Street food par excellence, created in Southern Italy and exported all over the world, Panzerotti basically is pizza dough filled with all kinds of mouthwatering ingredients, from the basic tomato and mozzarella to the more original eggplant parmigiana, or sauteed kale and provolone or red onions and anchovies, or whatever your fantasy suggests. They are easy to bring along for a snack at the beach or for a break at work; best eaten warm they are still delicious when consumed at room temperature.
They belong to the larger family of savory pies, from the Hispanic Empanadas to the Asian Samosa passing by more variations like the Dutch chicken Pastei or the English Meat Pies, just to name a few. One of the big differences is that traditionally all those pies are filled with meat as the main ingredient, while Panzerotti are truly vegetarian, with each home cook deciding its own secret recipe for the filling.
Not to be confused with Calzone, a similar preparation but larger in size, always cooked in the oven and eaten with fork and knife. Panzerotti are generally fried in olive oil, the dough is thinner, and they are made to be savored bite by bite; they could be cooked in the oven as well, but then it would be hard to see and taste the difference with the Calzone!
I noticed that using the basic pizza dough resulted in a Panzerotto that becomes a bit chewy when cooling down. So, I experimented and opted for a dough recipe similar to the Focaccia pugliese dough: nothing more natural when you think that in Puglia the panzerotti are very popular. So instead of using only flour, oil, water and yeast, I also mixed a riced potato in the dough, and I use the cooking water of the potato (rich in amid) for the dough as well. The result is excellent, with a dough slightly more flaky.
For 30-40 small size Panzerotti dough
500 gr flour all purpose
1 tbsp sugar (it feeds the yeast and make the rising quicker. You can opt for a very slow rise and not use the sugar)
1 tbsp INSTANT yeast
2 teaspoons salt
120-140 gr warm water (in which the potato was cooked)
2-3 tablespoons EV Olive Oil
1 medium potato (you will keep approximately 100/120 grams of the cooked flesh)
Salt & pepper
For the Filling
20- 30 cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half,
1 cup tomato sauce Marinara, thick
2-3 garlic cloves
150 – 200 gr mozzarella, dried with a paper towel; you can use it alone or make half and half with another kind of cheese that melts easily, like fontina for example
2-3 tablespoons grated authentic Parmigiano Reggiano
1-2 tablespoon breadcrumbs
Some basil leaves cut in small strips, salt, oregano, crushed red pepper
EV Olive Oil
You can also add olives, capers, roasted and peeled red bell peppers, cooked and seasoned eggplant, or a piece of eggplant parmigiana, or sauteed zucchini and onions, or sauteed broccoli rabe and anchovies..
1. Quickly sauté the tomatoes in a non-stick pan with some EVOO and garlic, basil and oregano.
2. Add some tomatoe puree, stir, and let it cook until the sauce starts sticking to the sides of the pan and becomes very thick.
3. With the help of a food processor pulse all the ingredients you want to use until chopped roughly. In mine, I added some roasted eggplant and bell peppers.
4. Add some breadcrumbs if the dough is too liquid, adjust with salt, pepper and hot pepper.
1. In the meantime, put a cubed potato to boil covered in water, no need to peel
2. Mix the dry ingredients.
3. Rice the cooked potato on top of the flour mixture, add the EV Olive Oil, then add the warm water. Mix using the paddle attachment of your food processor first and then the hook – or knead by hand until when you obtain a smooth and elastic ball
4. Divide the dough in small balls, cover with plastic film and let it rise until doubled in volume.
5. Flatten one ball with a rolling pin, cut as many circles as you can with a cookie cutter (I use a 3’ diameter)
6. Put a spoon of filling in the center. Close the panzerotti in the shape of a half moon, pinching together the border to make sure it will stay sealed during the cooking process.
7. Put a small pot on the stove with some Olive Oil – at least 2 fingers deep.
8. Gently and with the help of a spatula take one panzerotti and put it to fry
9. Flip regularly with the help of 2 forks (making sure you do not pinch them) until golden brown, remove and let it rest a couple of minutes on kitchen paper before consuming.
A Few Notes:
- You can try to cook the panzerotti in the oven at 400F for 10 minutes, flipping halfway.
- Brush some egg wash first on the upper side, and make sure you poke holes with the help of a fork so that they will not explode and lose all their filling in the oven.
- Your creativity is the limit for the best panzerotti ever!
- Careful when you bite in as it might still be hot inside!
Elisabetta Ciardullo is the founder of Think Italian! Events. As Personal Chef she is an ambassador of the Italian cuisine and culture, bringing it into the private homes of Americans, as well as to many corporate clients in Los Angeles.