Giglio island pizza with onions and anchovies

Giglio island pizza with onions and anchovies

Pizza gigliese

4 as a snack
Emiko Davies; Lauren Bamford

The ferry ride from Porto Santo Stefano to the little paradise that is Giglio Island is a quick and breezy trip (in many senses of the word). As you arrive in the turquoise waters of the port and see the little shops lining the shore, you may start to feel a bit peckish. That’s when you head to the nearest bakery and order a slice of pizza gigliese. It’s made of two halves of pizza dough sandwiching a filling of soft, sweet, caramelised onions, fresh tomatoes and anchovy fillets that add a smack of saltiness, like a wave of sea water in your face. After tasting it for the first time, I knew I had to remake it at home. Luckily I was able to adapt a recipe from a slim, little cookbook of traditional Giglio recipes collected from the memories of the nonne on the island, Antiche Ricette del Giglio.

It reminds me of the filled pizza you find in faraway Lecce, in Puglia’s far south, where onion and anchovies are a favourite combination (sometimes with the addition of more salty goodness such as black olives, capers or tinned tuna).


Quantity Ingredient


Quantity Ingredient
15g fresh yeast
or 5g active dry yeast
250ml lukewarm water
500g plain flour, plus more for dusting
1 teaspoon salt
60ml extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for greasing


Quantity Ingredient
4 salt-packed anchovies, (or 8–10 anchovy fillets in oil)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
500g brown onions, finely sliced, (about 4 medium-sized onions)
180g cherry tomatoes, chopped, (about 10; or use 1 large tomato)


  1. Combine the yeast with about 60 ml of the water, mix gently with a spoon and let it sit for 5–10 minutes to let it soften and dissolve. The fresh yeast may need to be crumbled a little bit in your fingers and mixed with the water until creamy.
  2. In the meantime, place the flour in a bowl, make a well in the centre, add the salt and olive oil and pour in the rest of the water, followed by the yeast mixture. Bring everything together to form a dough, either by machine or by hand. For the latter, it will take about 10 minutes of pushing, folding and pulling on a lightly floured surface until the dough is smooth and elastic (poke it – it should bounce back nicely) and no longer sticky. Place the dough in a large bowl, lightly greased with olive oil. Drizzle a bit of olive oil over the top and cover with a tea towel (dish towel) or plastic wrap. Let it rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Otherwise, let it rise overnight in the refrigerator.
  3. To prepare the salt-packed anchovies. If using anchovies preserved in oil, simply drain on paper towel. Chop roughly into smaller pieces.
  4. For the filling, heat the olive oil in a wide frying pan over low heat; add the onions with a good pinch of salt. Let them sweat gently, stirring occasionally, until they begin to soften but not colour. Let them cook slowly for about 30 minutes, adding a splash of water if you need to. The idea is to bring out the sweetness of the onions by cooking them until soft and almost jammy. Remove from the heat and let them cool completely.
  5. Preheat the oven to 200°C.
  6. Divide the dough into two equal parts. Take one half and roll it out or stretch it with your hands until it’s about 5 mm thick. Place on a baking tray lined with baking paper and continue stretching gently, forming the dough roughly into a rectangular shape – about 20 x 30 cm until it is as thin as you can get it. Spread the onion mixture evenly over the top, leaving a 1 cm border around the edge. Lay the anchovy fillets and tomatoes over the top, distributing evenly.
  7. Roll out or stretch the rest of the dough to roughly the same size and shape (don’t worry too much about holes) and lay it over the top, pulling the edges together to meet up. Seal the edges by gently pressing down. Drizzle olive oil over the top and sprinkle with salt flakes. Let the pizza rest for 30 minutes before baking in the oven for 25–30 minutes, or until crisp and golden brown.
  8. Remove the pizza and let it cool slightly before cutting into squares. This is also good served cold or reheated the next day, even if the dough isn’t as fresh.


  • Before the modern convenience of active dry yeast arrived on the island, it was traditional in Giglio to use lievito madre, or your own homemade sourdough starter. At one time, everyone had this sitting at home, ready for baking bread in the communal woodfired ovens. By all means, use sourdough starter if you have it.
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