In the Kitchen
Panzerotti, an easy menu addition: The Pizza Chef
What item can you add to your present menu to give your customers a different meal option, without having to add any other ingredients, nor need to add an expensive piece of equipment, nor need extra space to accommodate the addition to your menu? Panzerotties (a.k.a. calzones)!
Over the years, there has been some debate about which name is correct, and my intention here isn’t to get into that debate. For the purpose of this column, writing from my experience, it’s my understanding that a panzerotti is baked in an oven, while a calzone is fried in a fryer. Also, a panzerotti has the sauce inside, whereas for a calzone, it’s traditional to serve the sauce on the side. Depending on your existing setup and equipment, you decide which one suits your menu best. As for ingredients, you’ve already got everything in stock: dough, sauce, cheese and toppings. Other than that, for equipment, if you want a nicely pinched edge on your panzerotties, you’ll have to get one item – a fork.
The basic process for making panzerotties is to take a small dough ball, slap or stretch it out to about an inch larger than the screen. We make 10-inch and 12-inch panzerotties, and use the appropriate sized screens as size guides. If you’re making a panzerotti, put a small amount of sauce just off of the centre, being careful not to over-sauce. If you’re making a calzone, skip the sauce step entirely. For a panzerotti, it’s better to go lighter on the sauce, because the sauce heats up really fast and too much will cause large amounts of steam to build up inside and usually result in a “popped” panzerotti, with sauce, cheese and fillings oozing all over your oven. If you or one of your customers is a sauce lover, it’s best to serve extra sauce on the side, warmed up, for dipping.
Next, cover your sauce spot with cheese. We portion three ounces of cheese in our 10-inch panzerotties, the same amount as on our small pizzas. Then place your toppings on the cheese spot. Try to place your toppings in the middle of your panzerotti, leaving at least a thumbnail border around the edge of the dough. We typically use a little less than our small pizza portion amounts. If you add more than one topping, you should reduce the amount of the other toppings a little to accommodate the extra filling. For best results, panzerotties should have one to three toppings, and a maximum of four or five.
Once you’ve added all your toppings/fillings, grab one side of your panzerotti dough and fold it over to meet the dough on other side, essentially giving you the folded pocket. This is where having stretched your panzerotti out bigger than the disk comes in handy because it gives you a little extra room to pinch your edges together. Clear any cheese or toppings from between the folded edges, if you have anything caught in here you won’t be able to get a good seal and your panzo will pop open in the oven and make a big mess.
Next, take your fancy fork and press the edges together. Trim any excess dough away with a pizza wheel cutter. Next – and this is extremely important – poke your panzerotti with the fork several times, creating venting holes for all the steam as your panzo cooks. If you neglect to do this, your panzerotti will most certainly burst open at the seams. One last tip before putting it in the oven: gently lift your panzerotti off the disk, making sure it’s not stuck anywhere, and then gently place it back on the disk. If you’re making a calzone, however, do not poke holes in the dough, and make sure you have a good seal.
Bake your panzerotti in your regular pizza oven, or put your calzone in the fryer until both the top and bottom are golden brown. Some people say that you have to cook panzerotties at a lower temperature, but I’ve found that as long as you’re not over-saucing and over-stuffing, they cook fine at the hotter pizza oven temperature. If you’re cooking in a deck oven, expect to rotate your panzo halfway through baking. Once the panzerotti is finished baking, we brush it with a touch of garlic butter and sprinkle a little Parmesan cheese on it. Amazingly enough, even though it is made of the same ingredients as pizza, it tastes very different, especially with the garlic butter and Parmesan added. We serve it in a standard pizza box.
As an additional income stream, consider making and baking a dozen of these at a time and freezing them for a take-home-and-reheat meal option for your customers. At Diana’s, we offer them in the most popular combinations: cheese blend, pepperoni and cheese, and ham and pineapple. They can be reheated in the microwave in minutes, or in the oven for about 15 minutes. Your customers may be already buying these types of heat-and-eat meals – might as well be from you! Repeat the process above only omit the garlic butter and Parmesan cheese. Portion the garlic butter between two sheets of wax paper and freeze it solid (ahead of time) so it’s separate from the panzo. Cool the panzerotties completely, then insert the waxed sheet of garlic butter (on the side) before bagging them together in a freezer-grade bag.
We recently relaunched our frozen panzerotti line, and we found that our regulars buy them in multiples to keep in their freezers and reheat for a later meal. This frozen sideline is very popular and your customers will love them!
Diana Cline is an award-winning pizza chef, a partner with Diana’s Cucina & Lounge in Winnipeg. In addition to creating award-winning recipes, Diana is a consultant to other pizzeria owner/operators in menu development, creating operational systems and marketing to help operators grow their business strategically. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.