These Pizza Rolls are perhaps as delicious as they are because they marry three of my most favorite recipes: Bobby Flay’s pizza dough, Julia Moskin’s classic marinara sauce, and my very own cheese-free basil pesto.
When you live with a seven-year-old, pizza pretty much becomes a necessary food group: you almost certainly will find a ball of pizza dough in my freezer at any time now. It takes me a few minutes to knead up a batch of this recipe, and it makes two crusts so I can use one half and store away the other for another day. All baked up, the crust is golden and crispy and chewy and delicious and it is superlatively good in these pizza rolls.
And the marinara, oh the marinara. I have never been a huge fan of tomato sauces on pasta or pizza, but for this one I make a full exception. Moskin’s recipe is simplicity itself, and easy to follow, and I now have a jar of this sauce in my refrigerator at all times. Even Jay has voted it the best tomato sauce ever.
I modified the recipes very slightly just to accommodate them to the ingredients I have on hand, and I’ve given you my versions below. But do click through to the originals if you want to, because they are incredibly good.
I have to confess that Jay is not the only one who goes a little gaga for pizza rolls. As someone who could eat this divine food for breakfast, lunch and dinner (not that I’ll ever admit that to Jay), I find it pretty hard to keep my hands to myself when these rolls are around. In fact, I think I still have one or two that I managed to stash away when he was not looking, and I can just see them now, waiting for me, all golden and delicious and stuffed with garlicky, saucy goodness…mmmmmmm.
Erm, I’ve gotta go… Something’s come up. Ciao.
- 1 cup packed basil leaves
- 3 cloves garlic I know that may seem a lot to some but it'll be great baked into the pizza crust
- 1/4 cup lightly roasted almonds
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and ground black pepper to taste
- Make the pizza dough:
- Place the yeast in a bowl with the sugar and water. Whisk to mix and let it stand five minutes until frothy.
- Add three cups of the flour, mix, then add in the salt and the olive oil. Knead the dough, adding more flour a quarter cup at a time, until you have a smooth, pliable ball of dough. Set aside to rise for an hour in an oiled bowl.
- After the dough has risen, knead it down briefly and then divide in half. I freeze one half for later, and use the rest for the rolls.
- Make the marinara sauce:
- Heat the olive oil in a skillet. Add the slivers of garlic and let them cook, stirring, until they turn a light gold. Don't burn them.
- Add the crushed tomatoes and red pepper flakes. Give it all a good stir, then add the sprig of basil. Moskin advises to place the sprig on top of the sauce and wait until the leaves have wilted, then mix it into the sauce.
- Let the sauce cook 15-20 minutes until it's quite thick and darker. Season with salt and pepper. Turn off the heat.
- Make the basil pesto:
- Place all the ingredients in a food processor and process until you have a coarse paste.
- Assemble the rolls:
- Line a 9-inch-square baking pan, glass or metal, with parchment paper. Spray lightly with some oil.
- Roll out the pizza dough into a 12 by 8 inch rectangle. If it's too difficult to roll, cover the dough with a kitchen towel, wait five minutes or so, and then roll it out.
- Spread the pesto evenly on the rectangle of dough.
- Spread 1/2 to 3/4th of a cup of the marinara (make sure it's not hot) over the pesto. You don't want too much liquid or it'll be hard to roll the dough.
- With the long side of the rectangle facing you, roll the dough gently -- like you would a jelly roll, until you have a long cylinder.
- With a sharp knife, cut the cylinder into nine pieces. Place them in the baking pan, leaving some room between them to spread and rise. Cover with a kitchen towel and set aside in a warm place for 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
- Bake the pizza rolls for 35 minutes until golden. Remove, cool on a rack for five minutes, then serve with some marinara on the side.
A huge thanks to all of you lovely people who wrote in to wish Billy and Lily well. We feel so lucky to have them, as we do to have you, fellow animal lovers, out there, rooting for us.
Amidst all of your kind messages, I got an email from someone who was angry at me for going to Puerto Rico to find a dog when there are so many animals here in the United States who are on death row, and for “promoting” PETA. I wanted to address those sentiments briefly here today in case there are others who feel that way.
I did not go all the way to Puerto Rico looking for a street dog, but if I had, so what? She would still be a lovely, amazing animal who needed love and I would have been happy to give it to her. As it happens, Lily was rescued by the Lost Dog and Cat Rescue and was being fostered in the same Washington, D.C. suburb where I live. When I saw her, I saw a dog who needed a home, and who needed patience and help as she found her way back to happiness. It never occurred to me to not adopt her because she was not local.
As for PETA. I know this is a rather polarizing topic among animal lovers and I will not get into the politics of it. When I heard about Billy through a mutual friend, he had been waiting at PETA for weeks without a home — only one person had been around to see him in all that time and no one had come forward to adopt him. This person who wrote me that angry email was concerned about what she said was PETA’s high euthanasia rate, but if that’s the case, shouldn’t she be happy that I rescued Billy from there?
I have to mention, in all fairness, that the staff at PETA seemed to make a strong attempt to get Billy placed in a home. I heard of him when Ingrid Newkirk emailed a friend who had once worked with her, asking for her help. Desi and I agreed to take him, without ever meeting him, because we were in the market for a rescue cat.
What it boils down to, for me, is this: if we truly want to help animals, we need to think more about the animals and what they need, and less about the politics of where they came from. Sure there are some animal rescue groups out there who do a great job and need to be supported, perhaps more than others, but if we start attaching a “pedigree” to our animals based on where we got them, we are going down a dangerous road. Desi and I fostered for the Washington Humane Society for years when it was under pretty bad management in the early 2000s– they gave absolutely no support to fosters at the time, and we had horrific experiences with their euthanasia policy to which we lost a very beloved foster dog, Barney. That experience shook us to the core, but it didn’t make us turn our backs on the animals who came into the shelter: if anything, it made us even more determined to get as many animals out of there as possible. And in the end, we – Desi, I and the amazing dogs and cats we rescued — were all the better for it.