One of the best places in the coastal city of Bari to buy panzerotti is il Focacciaro di Pino Ambruoso. I went there in the middle of winter and the shop was filled to bursting point with people, not only trying to get out of the cold as I had thought, but waiting for the next batch of panzerotti to be cooked.
Panzerotti are filled thin bread pockets typical of Puglia, the most traditional filling being tomato and mozzarella. Small, deep-fried, addictive!
- grapeseed, peanut or sunflower oil, for frying
- 250 g (9 oz/1⅔ cups) 00 weak (cake) flour, plus extra for dusting
- 250 g (9 oz/2 cups) semolina
- 5 g (¼ oz) instant dried yeast
- 250 ml (8½ fl oz/1 cup) tepid water
- 3 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tsp milk
- 1 tsp salt
- 800 g (1 lb 12 oz) tinned chopped tomatoes, well-drained
- 1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ tsp dried oregano
- 350 g (12½ oz) aged mozzarella or scamorza, diced
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Resting time: 1.5 hours
To make the dough, place the flour, semolina and yeast in a large bowl and whisk briefly. Tip the mixture onto a clean work surface and make a well in the centre. Combine the water, oil and milk in a jug, then pour about half into the well. Using a fork or your fingers, start working the dry ingredients into the liquid. Slowly add the remaining liquid and continue bringing the ingredients together until it starts to form a stretchy smooth ball of dough. Sprinkle over the salt and knead the dough for a few more minutes. Transfer to a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm draught-free place for at least 1 hour or until doubled in size.
Break off 40 g (1½ oz) balls of dough and place on a floured baking tray. Cover with plastic wrap or a clean tea towel and set aside to rise for a further 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the filling. Place the drained chopped tomatoes, extra-virgin olive oil, dried oregano and a good pinch of salt in a bowl and give it a good stir.
On a well-floured work surface, roll out one ball of dough at a time to a 13–14 cm (5–5½ in) circle. Place 2 teaspoons of the tomato mixture in the centre and place 2 heaped teaspoons of cheese on top. Fold the dough in half to form a semi-circle, then press the edges firmly together. Pleat the edge of the dough to make a raised scalloped edge. Transfer to a lightly floured surface or some baking paper and cover with a clean tea towel. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling.
Heat 5 cm (2 in) of oil in a heavy-based saucepan (or use a deep fryer) to 180°C (350°F). Test the temperature of the oil by dropping in a cube of bread. If it starts to turn golden in 5 seconds, the oil is ready. Fry the panzerotti 1–2 at a time (depending on the size of your pan), turning once, for about 4 minutes, until golden. They will puff up quite a bit as they fry. Drain on kitchen towel and repeat with the remaining panzerotti. Serve warm.
This recipe is from Italian Street Food. (Smith Street Books). Photography by Paola Bacchia.