MARIO BATALI: Panzerotti Pugliesi, cheese-stuffed pastry from Italy's south
Panzerotti are a stuffed pastry native to the southern Italian regions of Apulia (Puglia) and Campania. Think of them as large fried ravioli or a small calzone.
Panzerotti get their name from the southern Italian word pancia or "stomach" for their bulbous shape. The dish is traditionally made on January 17 for the feast of Sant'Antonio Abate (the patron saint of butchers and, coincidentally, gravediggers), the day that marks the beginning of Carnevale in Bari, the capital of Apulia.
In 18th-century Naples, panzerotti were made almost exactly as they are now; stuffed with a combination of cheeses -- often a fresh buffalo milk cheese, Parmigiano Reggiano, caciocavallo, or pecorino -- with parsley, nutmeg and egg. The ingredients were combined and enclosed in a dough, just like ravioli, and deep-fried quickly to achieve a perfect golden brown crunch.
Panzerotti can also be baked rather than fried. Change the filing only slightly (use 2 cups fresh ricotta, drained, 3 teaspoons sugar and the zest of one lemon instead of ingredients listed in the recipe below) and these will work just as well as a dessert as they do an antipasto.
Recipe excerpted from "Molto Batali" (ecco, 2011)
Makes approximately 15 panzerotti; serves 8 to 10 as a first course.
5 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt