Monday, October 13, 2014


Deep-fried pizzas with mozzarella, tomatoes, and eggplants.Last week I had my birthday. If you're dying to know, I turned 38, which apparently is considered the best age, at least according to this article I found by googling "38 is the best age". To celebrate, my dear husband fulfilled my dreams (and his) by getting me a deep-fryer. Of course, we had to put it to work right away, and the first dish that sprang to mind was deep-fried pizzas.

That's right: These are mini-calzones minimally filled and deep-fried. Please note this recipe is not a culinary junk dare like these deep-fried donut bacon cheeseburgers that I don't even want to comment on. It's actually inspired by a traditional Neapolitan recipe: the pizza fritta.

Junk food in America is traditional cuisine in Italy.

The original pizza fritta was born in the poor neighborhoods of Naples after the devastation of WWII. People could not afford pizza cooked in a wood-fire oven, so they started frying it in the streets instead. The pizzas were filled with ricotta and chitterlings, or left empty. In one my favorite movies, Vittorio De Sica's "L'Oro di Napoli" (The Gold of Naples) from 1954, you can see a young and impossibly beautiful Sophia Loren as a pizza fritta vendor. The pizza fritta is not as common today in its original form, but you can still find the calzone fritto: a whole calzone filled with ricotta, mozzarella, salami, and ham and deep-fried to perfection.

How to make deep-fried pizza with mozzarella, tomato, and eggplants.

But back to my birthday. I have no illusion our deep-fried pizzas would compete with their Neapolitan inspiration, but they were super delicious: soft, chewy, salty, and not at all greasy. We filled them with mozzarella, a little bit of San Marzano tomato sauce, and fried eggplants. We didn't make the dough ourselves because, living in D.C., we are blessed with great ready dough from two delicatessens, Vace and The Italian Store. We used Vace this time, and were thrilled to try their own mozzarella, prepared in-store every day.

These pizzas are fairly easy to make, and definitely very fun for a Sunday with friends. Of course, this is if your guests don't mind the smell of fryer oil on their hair and clothes for a week. Present it as a party favor: You might get away with it.

Deep fried pizzas with mozzarella, tomatoes, and eggplants.
D.C. people: Start frying.


Makes 16 little fried pizzas.

3 quarts of frying oil (or 3 inches if you are doing it in a dutch oven over stove heat)
2 pizza dough disks
2 whole mozzarellas, cubed and drained for 10 min in a colander
1 1/2 C of tomato sauce (make your own with San Marzano tomatoes)
1 large eggplant, cubed and deep-fried
fresh basil leaves

  • Heat the oil in your deep-fryer or dutch oven to 375 degrees.
  • Cut each dough in 8 parts on a well floured surface (flour is your friend, it helps soften the dough and make it more elastic) and then flatten each mini-dough, starting from the center (about 4'' diameter). Be careful the dough doesn't tear. Use your hands here; using a rolling pin is not advised for pizza. (It will cause it to tear more easily.)
  • On each pizza disc, place a small handful of mozzarella cubes, 1 tablespoon of tomato sauce, 1 tablespoon of fried eggplants, and a basil leaf.
  • Sprinkle with salt and pepper and a little EVOO.
  • Fold the dough over and press firmly to seal the pizzas into tiny calzones. It is important to create a good seal so the moisture from the cheese and sauce does not mix with the hot oil and splatter. 
  • Deep-fry until the pizzas are puffed-up and golden, turning once, just under 2 minutes. 
  • Serve immediately.

Note: These pizzas can be easily made vegan. Fill with tomato sauce, eggplant, olives, and everything you would like to see on pizzas with the exception of pineapples. 
Another note: Pizza fritta can also be made like this. My friend Checco makes this kind every year in Italy, and it's a celebration to remember. Just fry the open pizza dough and then spoon over tomato sauce and grated cheese.

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