As I recall from our first trip to Naples, Italy, quite a few years ago, there are two main kinds of fried pizza: pizza fritta, which is plain fried yeast dough topped with garnishes; and pizza fritta ripiena, which is a filled turnover: what we’d call a calzone, but all the better for having been deep-fried. This is typically made in a large format, from a round of dough maybe 11 or 12 inches across. But it also can be snack-size, an option that came in handy when our friend Barbara came over for supper recently.
We usually have snack-y things around to keep people (including ourselves) happy until dinner is on the table, yet somehow all the cheese straws and chips and nuts had disappeared. Perhaps I’d eaten them, though I have no independent memory of this. And I was serving meat that evening, so salumi might have been redundant. Then I remembered fried pizza and breathed a sigh of relief.
The only troublesome part of making it is waiting for the dough to rise, but if I had anything on my hands besides a nasty oven burn, it was time.
Because there were only three of us, I made a tiny batch of dough: a scant cup of flour, a half-teaspoon of instant yeast, a quarter-teaspoon of fine salt, a splash of olive oil and enough room-temperature water to form a baseball-size sphere of soft, not-sticky dough.
For the filling, I took a cup of chunky tomato sauce (made the previous day from ripe tomatoes and olive oil, added a whole garlic clove and some sage (which I removed from the finished mixture) and simmered it until much of the liquid had evaporated. I didn’t want the filling to be too damp. I added half a dozen black olives, pitted and chopped, chopped parsley and a few tablespoons of finely diced provolone cheese.
When the dough had risen — or, more to the point, half an hour before Barbara was due to arrive — I divided it into six equal portions. I rolled/stretched these out into rough rounds about five inches across and quite thin, topped each with a tablespoonful of filling and folded over the dough rounds to form turnovers, sealing them well. For the sake of neatness and uniformity, I used a 3 1 / 2-inch cookie cutter to trim the edges and then gave them an extra pinch to make sure they would stay closed in the frying fat. (The trimmings would have made another couple of turnovers, but I didn’t need them – and I had run out of filling, anyway.)
When these had risen in a warm place for 20 minutes, covered with a cloth, I fried them in about two inches of vegetable oil heated to 340 degrees. The dough was thin, so they didn’t need a lot of cooking. When the turnovers became golden, they were done; a matter of a couple of minutes per side at the most. I used a skimmer to keep turning them, because once they had puffed up in the heat of the oil (almost instantaneously) they tended to float and resist being flipped over. I drained them on paper towels, though they were not at all greasy, and let them cool a good five minutes before serving them; A fried pizza straight out of the hot oil, filled with a steamy stuffing, can be a health and safety hazard.
They were really, really good. The dough was chewy, as any pizza dough should be, yet thin enough to be eaten with ease. The filling didn’t overwhelm the crust, lending flavor and moisture to every bite.
Next time, I’ll make five times as many and skip the braised brisket.