Is it panzerotti? Or panzarotti? Either way works. Doesn’t matter how you spell it …the important thing is how amazingly delicious these guys are. My good friend, Rosaria, is hangin’ out in my kitchen with me today. It’s snowing and we don’t mind at all …especially since we have lots of supplies in the fridge and pantry to play with. As Rosaria is sharing stories of her early days in Italy, she fondly recalls that her family would declare snow days as “frittelle days!” I’m all about honoring tradition, so why not make some frittelle (or panzerotti as we know them) today?
Turns out that panzerotti originated in central and southern Italy. They are basically small versions of calzones but are typically fried rather than oven-baked …they are sometimes referred to as calzoni fritti (“fried calzones”) or pizze fritte (“fried pizza”) in Italy, most typically in Campania. In parts of Apulia, such as Molfetta (Rosaria’s childhood home) and Mola di Bari, panzerotti also go by the name of frittelle or frittelli (“fritters”).
The most common fillings for panzerotti are tomato and mozzarella, but spinach, mushrooms, baby corn & ham are often used. Rosaria’s family favorite is a tuna filling …scallion strips are sautéed in olive oil with chopped fresh tomato, then seasoned with salt & pepper. Add that mixture to some drained oil-packed tuna, and you have an authentic Italian filling, straight from Rosaria’s loved ones in Molfetta.
We decided to keep it simple. We made a half-dozen filled with ham & fresh mozzarella. Then a dozen filled with chopped grape tomato & fresh mozzarella. Sure crowd pleasers.
If you’d like to take a shortcut on this like we did, purchase some fresh pizza dough at your local store and save some time. After giving the dough a rest and bringing it to room temperature, you’ll find that it is not difficult to form the base for each hand pie.
Once each panzerotti is formed, set it aside on a tray or baking sheet that has been treated with a dusting of flour. Once the oil is heated to the proper temperature, you’ll be frying about six at a time. Of course, it all depends on the size of your pan. They can be touching slightly but not too overcrowded.
After just a few minutes in the pan, you’ll have the most amazing flavorful handfuls of goodness you can imagine. They are wonderful served as they are or you can offer a dipping sauce, such as marinara. Your friends and family will love them either way.
how to make panzerotti at home
Fried mini-calzones, filled with fresh mozzarella and chopped tomato or deli ham.
- 3 pounds store-bought or homemade pizza dough
- 2 pounds fresh mozzarella cheese
- 10 ounces deli ham, sliced
- 2 1/2 ounces grape tomatoes
- oil, for frying
Place dough on a tray that's been lightly sprinkled with flour. Cover with a dry cloth and place in a warm place until it comes to room temperature, about 2 hours.
Cut the dough into 18 rough pieces, weighing approximately 2.5 ounces each. Set aside.
Tear the fresh mozzarella into small pieces. Roughly chop the tomatoes and place them in a strainer that's been placed over a bowl. Tear the ham into small pieces.
Form each piece of dough into a flat round disk. Using a rolling pin, flatten each disk into a circle measuring about 4 1/2 inches in diameter.
Divide the torn mozzarella among the 18 circles of dough, placing it in a small mound in the center of each. Divide the ham among 6 pieces of dough and place it on top of the mozzarella. Divide the chopped tomatoes among the remaining 12 round of dough, topping off the mozzarella cheese. Brush the edge of each circle with a small amount of water. Fold in half and press down along the edge with a fork or a fluted edge pastry wheel to seal.
Heat oil in a large deep skillet or dutch oven to 375°. Place 5 to 6 panzerotti in the heated oil and cook for 3 to 5 minutes. Flip over and cook on the other side until golden brown, about an additional 2 to 3 minutes.
Remove from the hot oil with tongs and place on a paper towel-lined tray to catch any excess oil. Serve immediately. If not eaten right away, store fried panzerotti in an airtight container in the refrigerator for several days. To reheat, place on a tray in a 350° oven for 8 to 10 minutes.