A Sprinkle Of Panko Is The Crunchy Topping Your Pizza Needs

Looking for a little crunch on your pizza? If you've never heard of sfincione, a Sicilian pie topped with breadcrumbs, you may want to give it a try. Its standout elements include anchovies, caramelized onions, and a slowly fermented dough — but its signature characteristic is its crunchy, cheesy surface layer. Breadcrumbs are typically combined with olive oil and grated cheese, which serve to sandwich the softer ingredients (sauce, cheese, toppings) in between a crispy bottom and top.

While sfincione is perhaps the most well-known example of a pizza garnished with breadcrumbs, you don't have to follow this recipe exactly to make a pie with a deliciously crispy topping. For the crunchiest results possible, go with panko breadcrumbs instead. Unlike typical breadcrumbs, which are just made from toasted slices, panko comes from a white bread without crusts. The result is drier crumbs that resist absorbing oil more than their regular counterparts, producing crispier crusts on whatever has been coated in them. When you sprinkle the panko crumbs on top of your pizza, you won't get a full-blown outer crust that mirrors the bottom one exactly. Instead, you'll get just enough crunch to balance out all that gooey mozzarella, similar to a breadcrumb coating on a baked mac and cheese — the perfect textural upgrade for your favorite pie.

Balancing panko breadcrumbs with cheese

Sicilian sfincione typically uses grated parmesan or Pecorino Romano instead of the mozzarella you might be used to seeing on pizza in the States. These cheeses combine beautifully with the breadcrumbs to form a dry, crispy layer rather than a few crunchy spots on a meltier surface. While you can absolutely follow this formula for your own panko-topped sfincione variation, feel free to also add the crumbs to your favorite homemade pizza. Gooey cheeses like mozzarella and provolone can make for a satisfying textural contrast, and you can still use some parmesan or Pecorino Romano mixed in with your panko topping if you'd prefer. While a variety of pizza recipes can benefit from these breadcrumbs, you may find they're particularly delicious on creamier pies like four-cheese or white pizza.

Whichever cheeses you're using, you'll still want to mix your breadcrumbs with olive oil to get that perfect golden-brown, extra-crunchy texture. This is also the perfect opportunity to deploy a little leftover canned tuna or anchovy oil, provided you're not averse to the fishy taste. For an extra boost of flavor, you can mix in some chopped fresh herbs or just a sprinkle of Italian seasoning. Add your panko topping on your pizza right before you throw it in the oven, and watch it crisp up as your pie bakes.