Pizza scima in Abruzzo
There are those who also call it “scema” (silly, Ed.), but the term scima actually has little to do with the simplicity of the recipe. It is just the umpteenth demonstration of the Abruzzo’s great ability to turn their weaknesses into a strength, transforming shortcomings into stimuli to take advantage of, giving a new face – and flavour – to poverty. Thus even the absence of yeast becomes a pretext for inventing new products, in replacement of bread. In a kitchen where pastoral and peasant traditions still dictate the rules, you can easily find authentic recipes, with simple flavours of the past. Pizza scima is one such example, traditionally cooked under a terracotta tile and eaten instead of bread. The name derives from the dialect word acime or “unleavened.” The origin is in fact in the heritage of the numerous Jewish communities present in Abruzzo starting from the 17th century, in particular on the Costa dei Trabocchi, one of the most beautiful stretches of the Adriatic seafront, a long and jagged coastline dotted with traditional wooden stilt houses, fishing machines today transformed into restaurants that in the past allowed the inhabitants to fish without actually going into the water.
Origin of pizza scima
In particular, pizza scima seems to have been born in the charming town of Lanciano, further inland but still in the Trabocchi area. The delicious flatbread is a product that fully reflects the identity of Abruzzo cuisine: solid, robust, “poor,” very simple, yet tasty. A regional cuisine that owns well-defined contours, and which jealously guards customs of the past, in the ingredients but also in the tools used, from the cast iron pan for ferratelle (pizzelles) to the box strung with metal wires for making spaghetti alla chitarra. At the base of the pizza are flour, olive oil, dry white wine and a pinch of salt. It looks like a crispy focaccia, characterised by typical rhomboid incisions on the surface, which make breaking it with your hands easier. At one time, cooking under the coppo was fundamental, a sort of large lid that was covered with embers and placed on the top of the hearths, a technique also shared with Umbria (where it was used for the famous Torta al testo) and other regions of Central Italy, a practice on which we will soon develop.
Cooking under the coppo
It is in actual fact a cooking iron, a tool of ancient origins that allowed food to be cooked under the embers, in a uniform, slow and constant manner. Not only bakery products, but also meats, potatoes and other foods, which at the end of cooking were crisp and fragrant. It is a sort of concave iron lid often equipped with a handle, with which the pizza placed inside a pan or pan is covered. Everything is placed directly in the fireplace or near the embers. Today it is no longer used for purely hygienic reasons and, in the case of pizza scima, it is cooked directly in the home oven.
How to make pizza scima
Making a fine pizza scima is very easy: just mix the ingredients together until an even dough forms. Once kneaded, it should be rolled out with a rolling pin and placed in a greased pan or covered with parchment paper, giving it a round shape. Now the scoring: the pizza is traditionally broken and eaten with your hands, which is why the cuts are made on the surface, to facilitate this operation. To enjoy it at its best, it can be served as an aperitif together with local cured meats and cheese: a seasoned pecorino, ventricina, any traditional Abruzzo food able to further embellish the recipe. A great idea for a last-minute appetizer or a delicious packed lunch. Before putting it in the oven, it is advisable to brush it with a little extra virgin olive oil, to give the product its captivating golden colour..
Pizza scima recipe
450 g flour
200 g white wine
100 g extra virgin olive oil
A pinch of salt
Mix together all the ingredients and knead the pizza scima dough for a few minutes. Spread the mixture in a lightly greased tin and brush the surface with a bit of extra virgin olive oil. Make the incisions with a knife and bake in the oven at 180°C for about 50 minutes.
by Michela Becchi