Make Ahead

Pizza Rustica (Focaccia Filled with Tomato, Onions & Olives)

August  5, 2015
2 Ratings
Photo by Emiko
  • Serves 6 to 8 people as a snack
Author Notes

This is a simple dish, a classic example of Puglia's peasant cuisine. The key is the onions, which are sautéed so gently that they don't ever color; during baking, they turn deliciously jammy and sweet. It's also common to see one of the following additional ingredients in the filling: yellow tomatoes (a local tomato that is orange-yellow, small, sweet, and smooth), oregano, capers, tinned tuna, blanched bitter greens, or perhaps a touch of chile. But when making your own, resist going overboard with the add-ins and choose only one (if any): The humble onions are still going to be the hero.

This recipe is adapted from one by Ada Boni (Regional Italian Cooking, 1987) and she doesn't specify a dough recipe. You can use any basic bread or pizza dough that you prefer. The recipe I've provided is a very basic dough, easy to whip up and have ready in an hour if you don't have the time to leave it overnight.

A slow-rise no-knead dough that you can make the night before and pop in the fridge like this one would be great, too: Instead of trying to roll out or stretch the dough, just spread it around with an offset spatula or similar tool. —Emiko

What You'll Need
  • For the bread dough:
  • 1 cup (250 milliliters) tepid water
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons (5 grams) active dry yeast, or 20 grams fresh yeast
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 pinch salt
  • For the filling:
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 3 medium yellow onions, peeled, cut in half, and thinly sliced
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 14 ounces (400 grams) canned peeled tomatoes
  • About 12 anchovy fillets in oil (30 grams), drained
  • 1/2 cup good quality black olives, pitted
  1. For the dough: If using dry yeast, just mix all of the ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. If using fresh yeast, crumble it into 1/4 cup of the water and let sit for 5 minutes or until it soften; mix gently with a spoon, then add the rest of the ingredients. Bring together to form a dough.
  2. You can knead by machine or by hand; for the latter, it will be about 10 minutes of pushing, folding, pulling, etc. until it is no longer sticky and the ball of dough is beautifully smooth and elastic (bounces back if you poke it).
  3. Place the kneaded dough in an oiled bowl, drizzle a bit of oil over the top, cover with a tea towel or plastic wrap, and let sit in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
  4. For the filling: Gently heat the olive oil in a wide skillet and add the onions with a pinch of salt. Let sweat gently until they begin to soften but not color, then add the tomatoes, breaking them up with your spoon when they're in the pan. Add a splash of water and cook over low-medium heat for about 10 to 15 minutes, or until the tomato sauce thickens. Remove from the heat.
  5. When the dough is ready, preheat the oven to 400° F. Divide into two equal parts. Take one half and roll it out or stretch it with your hands until it's about 1/4-inch thick. Place on a baking tray lined with baking paper and continue stretching gently, forming the dough into a rough rectangle shape until it's as thin as you can get it. Spread the onion and tomato mixture evenly over the top, leaving a 1/2-inch border around the edge. Lay the anchovy fillets and pitted olives over top, distributing evenly.
  6. Roll out or stretch the rest of the dough to roughly the same size and shape (don't worry too much about holes—they don't call this “rustic” pizza for nothing) and lay it over the top, pulling the edges to meet up. Seal the edges by gently pressing down. Poke holes all over the top of the dough with a fork and bake in the oven for 45 minutes, or until crisp and golden brown.
  7. Remove and let cool slightly before cutting into squares. This is also very good served cold the next day, even if the bread is not as crisp.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Emiko
  • thebeta99
  • ghainskom

5 Reviews

thebeta99 November 21, 2021
I've been looking for this for over 40 years! My grandparents came from Italy (Bari) to upstate New York in the 1920s and when I was a child my aunt used to bring over what she called "Figaut". I don't think there were anchovies inside, but it was onions, black olives, and tomatoes between two pieces of pizza dough. We always ate it cold and it was wonderful. I figured out several years ago from their pronunciation of Ricotta ("rigaut") that this was probably some sort of focaccia, and I found Focaccia Barese (open faced) but never a recipe this consistent with the figaut of my childhood. Strangely validating, and I can't wait to follow this recipe. I tried many years ago to guess at the recipe and it didn't come out quite right. The "jammy" quality of the onions is exactly what was missing.
Emiko November 23, 2021
I hope you try it! This is one of the best things I've eaten in Puglia (and that's a very hard contest, everything is so good!). The anchovies basically melt down and you don't detect them other than they add extremely good flavour! If you're not a fan you could leave out but they really add a nice salty contrast with the sweet onion.
ghainskom August 12, 2015
A pizza without cheese sounds contra-intuitive to me, though this does looks delicious.
Emiko August 14, 2015
Actually "Pizza" means many different things in Italy (in some places it's a tall, fluffy, panettone-like cake!) and this Pugliese version is more closely related to what we know as focaccia. The fillings can differ slightly but the ONE rule is: no cheese!
Emiko August 14, 2015
Actually "Pizza" means many different things in Italy (in some places it's a tall, fluffy, panettone-like cake!) and this Pugliese version is more closely related to what we know as focaccia. The fillings can differ slightly but the ONE rule is: no cheese!