“Ten-year-old Nyesha would have loved to recreate these today,” says Nyesha Arrington as she looks lovingly at a bag of frozen Totino’s pizza rolls. “And that’s what we’re going to do.”
Not only does adult Nyesha take us through all of the steps of making homemade pizza rolls from scratch — from creating the filling and making the sauce, to forming the dough and building the rolls — she also shares tips for frying, baking, freezing, and reheating them, just like the ones found in your freezer aisle. The only difference?, “These pizza rolls have 10 ingredients,” Nyesha points out, “whereas [Totino’s] pizza rolls have a paragraph of ingredients, so this is a real food.”
“These are super flaky, they have quality ingredients, an amazing ratio of sauce and cheese. I feel like a kid again!” she continues as she breaks one open and pops it into her mouth. “Who would have thought these would be so easy to recreate?”
Check out Nyesha Arrington’s recipe for homemade pizza rolls below.
Homemade Pizza Rolls
Serves 4-6 as an appetizer
For the marinara sauce:
¼ cup canola–olive oil blend
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 small yellow onion, sliced
3 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
2 ½ cups tomato passata (preferably Mutti brand)
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried basil
2 teaspoons dried oregano
For the dough:
2 eggs, divided
½ cup cold water
2 cups flour, plus extra for dusting
1/3 cup unsalted butter, diced
For the filling:
2 teaspoons cornstarch, plus extra for dusting
½ cup low-moisture mozzarella
¼ cup pepperoni
½ gallon canola oil for frying
Fine sea salt to garnish
Oil, for frying
Step 1: First, make the sauce.
Add the oil, garlic, and onion to a small saucepan over medium heat, then season with 2 teaspoons of kosher salt. Sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the passata, pepper, basil, and oregano. Bring the sauce to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cook for 25-30 minutes.
Step 2: Next, prepare the dough.
While the sauce is simmering, beat together 1 egg, the water, and remaining 1 teaspoon kosher salt in a small bowl and set aside. In a food processor, combine the flour and butter, then pulse until mixture is crumbly, with butter pieces the size of small peas. Slowly stream in the egg, water and salt mixture while pulsing. Once the dough is combined, turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth.
Cover the dough in plastic wrap and flatten into a square disk. Place in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Step 3: Make the filling. Once the sauce has cooled slightly, add to a blender and pulse until smooth. Set aside ½ cup of sauce to cool completely for the filling.
To cut the mozzarella, dust a knife with cornstarch so it doesn’t stick. Cut it into small dice, or a brunoise, and then do the same with the pepperoni. Combine the mozzarella and pepperoni with remaining the 2 teaspoons cornstarch in a medium-sized bowl, then add ½ cup cooled blended tomato sauce. Fill a piping bag with the filling and place in the fridge to set for about 30 minutes.
Step 4: Build the rolls. On a floured surface, cut the dough into two equal portions, and return one portion to the refrigerator until ready to use. Roll out the first dough half into a 12-by-12 inch square (about ⅛-inch thick). Cut the square in half horizontally. Beat the remaining 1 egg, then, using a pastry brush, brush the top half of the square with the with egg wash. Starting 1 inch in from the edge of dough, pipe about 12-15 mounds of filling (1 teaspoon or so each) onto the bottom squares, leaving 1½ inches between each mound and maintaining a 1-inch perimeter all around. Working quickly, carefully drape the top half of dough evenly over the bottom and cut around each pizza roll to create rectangles about 1 inch wide by two inches tall, trimming away any excess dough and pinching edges to seal.
Repeat with the remaining dough.
Place the formed rolls on a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze for at least 2 hours.
Step 5: Fry the rolls. Preheat the oil in a wide saucepan or deep skillet to 350 degrees. Fry the frozen rolls in batches, about 3-5 minutes per batch, adjusting the heat as necessary. Remove from the oil using a slotted metal spoon or spider and drain on a wire rack set over a baking sheet. Immediately sprinkle with fine sea salt if you’ll be eating right away, and serve with the remaining sauce.
Step 6: Reheat. If you’re preparing the rolls ahead of time, let them cool, then place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze overnight. To serve, preheat the oven to 425 degrees and bake for 6-8 minutes on a lightly greased foil-lined baking sheet. Garnish with fine sea salt and serve with remaining sauce.
Molly J. Smith is a photographer based in Portland, Oregon
Tested by Marisa Robertson-Textor