Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Home Made Pizza Rolls

I love a challenge. When the folks at Serious Eats suggested that I come up with a recipe for home made pizza rolls for a Superbowl snack, I thought it would be an interesting project. But the first thing I had to do was sample some pizza rolls because apparently they're now made by a company called Totino's. The last time I ate pizza rolls, they were made by a company called Gino's.

Yes it's been that long.

I found the pizza rolls without any problem, but I was a little surprised that 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.

I bought a box of 'em, and when I started reading the directions, I realized it was the ingredients list. Seriously, the ingredients are like a novel. There aren't that many ingredients in my refrigerator. 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 figured I could do better with the filling, for sure. I decided to do a classic sausage and cheese filling, with tomato sauce, of course. Next time I'll get more creative. And I used my "cheater" pizza sauce, which is 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.

My first thought was that I wanted to try making them so that they didn't have to be fried. 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 and 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 they were cracker-like. I kind of liked them, but they weren't close enough to the original.

So I relented. Frying. It had to be done. But I didn't want to waste a bunch of oil on deep frying, so 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 I dolloped on a bit of sauce. That didn't work, since it left too much air in the center and the rolls puffed up too much when I cooked them. I knew better, but oh well. When I mixed the ingredients, it worked like a charm.

The dough is more like a pasta 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 about how the filling is molten hot. But you can also make them in advance, refrigerate, and heat them in the oven to serve. I imagine they'd freeze well, but the Superbowl 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
makes about 4 dozen pizza rolls

For the dough:
2 cups (9 ounces) bread flour
1 egg
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup water (less as needed)
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:
High-temperature oil (peanut, etc.)

Put the bread flour and salt in the bowl of your food processor fitted with the appropriate dough blade. Turn the processor on and add the egg. Then add the water slowly,watching for the dough to form a ball. You may not need all the water - I had about a tablespoon left when the ball formed.

Continue kneading until the dough is smooth and supple. Remove the dough from the food processor, form into a flat disk, wrap in plastic wrap (or put it in a plastic bag) and set aside to rest for an hour. Or refrigerate, if you want to work with it later.

Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Combine the sausage and cheese, and add enough tomato sauce to bind it well, but not so much that the meat and cheese are swimming in the sauce.

When you're ready to work the dough, set your pasta roller to its thickest setting. It's easiest to work the dough in smaller pieces, so divide it into 4 pieces. Send the first piece through the 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.

Lay the pasta sheet on a lightly floured surface and place the filling, about a teaspoon at a time, at intervals at about the center of the dough, leaving about 1 1/2 to 2 inches in between. It's better to leave more space to allow yourself room to work in between them, than to make them snug. You'll use the scraps, so it's not waste.

Very lightly brush the uncovered dough with water. Fold the dough over the filling, then press around the filling to seal the rolls, taking care to press out as much air as possible from around the filling. With a pastry cutter, pizza cutter, or knife, trim the dough around the rolls, staying close to the filling, but leaving sufficient dough so there's a good seal all around the filling. The individual rolls should be about 1 1/4 inches square. Save the 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.

Put about 1/2 inch of oil in a frying pan and heat to 375 degrees. If you don't have a thermometer that will work in oil that shallow, dip the end of a wooden spoon in the oil. When it bubbles, the oil is ready for frying. Adjust the heat so it stays at that temperature. You could also use a deep fryer, if you have one.

Place the rolls in the oil and fry until golden brown, flipping them over to cook the second side when the bottom is browned. Remove from the oil and place on paper towels to absorb the extra oil serve immediately. You can also chill these and reheat in the oven when you're ready to serve, about 8 minutes at 350 degrees.

And here's a comparison. Original on the left, mine on the right. In a non-blind completely biased taste test, mine won.


Jenny N said...

wow those looks awesome! I might have to try them....

Cluis said...

I am totally going to ruin my kitchen making these...some sacrifices must be made :)

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Basically, "pizza-rolls" are actually fried ravioli with a pizza-like filling. Looks good.

Anonymous said...

Actually, Totino's is the re-brand of Jeno's pizza rolls.

Donna Currie said...

@Mazzia, thanks for the info!

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