Panzerotti is one of the oldest and most beloved Italian street food snacks and personally, one of my favorite European street food dishes. If you’re a fan of pastries and street food snacks and haven’t heard of panzerotti, you should definitely keep reading. In this post, we’ll share the traditional panzerotti recipe and teach you everything there is to know about this delicious Italian snack.
Let’s start from the beginning…
What Is Panzerotti?
Panzerotti (plural) or panzerotto (singular) is a fried sandwich-sized pastry traditionally stuffed with tomato sauce and cheese. It’s also known under the name panzarotti or pizza fritta (meaning fried pizza) and it originates from the region of Puglia. We can also describe panzerotti as a tiny, closed version of pizza and (arguably) the inspiration for the ultra-popular frozen food hot pockets.
Panzerotti have a semi-circular shape and are always served hot. In addition to cheese and tomato, you can also find panzerotti stuffed with chopped ham/pepperoni or some of the other popular pizza ingredients/toppings.
Origin & History
As with many other great snacks that are beloved by locals in their perspective countries and even abroad (i.e. brudet or bigos), panzerotto started as a spinoff of leftover food. That’s why its main ingredients are tomato, cheese, and oregano which are some of the most common ingredients of Italian cuisine. As it gained popularity over time, the panzerotti recipe has become much more elaborate and today, you can find panzerotti in many fancy restaurants as well.
As we previously mentioned, panzerotto originates in Puglia, around the Salento area, to be more specific. It was here that the nameless baker that got lost somewhere along the pages of history books created this delicious pastry by combining some leftover ingredients and folding them into the shape of a crescent.
As for its name, the term panzerotti derives from the word “panza” or “pancia”, meaning belly/tummy, and is likely a reference to the puffy swelling of the pastry that resembles a full tummy. Today, panzerotti are widespread from Milan to Sicily and it even made its way to America (like many other Italian dishes) in the form of pizza pockets but still, the best panzerotti can be found in the region of Puglia.
Where To Get Panzerotti?
Panzerotti is a delicious street food snack that can be held in one hand and eaten on the go. That’s why you can find panzerotti in most street food stalls, roadside eateries, and bakeries and these are often the best places to try it even though panzerotti can be found in some fancy restaurants too.
As with many delicious Italian snacks, the panzerotti recipe is a typical example of “Cucina Povera” or poor man’s kitchen, a term that is used to describe dishes that are made of leftovers. Yes, in its traditional form, panzerotti is filled with tomato and cheese but in different regions of Italy, you’ll find slight additions to the ingredients list.
For example, in Naples, locals use ciccioli (pieces of aged pork) and ricotta cheese, in the southern parts, you can find panzerotti with broccoli rabe and caciocavallo cheese, etc.
In some places, you can also find panzerotti with anchovies, olives, prosciutto, mortadella, minced meat, peas, turnips, etc. There’s even a sweet version of panzerotti that’s filled with chocolate creams, jam, or chestnut spread, and topped with powdered sugar. However, the only thing that differs in these local variants of the panzerotti recipe is the filling. The dough composition (and ingredients), as well as the preparation method, are always the same.
Lastly, you should also know that in different regions, they have different names for this delicious snack. In most parts of Puglia, they call it calzoni, in the parts surrounding Bari, they call it frittelli, in Brindisi, it’s known as fritte, while in Naples- pizza fritta.
Panzerotti Or Calzone?
The ingredients of panzerotti and calzone are very similar but the main difference is that calzone is usually baked in the oven while panzerotti is fried. Calzones are also slightly larger in size but the dough preparation is the same. Typically, most people use all-purpose flour but you can also use white or wholemeal flour for both, panzerotti and calzone.
- When splitting and separating the dough, use a scale to get things accurate and make sure all of your panzerotti are the same size in the end.
- To achieve the perfect shape, use your thumb to crimp the panzerotti dough around the filling.
- It’s not a big deal if you roll the dough right away but for best results, leave some time for your dough to rise before rolling.
- Don’t overstuff the panzerotti because it might crack while frying.
- Make sure the temperature doesn’t surpass or goes below 350°F (180°C) and follow the deep-frying safety guidelines.
- You can always try to do more but our recommendation is not to cook more than two panzerotti at a time. This will give you enough time to pay attention and make sure your panzerotti doesn’t burn.
- If you’re not confident about your dough sticking together, brush a little bit of egg wash on the top of the edges to stick it down.
Looking for some more popular European snacks? You may also want to check out:
A Few Things You May Need
For the Dough
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 and ½ cups semolina flour
- 1 cup warm water
- 1 cup full-cream milk
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 7 Grams yeast (around 1 small pack)
- 3 and ¾ Tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 teaspoons white granulated sugar
For the Filling
- 3 Tablespoons olive oil
- 3 Tomatoes, peeled and chopped
- 15 oz fresh mozzarella (around 420 grams)
- 1 Tablespoon salt
- 1 tablespoon minced basil
- 1 Tablespoon dried oregano
- 3 Garlic cloves, crushed
- +150 ml sunflower oil (for deep frying)
1. Mix the flour, semolina, yeast, salt, and sugar in a large bowl.
2. Make a hole (well) in the middle and pour the oil and warm water. Stir until the dough comes together.
3. Dust your working surface and knead the dough for at least 10 minutes until it’s tight and smooth. If it’s too gooey, add more flour, if it’s too dry, add more milk. In the end, when you poke your finger into the dough, it should spring back up.
4. Cover the dough with a kitchen towel and let it rest in a warm place for one hour.
5. In the meantime, you can start making the tomato sauce. For starters, grab a skillet and heat the oil over medium temperature.
6. Crush the garlic and add cook it for 2 minutes in the skillet until golden brown.
7. While the garlic is cooking, peel and chop the tomatoes and add them to the skillet.
8. Cook the tomatoes for about 20 minutes. Don’t forget to season with salt, black pepper, and minced basil.
9. Chop the mozzarella into tiny pieces.
10. Divide the dough into 12 pieces (or more, depending on how many panzerotti you want to make) and place it on a tray.
11. Pour a little bit of oil on your work surface and start rolling each dough ball into a 5-inch disk.
12. Add one tablespoon of tomato sauce on every disk, spread it well, and top it with 2 tablespoons of chopped mozzarella.
13. Fold the dough into a crescent shape and use your thumb to press down and seal it.
14. Pour enough oil to cover at least 2 inches up the side of your skillet and heat the oil to 350° F (180°C).
15. If you’re doing this for the first time, work with one panzerotti at a time. If not, you can fry two at the same time.
16. Turn the panzerotti as many times as necessary and fry until it gets golden-brown on both sides.
17. Use a slotted spoon to remove the panzerotti from the oil and put it on top of paper towels to drain out the oil.
18. Repeat steps 12-17 as many times as necessary. Serve while hot but resist temptations to eat too quickly because you might burn yourself!
Serving Size:1 piece
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 235Total Fat: 14gSaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 24mgSodium: 455mgCarbohydrates: 21gNet Carbohydrates: 21gFiber: 2gSugar: 1.5gProtein: 10g
Did you ever try panzerotti? How did you like our panzerotti recipe? If you tried to make it at home, don’t forget to leave us a rating and if you have any questions, feel free to share them in the comments below!
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