We’re wrapping up Guilty Pleasures Food Week with a classic:
Let me see the Pizza Roll!
This guilty pleasure is brought to you by Eric, who is pizza’s biggest fan. I’m serious. We live in a city with highly diverse restaurant options, yet almost every time we talk about getting take-out, his response is “Wanna get some pizza?”
So, a few weeks ago, when he emailed me the link to these pizza rolls, having written only the word “yumface” in the subject line, I knew they had to be made for our Guilty Pleasures Food Week.
Eric’s love affair with the pizza rolls really peaked in his early teens. Picture a young Eric, letter jacket slung over his relatively skinny shoulders, just a few years past his butt-cut phase, rolling into the driveway with a little Third Eye Blind - “How’s It Gonna Be” playing in his two-door Pontiac Sunbird.
After a long day at school he pops a plateful of Totino’s pizza rolls in the microwave, grabs a couple of Mountain Dews, and then heads down to the basement to play another round of Madden ’98 (with its stunning graphics) with his buddy Ben for the next couple of hours.
When I asked Eric just exactly what it was about pizza rolls that he love
ds so much, his very seriously delivered words were: “Pizza rolls are small…like a Cheez-it…but so much is going on when you bite into it. The proportion of taste-to-convenience is incomparable.”
Let’s talk about this homemade version. First of all, these pizza rolls completely dominate their cousins from the box. They are full-flavored, and their deep fried texture is pretty much pizza-roll paradise. On the downside, the process of making and assembling these is pretty high-maintenance, and deep frying is a smelly, oily pain inconvenience.
So I did try just baking these, and when I did, they tasted fine, but their texture, when compared to the rolls I deep fried, just could not compete.
Here’s my verdict. Make a huge batch of these. Freeze them. Your kids will kiss your feet as they bake them up when they get home from school. Or…open up some windows, turn on a fan, and deep fry them for a party…or just for dinner because it’s Friday night, and then gorge yourself on some of the best pizza rolls around.
I’ve shared my cheese-laden guilty pleasures with you this week – doritos, cheez-its, and pizza rolls – and while there are a few more we didn’t address this week (I’m talking to you, Redi-Whip), these are my bonafied, go-to, guilty-pleasures.
Now…what are yours?
(recipe adapted from Tracey's Culinary Adventures )
(yields 60 pizza rolls)
This recipe for homemade pizza rolls is a little high-maintenance. But it makes a large batch that can be frozen for future use, and these are the best pizza rolls of your life. I adapted the recipe by adding "pizza toppings" of Italian sausage, peppers, and onions to the filling. Additionally, I sprinkled fresh thyme over the finished rolls, and they added just the perfect kick of flavor. Such a simple addition, but it made a big difference!
"Toppings": 1/4 lb. ground Italian sausage, 1/2 c. chopped bell pepper, 1/4 c. chopped onion*
2 tbsp.olive oil
3 tbsp. tomato paste
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1 (heaping) tsp. dried basil
pinch red pepper flakes
one 14-oz. can diced tomatoes, drained well (juice reserved) and chopped fine
2 c. (8 oz) shredded 6-cheese Italian blend**
salt and pepper to taste
5-6 dozen wonton wraps
3 tbsp. cornstarch
vegetable oil for frying
1/4 to 1/2 c. fresh basil or thyme, minced just before serving
*This is our favorite pizza combo (I used frozen bell peppers because this winter never ends), but feel free to throw in equivalent amounts of pepperoni, mushrooms, olives...whatever your pizza fancy. Just be sure to food process or mince them up super super small.
**From what I read, the pre-packaged grated cheese works best in these pizza rolls, even though I typically recommend grating cheese yourself.
Fry ground sausage over medium heat, breaking it apart with your spatula as it cooks. Drain off grease when it is just about completely browned, then add your bell peppers and onions and cook for about 2 minutes more. Pulse the sausage, onion, and pepper together in a food processor until is finely, finely minced, or get your patient knife skills on and mince super fine. Place in refrigerator once cool.
Add the olive oil to a skillet and set over medium heat. When the oil shimmers, add the tomato paste. Cook, stirring continuously, for about 3 minutes, or until the mixture is a deep rust color. Add the garlic, oregano, basil, and red pepper flakes to the pan. Cook for about 30 seconds, or just until fragrant. Mix in the chopped tomatoes and the reserved juice. Allow the mixture to come to a simmer, then continue cooking (about 10 mins.) until it has thickened and reduced to a thick paste. Transfer to a heatproof bowl and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or up to 2 days.
Meanwhile, line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a fine mesh sieve, dust about half of the cornstarch onto the parchment.
Add the cheese to the chilled tomato mixture and stir to combine. Add in your toppings mixture (I used all but about 1/4 c. of my toppings mixture). Season the mixture to taste with salt and pepper.
Place the wonton wraps on a plate and cover with a damp towel (this will prevent them from drying out). Fill a small bowl with water. Working with a few wrappers at a time, lay them on your work surface. Add a heaping 1 teaspoon of filling to the center of each wrapper. Dip your finger in the water, and moisten the edges of one of the wrappers. Fold the bottom of the wrapper up and over the filling, then continue to roll toward the opposite edge. When you finish, the seam should be on the bottom. Gently press your fingers on either side of the filling to work out any air, then press the edges to seal completely. (It is REALLY important that you seal it completely, with no holes; otherwise, when you fry it, grease will fly everywhere.) Trim down the edges of your wrapper; kitchen scissors work great for this. Transfer to the prepared cornstarch-dusted baking sheet (seam side down). Repeat the sealing process with the other wrappers then continue to fill and seal using the remaining filling and wrappers. (Place additional sheets of parchment dusted with the remaining cornstarch between layers of pizza rolls on the baking sheet.)
Once you've assembled all of the rolls, cover the baking sheet with plastic wrap and transfer to the freezer for at least 30-60 minutes (until they are firm) or up to 1 month. [Once they are frozen completely, you can throw them together in a freezer-safe bag and they will not stick together.]
Meanwhile, set a wire rack inside a rimmed baking sheet. Top the rack with a double layer of paper towels. Add enough vegetable oil to a pot to measure about 1 1/2 inches deep - you can do this in a large Dutch oven or a smaller pot but just be aware that you should fry fewer rolls at a time in the smaller pot so as not to overcrowd and drop the oil temperature too much. Set the pot over medium to medium-high heat and heat the oil until it measures 375 F on a candy thermometer. Add the pizza rolls (how many depends on how big a pot you used) and cook for about 1 minute, stirring and flipping them over a few times so both sides brown evenly. Try to maintain the oil temperature between 350 and 375 F - adjust the heat under the pot as necessary. Use a slotted sppon to transfer the rolls to the wire rack you prepared earlier to allow any excess oil to drain. Return the oil to 375 F before frying the next batch of rolls. Continue until they've all been fried.
Option 2: If you're in the mood for convenience, line a baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat your oven to 400*. Place the pizza rolls on the parchment paper and spray the tops with cooking spray. Bake for 7-10 minutes until golden-brown. Warning: these taste just fine but are ugly...and the texture is okay but not great. Again, cooking option #2 is about convenience and convenience only. Don't serve the baked variety at a party; eat them in your pajamas on a Friday night.
The rolls will be very hot when they come out of the oil so let them cool for a few minutes before serving. Sprinkle with fresh herbs, and serve as is or with warm marinara sauce for dipping.