Fried Pizza Dough Panini Sandwiches


Whenever my mother had leftover pizza dough she would make pasta fritta (fried dough).  The thinly rolled out pieces of the dough would puff up as they fried in olive oil.  The fried breads where fragrantly yeasty, soft on the inside, and lightly crisp on the outside.  She would sprinkle them with powdered sugar.  But my girlfriend Anna Maria’s mother would make them stuffed with ham, cheese, and mint.  I love Anna Maria’s mother’s version except I’m not a big fan of the mint, so I leave it out.  They are also referred to as fried calzone.  These breads are more like flat panini sandwiches rather than the larger calzone.

Sicilian pizza (sfincione) dough is softer than regular pizza dough.  It is more like a focaccia.  So, the dough for these paninis are a little on the sticky side.  If you like a denser dough, you can add 2 additional tablespoons of flour.

(Panini di Pizza Fritta)

Difficulty Rating: Easy
Makes 4 panini.

1 cup warm water (105° to 115°)
1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 teaspoons plus 1/4 teaspoon sugar
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
8 slices of ham, cut in half or quarters
8 slices of provolone cheese, cut in half
Flour for dusting
1/2 cup light olive oil or vegetable oil for frying

MAKE THE DOUGH:  Grease a small bowl with olive or vegetable oil.

Mix 1/4 cup of the water and I/4 teaspoon sugar in a small bowl.  Add yeast and stir until dissolved.  Let sit until foamy, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Place the flour in an electric mixer bowl fitted with a paddle attachment.  Add remaining 2 teaspoons sugar and salt and combine on low speed for 30 seconds.  Add remaining water, olive oil, and yeast mixture.

Beat on medium speed for 7 minutes, until dough is smooth and comes away from the sides of the bowl.  Using a lightly oil spatula, scrape the dough into the greased bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until double, about 1 1/2 hours.  You can make the panini at this point or punch the dough down, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

MAKE THE PANINI:  Divide the dough into 4 pieces.  Dough will be sticky.  Generously dust a flat surface with flour.

Dust the top of the dough with flour, and roll each piece into roughly a 7-inch square.

Place 2 slices of ham and provolone on one side of the dough.  Leave a 1/2-inch space around the edges and the filing.  Moisten the edges lightly with a little water using your fingers.

Fold over the dough so that the edges meet, forming a rectangle.  Press around the edges to seal.  Repeat with remaining 3 pieces of dough.

FRY THE PANINI:  Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium heat.  Fry the panini 3 minutes on one side, until golden brown.

Flip over and fry 2 to 3 minutes longer.  Serve warm.

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