I love a challenge. When I was urged to create a recipe for homemade pizza rolls for a Super Bowl snack, I knew it'd be an interesting project. But first I had to sample the pizza rolls from the freezer section. Apparently they're now made by a company called Totino's. The last time I ate them, they were made by Jeno's.
Yes, it's been that long.
I was a little surprised there weren't more flavor options. I mean, pizza comes in a multitude of flavors, but the only options I saw were pepperoni with sausage or plain pepperoni. No vegetable option? No mushrooms? Nothing spicy? I guess that's just another reason for making your own.
The ingredients list reads like a novel. There aren't that many ingredients in my fridge! It seems impossible that anything that small could have that many components.
But how did they taste? "Not as bad as I expected," my husband said. I found them oddly addicting, in a curious sort of way. I kept nibbling at them, trying to figure out what they reminded me of. Pizza? Um, no. Well, maybe, sort of. Vaguely.
I knew I could do better with the filling. I did a classic sausage and cheese filling, with tomato sauce—next time I'll get more creative. I used my "cheater" pizza sauce (tomato puree seasoned with Penzey's pizza seasoning). I mean, really, they're pizza rolls. No need to pull out the fancy stuff.
The crust had me puzzled, though. What the heck was that? The pizza rolls are baked, but the crust-like stuff seemed like it was precooked in some way. And maybe a little greasy. Fried? Hmmmm. At first, I tried avoiding the frying part. Like oven-fried chicken or baked potato chips, I thought I might be able to create a crust that would bake up brown and tasty, somewhat similar to the pizza rolls.
But no, that wasn't working. I managed to create a crust that was crunchy and brown and tasty, but cracker-like. I kind of liked them, but they still weren't close enough to the original.
So I relented. Frying. It had to be done. Since I didn't want to waste a bunch of oil on deep-frying, I shallow-fried the little devils. Worked just fine, and they weren't greasy at all. And they got all puffy and blobby and interesting looking.
The filling only gave me one little problem. The first time I made them, I put the cheese and meat on separately, then dolloped on a bit of sauce. That didn't work—it left too much air in the center and the rolls puffed up too much when cooked. I knew better, but oh well. I then tried mixing the ingredients—this worked like a charm.
The dough is more like a pasta dough than a bread dough. It's stiff. While it could be kneaded and rolled by hand, it would be quite a bit of work. I used a food processor to mix the dough, and the pasta roller on my Kitchenaid stand mixer to do the rolling. A hand-cranked pasta machine would be fine, too. Rolling pin would work, if you like that sort of thing.
These pizza rolls are good right from the pan, and come with the same warning: this filling is molten hot. You can also make them in advance, refrigerate, and heat them in the oven to serve. I imagine they'd freeze well, but the Super Bowl isn't that far away.
I figured these needed a good Italian name, so I took a little poetic license with my own name: Dona Maria's Pizza Rolls.
About the author: Donna Currie has been cooking for fun and writing for pay since the days when typewritten articles traveled by snail mail. When she combined those talents in a food column for a newspaper in her area, she realized that writing about food is almost as much fun as eating. She launched the blog Cookistry and has now joined the Serious Eats team with a weekly column about baking.
- Yield:makes about 4 dozen
- Active time: 1 hour 30 minutes
- Total time:2 hours 30 minutes
- For the dough:
- 9 ounces (about 1 2/3 cups) bread flour
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup water
- For the filling:
- 1/2 pound Italian sausage, cooked, cooled, and finely diced
- 1/4 pound low-moisture mozzarella, finely diced
- 1/2 cup prepared pizza sauce
- For frying:
- 1 quart peanut or canola oil
Put bread flour and salt in bowl of food processor fitted with dough blade. Turn processor on and add egg. Then add water slowly,watching for dough to form ball (you might not need all the water). Continue processing until the dough is smooth and supple, about 15 seconds. Remove dough from food processor, form into flat disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and set aside to rest for one hour
While dough is resting, prepare filling. Combine sausage and cheese, and add enough tomato sauce to bind it well, but not so much that meat and cheese are swimming in sauce.
When you're ready to work the dough, set your pasta roller to thickest setting. Divide dough into 4 pieces. Send first piece through pasta roller at the thickest setting, fold in half, and send it through again. Continue folding and rolling until the dough is smooth and elastic. Then, set the pasta roller one notch smaller and roll the dough again. Roll again at setting 3 and finish at setting 4. Repeat with remaining three pieces of dough.
Lay pasta sheet on lightly floured surface and place 1 teaspoon of filling at 1 1/2 to 2 inch intervals along enter of dough.
Very lightly brush uncovered dough with water. Fold dough over filling, then press around the filling to seal rolls, taking care to press out as much air as possible from around the filling. With pastry cutter, pizza cutter, or knife, trim dough around rolls, staying close to filling, but leaving sufficient dough so there's a good seal all around. Individual rolls should be about 1 1/4 inches square. Save dough scraps. When you're done with all the sheets of pasta, you can re-roll all the scraps and continue making pizza rolls.
Before you fry, check the rolls to make sure all the edges are sealed tightly.
Pour oil into Dutch oven or wok and heat to 375°F. Place the rolls in oil in batches, being careful not to crowd pan, and fry until golden brown, flipping over to cook second side when bottom is browned, 2 to 3 minutes total. Remove from oil and place on paper towels to absorb extra oil. Serve immediately or chill and reheat in oven when you're ready to serve (8 minutes at 350°).
And here's a comparison. Original on the left, mine on the right. In a non-blind completely biased taste test, mine won.