Eaten hot, wrapped in a sheet of paper, the Apulian panzerotto is one of those typical dishes based on leavened and fried dough, the "grown pasta", which is widespread throughout the central and southern regions.
Due to its simplicity and tastiness it has become one of the symbols of Apulian street food in the world.
The dough of the panzerotto, or fried calzone, is similar to that of the classic pizza, with water, flour, a little yeast, salt and oil.
A disc of dough is stuffed with various ingredients, mainly tomato and mozzarella, closed in a crescent shape and fried in hot seed oil, although a variant cooked in the oven is very common.
Each local variant has its own name and recipe: for example, Naples, where these stuffed crescents are particularly popular, are called "fried pizzas" and often contain a filling of cracklings and ricotta. In the Campania capital the potato croquettes are called "panzerotti", generating quite a few pleasant misunderstandings between Apulian tourists in Campania and Campania tourists in Puglia.
In Salento and southern Calabria it is better known as the name of fried Calzone, in contrast to the baked calzone, which is also very popular in Naples.
In Sicily, in the province of Catania, "Sicilian fried pizza" is widespread, a fried calzone which in the classic version is stuffed with cheese and salted anchovies.
In Abruzzo and Molise they are called "pizzonte" and are often stuffed with typical salami and dairy products, while in Lazio they are often seasoned with cold cuts such as ham or lonza.
The history of the Apulian Panzerotto
Even if the origins of this dish are unknown, we can say that the panzerotto comes from the poorest Apulian culinary tradition, when small crescents filled with cheese and tomatoes were cooked with the leftover bread dough.
The idea of frying pasta is certainly much older, given that zeppole (orpettole), small pieces of fried dough, are present in southern culinary traditions, with many variations.
Documents relating to this particular food are already found in the first book by Ippolito Cavalcanti, who in 1847 referred to it as “'a zeppulella”. In this book, it was filled with marinated oily fish.
The sweet variants are also very common, always based on fried dough such as thepettole, and the shortcrust pastry calzoncelli stuffed with jam which are part of the typical Christmas sweets of the Gargano.
How to prepare Panzerotti
500 g flour
250 ml of warm water
1 teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil
1 pinch of sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 sachet of dry yeast
In a bowl, mix the flour, water, sugar, extra virgin olive oil, salt and brewer's yeast. Knead until you get a smooth and soft compound.
Divide the dough into small balls, cover them with a cloth and after about an hour and a half, when they have doubled in volume, roll them out into thin discs with a rolling pin.
Put a little tomato, mozzarella and a pinch of salt in the center of each disc. Fold the disc in half, sealing the edges well.
In a pan, heat the oil and fry the panzerotti until golden brown.
Remove the panzerotti from the oil and leave to cool on a plate covered with absorbent paper.
Serve hot and enjoy!