Panzerotti Fried Cheese and Tomato Pastries

Panzerotti Fried Cheese and Tomato Pastries

A panzerotto (panzerotti is plural) is essentially a small, deep-fried calzone: pizza dough harbouring a filling of mozzarella and tomato sauce in its most classic form. They are one of Taranto’s most iconic street snacks or lunches on the run. There is something magical about panzerotti fried cheese pizza dough – it is golden and incredibly crisp on the outside, impossibly fluffy on the inside and it stays hot for a long time (take note, impatient, hungry eaters).

Around town, the places specialising in panzerotti fried cheese will have long lists of enticing fillings just as in a pizzeria, but the semplice, or the classic, filling is mozzarella and tomato sauce, followed closely by the addition of ham or mortadella. This recipe sounds like it makes a large quantity, but it’s worth it as these panzerotti fried cheese freeze very well if you’re not using them all at once.


Makes 16


Vegetable oil, for frying


10g fresh yeast or 3g (just over 1 tsp) active dry yeast
125ml lukewarm water
500g plain (all-purpose) flour, plus extra for dusting
125ml milk
60ml olive oil, plus extra for oiling
1½ tsp salt


250g tomato passata (puréed tomatoes)
500g fresh mozzarella


1. Prepare the dough by combining the yeast and water and leaving to soften for 5–10 minutes.

2. Sift the flour into a large, wide mixing bowl and add the yeast mixture, milk, olive oil and salt, and mix until combined into a dough.

3. Knead on a lightly floured surface (it may be somewhat sticky at first) for about 7–10 minutes, or until you have a smooth, elastic ball of dough. Lightly oil the bowl and place the dough back inside, cover tightly with plastic wrap or place a slightly damp tea towel over the top.

4. Leave to sit in a warm corner of the kitchen (free from draughts) to rise for 2 hours (3 if your kitchen is cold), or until the dough has doubled in size.

5. Alternatively, place the bowl in the fridge and let the dough rise slowly for 8–12 hours, or overnight.

6. While the dough is rising, prepare the filling. Season the passata with salt and pepper, and heat gently over a low heat in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes, then set aside to cool.

7. Cut the mozzarella into small dice and place in a fine-mesh sieve set over a bowl to drain out the whey. Set aside in the fridge.

8. When the dough has risen, portion it into sixteen balls, roughly 50g each. Place the balls on a baking tray or a chopping board lined with baking paper and leave to rise for another hour. Loosely cover with a slightly damp tea towel so they do not dry out.

9. On a lightly floured surface, roll out each ball of dough to a thin circle, about 1–2mm thick. Place half a tablespoon of passata and about 1 tablespoon of mozzarella in the center of each circle. Fold in half and press the edges down firmly, then fold over the edge again by about 1cm to double seal (you’ll be in trouble if the panzerotti come undone during frying). Repeat with the remaining balls of dough.

10. If you’re not cooking them right away, at this point you can leave them in the fridge (in a single layer on a tray lined with baking paper so they do not stick) for an hour or two before frying (bring them to room temperature 30 minutes before frying). Otherwise, freeze them, as above, in a single layer on a tray. Once frozen hard, transfer them to freezer bags to freeze for up to 3 months. Fry from frozen until evenly golden brown.

11. To fry, heat enough vegetable oil in a saucepan to cover the panzerotti completely (at least 5cm) over a medium heat. It is ready when it has reached 160°C on a cooking thermometer. If you don’t have a thermometer, drop a cube of white bread into the oil. It should turn golden brown in 15 seconds. If it colours too quickly, turn the heat down slightly. Fry the panzerotti in batches for 2–3 minutes, or until golden brown and puffed all over.

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