza di Scarola (Escarole Pie)

January 25, 2021 Updated: January 26, 2021

Despite this recipe’s name, don’t expect a traditional pizza with tomato sauce and mozzarella. This classic regional dish, belonging to the Neapolitan tradition, is more like a stuffed focaccia or a savory pie, with a fluffy crust made with a potato bread dough.

Escarole is the protagonist of the filling, its bitterness tamed by supporting Mediterranean flavors: pine nuts, black olives, capers, and anchovies, along with the ubiquitous extra-virgin olive oil and chile pepper.

If you want to skip the dough, the filling is also delicious on its own. Serve it as a side dish to a grilled pork chop, or atop a slice of garlic-rubbed toast, all crowned with a soft-boiled egg.

Serves 6 to 8

For the Dough

  • 2 medium potatoes (about 7 ounces total)
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 1 1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons water, divided
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

For the Filling

  • 4 heads escarole
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 4 oil-packed anchovy fillets, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons salt-packed capers, rinsed
  • 3 tablespoons pitted black olives
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
  • Salt
  • Red chile pepper flakes to taste

First, make the dough: Peel the potatoes and boil them in a small pot of water until you can easily pierce them with a knife. Drain the potatoes, then rice them, or mash them with a fork. Set aside to cool.

Sift the flour onto a wooden surface and make a well in the center. Add the riced potatoes. Dissolve the yeast in 3 tablespoons of warm water with a pinch of sugar, then pour it into the well. Add the salt and olive oil.

Knead together the dough, adding the remaining water a few tablespoons at a time, until you have an elastic and not sticky dough. Transfer to a bowl greased with olive oil, cover with a damp towel, and leave to rise for about 2 1/2 hours, until it doubles in size.

Meanwhile, prepare the filling: Rinse the escarole under running water and separate the leaves. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt the water, and blanch the escarole for 3 minutes. Drain and squeeze well to remove any excess water. Roughly chop the escarole and set aside.

Pour the olive oil in a large pan along with the garlic, anchovies, and chile pepper flakes to taste. Heat the oil over low heat for about 5 minutes, stirring to dissolve the anchovies.

When the garlic cloves are golden, remove them from the pan. Add the chopped escarole and toss to coat in the oil, then add the capers, olives, and toasted pine nuts. Adjust the seasoning as needed.

Turn the heat to medium and cook for about 20 minutes, tossing every 5 minutes or so to distribute the ingredients evenly, until the escarole has absorbed all the liquid and is coated with the oil. Set aside and let cool completely.

Now, assemble the pie: When the pizza dough has doubled in size, generously grease a deep, 10-inch round baking pan with olive oil and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Scrape the dough onto a floured surface and divide it into two parts, one slightly bigger than the other.

Roll out the bigger half with a rolling pin so that it’s big enough to cover the bottom and edges of your baking pan, then transfer it into the pan. Arrange the cooled filling on top.

Roll out the remaining dough to slightly bigger than the pan, and cover the filling. Seal all around the edges and trim the excess dough.

Drizzle with some extra-virgin olive oil to grease the surface, then pierce the dough all over with a fork.

Bake the pizza di scarola for about 50 to 55 minutes, until the top is golden. Serve warm or cold.