Some people might turn their nose up at an onion and anchovy pie. But not the Italians! Lucky for us, Italian heritage isn’t a prerequisite for appreciating sweet, slow-cooked onions with salty anchovies and olives.
While Scalcione Di Cipolle is traditionally made with dense and crumbly pie dough, I prefer a flaky crust and have updated the recipe accordingly. Feel free to substitute your own pie dough recipe, or store-bought pie dough if you prefer.
Yield: 1 large pie (serves 6 for dinner) ○ Active Time: 45 minutes ○ Total Time: 2 hours
Equipment: 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom
Pie Dough Ingredients
1/2 cup cubed, chilled unsalted butter
1/2 cup cubed, chilled vegetable shortening
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4-1/2 cup cold water
1/4 cup butter
4 leeks (thoroughly rinsed and cut into 1/4 inch strips)
1 cooking onion (peeled, rinsed and cut into 1/4 inch strips)
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tomatoes (rinsed and diced)
1/3 cup pitted black kalamata olives
Cube the butter and shortening and place them on a cutting board. Transfer the cutting board to the freezer to chill and wait 20 minutes. Clear a large work surface and place a large bowl on it. Sift flour into the bowl. Add salt and sugar; mix it in with your hands. Add the chilled butter and shortening to the flour and toss with your hands. Gently tip out the contents of the bowl onto your clean work surface. Flour a rolling pin and start rolling the cubes into the flour using the technique in this video. Gather up the dough and return it to the bowl. Add cold water starting with 1/4 cup. Gently bring the dough together with a spatula or your hands. If the dough won’t come together, continue adding cold water 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough can be pressed into a disk without crumbling apart. (Too much water or heavy-handed kneading will produce a tough dough. The video link above is a great reference for this step). Once the dough has been formed, divide the dough and wrap both portions with plastic. Chill them in the refrigerator for a minimum of 1 hour, or overnight.
After you’ve made the pie dough and chilled both portions, it’s time to roll them out. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the first portion of pie dough. Lay the pie dough over the tart pan and gently press it into place. Do not prick the dough with a fork. Ensure it comes all the way up the sides of the pie pan. Any pie dough that goes up and over the sides can be trimmed away. Roll out the second portion of chilled pie dough so you have a round large enough to cover the tart pan. Lay the round on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Place both the pie pan and baking sheet in the freezer so both doughs can chill and firm up.
In a large pot, melt butter over medium-low heat. Add leeks and onions and 1/4 tsp salt. Cook until leeks and onions are translucent and have reduced in volume. Stir periodically to ensure even cooking. Add tomatoes. Stir and continue to cook down. Remove from heat when almost all the liquid has cooked off. Strain the leek and onion filling over a bowl to collect excess liquid. Transfer both the straining mixture and collecting bowl to a fridge to cool down.
Pre-heat the oven to 375F (365F convection). Remove the pie dough-lined tart pan and the round of pie dough from the freezer. Remove the onion mixture from the fridge and discard the strained liquid. (At this point, I like to taste the onion mixture and assess how salty it is. Try a mouthful with a small piece each of anchovy and olive; this is how the finished pie filling will taste. Is the balance right? If you need to add more salt to the onion mix, now is the time). Spoon the onion mix into the dough-lined tart pan. Top the onion mixture with pieces of anchovies and olives to ensure every slice of pie contains every ingredient (see photo of filled pie). Brush the exposed rim of dough around the lip of the tart pan with water to help seal the top and bottom cruts. Lay the round of pie dough on top of the onion mix and seal both doughs together by pressing them with your fingers. Trim off the excess dough. Cut slits into the top layer of dough to ensure steam can escape during cooking.
Transfer the tart pan to the centre of your preheated oven and bake for 45-60 minutes. If the crust browns too quickly, cover it loosely with aluminum foil and continue to bake. Check after 45 minutes. Tart pans generally have a removable base, so make sure you grip the sides of the pan, not the base, when removing it from the oven. For added stability when removing the tart pan from the oven, slide it onto a cookie sheet first.
When checking for doneness, check to see if the crust has browned nicely on the sides (they will pull away from the pan). Generally speaking, our instinct is to pull pies from the oven too early. As this recipe does not call for a blind bake of the bottom layer of pie dough, I find it best to leave the pie in for 5-10 minutes longer than I think it needs – to ensure the bottom is fully baked.
When the pie is done, remove it from the oven and allow it to cool for 10 minutes before serving. It tastes even better the next day. Refrigerate if you are not serving it the same day.