Almost like delicious little handheld folded pizzas, panzerotti are typical Southern Italian fried turnovers with a savory filling. Made with pizza dough, these turnovers are stuffed with creamy mozzarella and tomato sauce for this classic recipe before being fried to perfection.
Basically, panzerotti is fried dough that has been stuffed with different fillings. The dish was born in Southern Italy and can be found in the region of Lazio all the way down to the southernmost tip of Italy. But in recent years it has been rediscovered by the greatest pizza chefs in Italy and in the largest Italian pizza restaurants around the world.
Today it’s considered a modern street food that is also called a calzone by some. Yet, while panzerotti is very similar, the two dishes do have differences. For example, while panzerotti is made with pizza dough that is rolled out into circles, stuffed with different fillings, and then folded over to form a half-moon shape just like calzones, panzerotti are typically fried and calzones are typically baked. Also, panzerotti tends to be smaller while calzones are usually twice the size.
Of course, you will find panzerotti that are baked and a fried calzone, but it’s not as common. I’ve even included instructions on how to fry and bake panzerotti.
The history of the panzerotto goes back hundreds of years to the 16th century. Historians agree that its origins can be traced to the peasant cuisine of Puglia when a baker from Salento started making folded-over pizzas with leftover dough to ensure that nothing went to waste. Panzerotti quickly became a very popular poor man’s meal and is a great example of how peasants during that time used every last scrap.
To begin, slice the fresh mozzarella into small cubes photo 1. If your cheese is a little runny you can put it in a colander in the sink for a few minutes to let it drain and then pat it dry.
Then put the cheese in a medium-sized bowl along with the tomato puree photo 3 and gently mix them together until the cheese is covered in tomato photo 4. Next, add a bit of salt and dried oregano to taste. Now, cover the filling mixture and put it in the fridge for a later step.
To get the dough started, you need to dissolve the yeast in a little lukewarm water in a large bowl photo 5-6.
Next, stir in the sugar. Then add the flour to the yeast mixture but don’t mix yet photo 8.
Now, in a separate small bowl, combine 1½ cups of warm water together with the coarse salt until it has dissolved photo 9-10.
Finally, pour the salt water over the flour and mix everything together photo 11-12.
As you mix the ingredients together to form the dough you can add more water if needed. But you don’t want the dough to be too sticky. If it is then you will need to add more flour until you have an even consistency photo 13-14.
Then add the olive oil photo 15 and knead the dough until it is soft and smooth photo 16.
Once the dough is made, divide it into 10 small balls that are about the same size photo 17. Then put the dough balls on a cutting board or on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and then cover them with a clean dish towel photo 18. Now, let the dough rest for about 2 hours or until all the balls have doubled in size.
After the dough balls have doubled in size you can start making the panzerotti photo 20.
First, use a rolling pin to roll out the balls of dough into small circles on a lightly floured work surface photo 22.
Next, place a spoonful of the filling in the center of each piece of dough photo 23. Then fold the dough over to form a half-moon shape photo 24.
Now, lightly press the edges of the dough together with a fork or your fingers to tightly seal the turnovers photo 25-26.
For safety reasons, it’s important that you do not heat the oil until you are ready to fry. Then grab a large deep skillet big enough to comfortably fit the oil and the turnovers. Keep in mind, you will need to fry the panzerotti in batches. Now, heat a generous amount of sunflower oil over medium-high heat in the skillet. Then once the oil is hot add some of the panzerotti to the hot oil and then fry them on each side for about 1 to 2 minutes or until they are golden brown and crispy photo 27-28.
Then remove them from the hot oil with a slotted spoon and place them on a paper towel-lined plate so that the excess oil can drain.
Panzerotti are most often fried, but it is possible to bake them as well. To begin, preheat the oven to 230°C/450°F. Then put the panzerotti on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Next, mix a little bit of tomato puree together with some olive oil and salt in a small bowl. Then spread a spoonful of that mixture over each panzerotti. Now, transfer the baking tray to the oven and bake the Italian turnovers for 10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.
The original panzerotti filling only included tomato, mozzarella, and oregano. However, over time, all kinds of ingredients have been added such as olives, anchovies, onions, cooked ham, and capers. And although lesser-known, there are also sweet panzerotti which are usually made for special occasions like Carnival. For sweet varieties, some fillings include jam, honey, chocolate, or gianduia, which are often then sprinkled with a dusting of powdered sugar.
Other recipes to try out:
While all these Italian stuffed doughs may seem exactly the same there are some differences. To begin, calzones and panzerotti are shaped like little half-moons that almost resemble a taco or empanada. But stromboli is like a long rolled-up log of stuffed pizza dough. Also, panzerotti tends to be fried, yet calzones and stromboli are baked.
Yes! Panzerotti can also be cooked in an air fryer. Simply prepare the turnovers by following the instructions in this recipe until it comes time to cook them. Then lightly brush them with olive oil, place them in the air fryer basket, and cook them in batches at 325°F / 165°C for 12 minutes or until golden, turning once.
Panzerotti are typically smaller than calzone, but they come in every size from tiny finger food size panzerottini that are served during happy hour to the medium-sized panzerotti found in bakeries. You can even find gigantic fried panzerotti that are so big they fill the entire plate and can sometimes be enough for two people.
Panzerotti will keep in the fridge for up to 4 days in an airtight container. You can also store them in the freezer for up to 3 months. The leftovers can be eaten cold or heated in the microwave or in the oven.