sausage-and-spinach-focacci

Flaky Focaccia Stuffed with Spinach, Mozzarella, & Spicy Sausage

Hearty enough to serve as a main course on a cold day, this crispy, flaky, flat focaccia is a re-invention of northern Italy’s greens-filled flatbreads, made using a dough known as pasta matta (crazy dough), because it contains so little fat. You can use any sort of greens you like; spinach is especially sweet and silky, but broccoli raab or escarole are delicious too.

Serves 2 as a main course and 4 as an appetizer

For the dough:

  • 1 and ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for the counter
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for greasing the bowl and the pan
  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons room-temperature water, plus extra as needed
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt

For the filling:

  • 1 pound fresh spinach leaves
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ pound hot Italian sausage, casings removed, crumbled
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ¼ pound Mozzarella, cut into ½-inch dice
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Make the dough: Place the flour and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a bowl. Add ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons of room-temperature water and stir with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together. Turn out onto the counter and knead for 5 minutes, adding water if the dough is dry or flour if the dough is sticky.

The dough should be soft and supple, or you will not be able to roll it out until it is nearly transparent later; resist the temptation to add too much flour or it may be tough later.

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Turn the dough out into an oiled bowl, cut into 2 equal pieces and shape each into a ball, and wrap.

Let rest 30 minutes at room temperature (or refrigerate up to 2 days; return to room temperature before rolling out).

Meanwhile, preheat the oven with a baking stone in it to 550°.

Make the filling: Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil. Drop in the spinach and cook 3 minutes, then drain and cool under running water. Squeeze almost dry. Chop finely and place in a bowl.

Warm the olive oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the crumbled sausage and cook, stirring often to break up the meat, until browned and cooked all the way through, about 5 minutes. Add to the bowl with the spinach. Stir in the garlic, Mozzarella, salt, and pepper. Taste for salt and adjust as needed.

Roll out the two dough balls on a lightly floured counter until very thin and allow to rest on a floured counter for 5 minutes to relax and make stretching easier.

Roll out each piece until nearly transparent; if the dough tears, patch with your fingers. (This is a very easy dough to work with, and is very versatile.)

Generously oil a round 14-inch pizza pan (use at least 1 tablespoon: don’t be skimpy with the oil or the texture of the focaccia won’t be right) and line it with 1 piece of dough, allowing excess dough to hang over the sides (there should be at least 1 inch of excess dough on all sides). Scatter the cooled filling over the dough, then cover with the other piece of dough. Press the edges to seal and run the rolling pin over the edge of the pan to cut off excess dough, then seal again. (Excess dough can be refrigerated for up to 2 days, covered, and used to make other focaccias; you can also freeze it for up to 1 month and defrost as needed).

Brush the top of the focaccia with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle it with the salt. Make a few small tears in the top of the dough (this allows air to escape, preventing the dough from doming as a result of accumulated steam as the focaccia bakes) and bake on the baking stone in the preheated 550° oven for 7 minutes, or until the dough is lightly golden and puffed with a few brown spots. You don’t want the dough to take on a cracker-like texture, so don’t overbake. Serve hot.

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sausage-sliced

sausage-and-spinach-focacci