Memories and traditional Apulian recipe from childhood: panzerotti.
By Giulia Leo / Matthew Staff || Edited by Jacopo Menichincheri
A short preface
Apulian panzerotti–not to be confused with Neapolitan calzoni, are small half-moon-shaped bits of fried dough, traditionally filled with tomato sauce and ricotta forte. Today, mozzarella cheese is often preferred to ricotta forte, because it holds a more neutral taste. For my Apulian nonna, filling panzerotti with mozzarella rather than ricotta forte is a sin. For my mom, who cannot even stand the smell of parmigiano, it’s a necessity.
The history of panzerotti dates to the thirteenth century. In the court of Federico II, the dish was known as De Raviolis, and it was made with meat and milk (ventrescam porci et ovi, case lacte), and fried with abundant grease (coque in patella cum magna pinguedine). The authentic panzerotto, however, was born in Apulia, and it was the emblem of “poor cuisine.” Like ricotta forte, panzerotti are the result of “recovery economies.” They were made using the leftover bread dough and filled with tomatoes and cheese that would go bad if not consumed soon. Then, they were fried until they became of their distinctive golden color, and eaten while they were still boiling hot, drops of ambrosia-colored oil still pouring from the side.
Pizzeria Di Cosimo, in the heart of Bari Vecchia, is well-known for its long tradition of panzerotti-making. Although their panzerotti resemble the Neapolitan calzoni in shape, their dough and filling are impregnated with the Apulian tradition. I still remember when, on Saturday nights, my high school friends and I would go out, grab a ticket to Cosimo’s fried heaven, and sit in the Piazzetta Bianca, eating panzerotti bigger than our own faces. My friends politely ate behind a tissue, careful not to drip the sauce on their clothes. I bit into my panzerotto, usually burned my tongue, and stained my jeans with tomato sauce and mozzarella.
Today, many are the restaurants that offer reinterpretations of the traditional dish. Some sell panzerotti filled with mortadella and pistachios, others offer sweet variations of the dish, filled with sugared ricotta and Nutella.
Panzerotti seem to have existed since the beginning of times, constantly reinventing themselves, their dough like threads in the hands of the Greek Moirai.
- 500g of semolina flour
- 500g of “00” flour
- Half a cube of brewer’s yeast (about 15 grams)
- 6 tablespoons of olive oil
- 300g of warm water
- Groundnut oil (for frying)
- Sugar “a sentimento”(literally, “a sentimento” means according to your own feeling, or intuition. In other words, add as much sugar as your heart commands)
- Salt “a sentimento”
- Tomato sauce (rigorously homemade)
- Ricotta forte
- Mix the two types of flour and prepare the so-called corona or fontana: pour the flour on the working surface and create a little mountain. Then, use your fingers to make a hole on top. Sprinkle some salt on the corona.
- Crumble the yeast at the center of the corona, add the olive oil, a pinch of sugar and as much water as needed for the yeast and sugar to melt.
- Pour the rest of the water in the hole. Slowly start to incorporate the flour on the side of the corona into the mix of yeast, sugar, salt, oil and water.
- Knead into the dough for 10-15 minutes, until it becomes elastic and uniform.
- Oil a large bowl and place the dough inside. Cover with cling film and place everything in the fridge for 24 hours.
- After 24 hours, position the dough on the working surface and knead into it once again.
- Create small balls of dough of about 40g each and position them on a towel that’s already been sprinkled with some flour.
- Cover the dough balls with another towel and let them rise for about an hour.
- Afterwards, use a rolling pin to transform the balls into flat circles.
- Work with one circle at a time. Place the ricotta forte and tomato sauce filling on one half of the circle. Then, dip a finger in warm water and wet the edges of the dough circles.
- Close each of the panzerotti creating a half-moon shape and use a fork to seal the edges of each of the panzerotti.
- Fry in groundnut oil, until the panzerotti become of a golden color.
- Place the panzerotti on absorbing paper to get rid of the oil in excess.
- Eat while still hot and crunchy.