This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.
Sweet and savory caramelized onion focaccia dough, topped with blue cheese and bitter Italian greens.
This light and airy focaccia bread has a topping of sweet and savory caramelized red onions, bitter Italian greens, gorgonzola cheese and toasted walnuts.
The easy Italian focaccia recipe can be mixed one or two days before you’re ready to assemble and bake.
Can you caramelize red onions?
Red onions are high in sugar, which makes them really good to caramelize.
I brown the onions in a skillet with olive oil and a pinch of sugar, cooking slowly until they’re wilted, brown and sticky-sweet.
Italian-American focaccia recipes
I grew up eating a version of “pizza” made at neighborhood bakeries – long, doughy rectangles topped with thick tomato sauce (no cheese).
They came layered in wax paper, piled into a cardboard bakery box tied up with a piece of string.
After a few hours, the olive oil would seep through the layers of paper and make random stains on the bottom of the cardboard.
We enjoyed it straight out of the box as a snack all through the day, especially during those times between lunch and dinner or to stave off hunger after school.
I always knew them as “pizza strips” and I didn’t connect the dots until years later that my favorite snack was a type of focaccia, with a distinctly Italian-American spin.
They are very much a tradition in Southern New England although those family bakeries don’t populate the map as profusely as they once did.
My kids chow on pizza strips when we visit my family in Rhode Island – there’s really nothing like them anywhere else.
On the other hand, this recipe has a much more grown-up topping.
Slices of this warm or room temperature focaccia make a perfect vegetarian appetizer to serve with wine or as a snack.
Caramelized Onion Focaccia Bread with Blue Cheese
For focaccia dough:
- 2 ½ cups (310 g) all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon instant yeast
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) olive oil
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil
- 2 cups (320 g) sliced red onion
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
- ½ cup (75 g) crumbled Gorgonzola or feta cheese
- ½ cup (25 g) each shredded radicchio and escarole
- ¼ cup (30 g) toasted walnuts, chopped
Make the dough
- Combine the flour, 1 teaspoon salt, yeast and oil in the bowl of an electric mixer. Stir in 1 cup water.
- Mix on medium speed until dough comes together, about 2 minutes. Cover bowl loosely with a towel and let rest 5 minutes.
- Switch to the dough hook and knead dough for 1 minute – the dough should be fairly sticky but stretchy.
- Transfer dough to an oiled bowl, cover and let rise until doubled in bulk. It can take anywhere from 2 -4 hours depending on the temperature of the room. Alternatively, cover the bowl and place in the refrigerator overnight. Next morning, let the dough come to room temperature and let rise until doubled in bulk.
Make the topping
- Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions, sugar and salt. Stir, then lower heat and cover the pan.
- Cook 15 minutes or until the onions are very soft. Uncover and continue cooking until the onions are deep brown, stirring frequently, about 15-20 more minutes. Stir in the balsamic vinegar and set aside.
- Preheat oven to 450 (225 C) degrees.
- Place the dough on an oiled 13 x 9-inch rimmed baking pan and spread the dough toward the edges of the pan – it will spring back and not quite reach. Cover and let rest 20 minutes.
- Gently dimple the dough while stretching with your fingers to evenly cover the pan the rest of the way. Bake 10 minutes.
- Distribute the onions over the top of the focaccia and bake another 10 minutes.
- Sprinkle the cheese, greens and walnuts over the onions and return to the oven; bake an additional 5 minutes to slightly melt the cheese and wilt the greens.
- Cut into serving pieces with a sharp knife or pizza cutter. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Karen’s Notes and Tips
- For this recipe I used Petite Tango, a curly, spicy heirloom lettuce. If you can’t find it, use leaves from a head of chicory, escarole or radicchio