Smoked Halibut ‘Pizza’

The following I dish I prepared for the Sicilian dinner was very loosely based upon one of the appetizers at La Madia, the best restaurant in Sicily with two Michelin stars.

The ‘pizza’ at La Madia

This is what I wrote about this dish in my review of our dinner at La Madia: “We were thoroughly fooled by this pizza, because we were wondering how we were going to survive 8 courses if they were all going to be this big. It turned out to be very light actually. What looks like melted mozzarella is actually potato mousse. The crust was only a very crispy very thin round of dough, and underneath the ‘cheese’ there was lovely cod smoked on pine wood and some semi-dried tomato. Great flavors and wonderful presentation. 10/10”

The dish I prepared is by no means an attempt at recreating chef Pino Cuttaia’s dish, but it has been heavily inspired by it. My ‘pizza’ was made with hot-smoked halibut, potato mousse, and semi-dried tomatoes. It was more substantial than at La Madia and I served it as a main course.

My own creation

I had not planned ahead and made the pizza dough on the same day, which made it difficult to stretch it and so I ended up with pizzas that were smaller than I would have liked. Next time I will make the dough five days in advance, so the gluten will be relaxed and I will be able to make a larger pizza. Something I thought of while I was eating the ‘pizza’, was that it may have been nice to put just a tiny bit of grated parmigiano into the potato ‘cheese’ to give it a fuller taste and just a hint of cheesiness.

This is a really fun dish to fool your dinner guests, and delicious to boot! Thanks to chef Pino Cuttaia of La Madia for this creative idea.


For 4 servings

cold-fermented pizza dough, made from 250 grams (1 1/2 cups) of 00 flour, 10 grams of fresh yeast, 1 tsp salt, and 160 ml (2/3 cup) of water

400 grams (.9 lbs) halibut fillet

4 vine tomatoes

400 grams (.9 lbs) floury potatoes

about 250 ml (1 cup) whole milk

extra virgin olive oil

1/2 tsp dried oregano

8 fresh oregano leaves

salt and freshly ground white pepper

1/2 tsp sugar

2 Tbsp smoking dust

(optional) 1 Tbsp freshly grated parmigiano reggiano


Start by drying the tomatoes. Cut them into quarters and cut away the seeds. Pat the tomatoes dry with paper towels.

Arrange the tomatoes on a baking sheet lined with oven paper and sprinkle with salt.

Dry them in a fanned oven at 120C/250F for about an hour. The tomatoes should be wrinkly but still slightly soft, not crispy.

Take the cold fermented dough out of the refrigerator. Briefly knead it and shape it into a ball. Put the ball of dough in a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise for 2 hours at room temperature.

Combine 1 tsp salt with 1/2 tsp sugar. Rub the halibut with this mixture and allow to cure in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

Rub the halibut with olive oil. Season with freshly ground white pepper.

Smoke for 15-20 minutes with 2 Tbsp of smoking dust or until just cooked through and nicely golden brown.

Preheat the oven to 250C/480F. Divide the dough after it has risen into 4 equal pieces and roll them out into long ‘sausages’.

Meanwhile, make rings out of the sausages and arrange them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Allow to rise for an hour.

Meanwhile, peel the potatoes, cut them into pieces, boil them in salted water until soft (about 25 minutes), drain them, and mash them with milk. You are making potato mousse rather than potato puree, so you should use more milk than for puree.

Run the potato mousse through a food mill fitted with a fine sieve to make it completely smooth. If you don’t have a food mill, you can use a sieve and push the potato mousse through the sieve with a spoon.

The potato mousse should have the consistency of melted mozzarella. Stir in more milk if needed. Keep it warm over low heat, stirring now and then. You can add grated parmigiano at this point (optional).

Bake the pizza rings at 250C/480F for 10 minutes or until nicely browned. Put the rings on indivual plates, and arrange the halibut and tomatoes inside each ring.

Cover each ‘pizza’ with the potato mousse and garnish with dried oregano and fresh oregano. Serve immediately.

Wine pairing

We enjoyed this with an oaked Fiano called “Cometa” from the famous Sicilian winery Planeta. An oaked chardonnay or other oaked dry white would work as well, if it has enough acidity.


11 thoughts on “Smoked Halibut ‘Pizza’

  1. I have to stop clicking on your blog 🙂 ! This is the third honest ‘thank you’ for the week. Oh your ‘pizza rings’ are innovative and fun, but I had no idea that one could make pizza dough so far ahead. I am not only thinking of the quality achieved but of the convenience of making the dough ahead at a time convenient 🙂 !


    1. Thank you 🙂 This way of making pizza dough is even more convenient because there is hardly any kneading involved. Just mix the ingredients and wait for five days. It will not only stretch more easily, but also taste better.


  2. Great post, Stefan. Like Eha, I’d never heard of aging pizza dough for 5 days. Many recommend aging it for 24 hours, though. I’ll have to give it a try. These pizzas are so creative. It’s another dish you’ve prepared that has a very big “Wow” factor. You spoil your dinner guests. 🙂


      1. I believe you’re thinking of a sponge, Stefan, and that’s used for making bread loaves and is allowed to ferment overnight. After that, the remainder of the flour is added and the dough’s kneaded and further prepared. Many chefs here now suggest leaving fully mixed pizza dough in the refrigerator for 18 to 24 hours, sometimes more. It allows the dough to “ferment” without becoming over-proofed. I’ve yet to try it. I’m not that forward thinking when it comes to pizza. 🙂


        1. You are correct that the low temps are needed to prevent the dough from becoming over-proofed. I know about sponges, which are also called poolish. The cold fermented pizza dough is fermented in its entirety in the fridge for 5 days. I did a post on this a while back and also linked back to the Serious Eats article in which the Food Lab had tried different fermenting times.


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