Homemade Pizza Rolls

I was scrolling through Pinterest last week (the single best way to procrastinate) when a photo of these pizza rolls jumped out at me. I mean, pizza rolls! I haven’t given them much thought in, oh, 15 years, but seeing that picture immediately took me back to that time. Pizza rolls were a staple of our high school years. I couldn’t cook to save my life, but I could operate the microwave so pizza rolls were a very popular after-school snack. Even though half the filling inevitably oozed out while they cooked, they were so quick and easy we turned to them over and over again.

Homemade Pizza Rolls

I honestly can’t remember the last time I had pizza rolls and I’d be lying if I said I was ever tempted by them when I pass through the frozen foods in the grocery store, so making this recipe wasn’t about satisfying a craving. I just think it’s really fun to attempt homemade versions of foods that are typically store-bought. Just to see if it’s possible, you know?

Homemade Pizza Rolls

This recipe is deceptively simple, if not a little time-consuming thanks to all the assembly going on. A quick tomato mixture is made, then combined with cheese and basil to comprise the filling. Wonton wrappers are used to enclose the filling and then the pizza rolls are frozen briefly before being fried. Like I said, assembly takes some time, but once you get in a groove it’s not bad. And these can be frozen for a month so make a whole bunch at once and then pull them out as you need them!

When I told Shane I was making these pizza rolls, his eyes lit up. If I liked pizza rolls back in the day, he *loved* them. And this homemade version absolutely exceeded his high expectations! Once fried, the wrappers are super crisp while the filling hidden inside is gooey, cheesy and flavorful. We both had to restrain ourselves from grabbing one after another so there’d be enough left to photograph and share here. These pizza rolls would be a great appetizer at your next party or a fun snack to enjoy on game day (or Oscar night – did you guys watch? I was so glad to see Argo win Best Picture!).

Homemade Pizza Rolls

A few quick notes about the recipe: First, it calls for pre-shredded cheese – the one you buy in a bag. I normally advise against using it but the folks at America’s Test Kitchen actually tested this recipe with freshly shredded cheese and in the end decided the bag stuff was well-suited to this recipe. The agents used to keep it from clumping actually help hold the filling together so just go with it :) I was super nervous the filling would leak out when I fried the rolls, but I didn’t have a single issue here. Also, while these were at their best just a few minutes after they were fried, we still thought they were quite good at room temperature.

Updated to add: There have been a few questions about baking these instead of frying them. While I didn’t try it, America’s Test Kitchen did and said they turned out chewy rather than crispy on the outside (you can see their comment here). If anyone has luck with baking them, please come back and let us know :)

Homemade Pizza Rolls
from America’s Test Kitchen Feed

{Note: the original recipe also included 1/2 teaspoon of ground fennel, which was intended to lend some sausage flavor without actually adding sausage. I didn’t have any on hand, and the filling was plenty flavorful without it, but I’ll leave the decision up to you.}

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons tomato paste
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 (14 oz) can diced tomatoes, drained well (juice reserved) and chopped fine
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 cups (8 oz) shredded 6-cheese Italian blend
3 tablespoons minced fresh basil
5-6 dozen wonton wraps
vegetable oil for frying

Add the oil to a 12-inch nonstick skillet and set over medium heat. When the oil shimmers, add the tomato paste. Cook, stirring continuously, for about 3 minutes, or until the mixture is a deep rust color. Add the garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes to the pan. Cook for about 30 seconds, or just until fragrant. Mix in the chopped tomatoes and the reserved juice. Allow the mixture to come to a simmer, then continue cooking until it has thickened and reduced to a thick paste. This will take about 10 minutes, and when it’s done, you should have about 1 cup. Transfer to a heatproof bowl and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or up to 2 days.

Meanwhile, line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a fine mesh sieve, dust about half of the cornstarch onto the parchment.

Add the cheese and the basil to the chilled tomato mixture and stir to combine. Season the mixture to taste with salt and pepper. To assemble: Place the wonton wraps on a plate and cover with a damp towel (this will prevent them from drying out). Fill a small bowl with water and set on your work surface. Working with a few wrappers at a time, lay them on your work surface. Add 1 teaspoon of filling to the center of each wrapper. Dip your finger in the water, and moisten the edges of one of the wrappers. Fold the bottom of the wrapper up and over the filling, then continue to roll toward the opposite edge. When you finish, the seam should be on the bottom. Gently press your fingers on either side of the filling to work out any air, then press the edges to seal completely. This is optional but the sides will be a bit long, so feel free to trim them down (I did). Transfer to the prepared baking sheet (seam side down). Repeat the sealing process with the other wrappers then continue to fill and seal using the remaining filling and wrappers. (Note: place additional sheets of parchment dusted with the remaining cornstarch between layers of pizza rolls on the baking sheet.)

Once you’ve assembled all of the rolls, cover the baking sheet with plastic wrap and transfer to the freezer for at least 30-60 minutes (until they are firm) or up to 1 month.

Meanwhile, set a wire rack inside a rimmed baking sheet. Top the rack with a layer of paper towels. Add enough vegetable oil to a pot to measure about 1 1/2 inches deep – you can do this in a large Dutch oven or a smaller pot but just be aware that you should fry fewer rolls at a time in the smaller pot so as not to overcrowd and drop the oil temperature too much. Set the pot over medium to medium-high heat and heat the oil until it measures 375 F on a candy thermometer. Add the pizza rolls (how many depends on how big a pot you used) and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring and flipping them over a few times so both sides brown evenly. Try to maintain the oil temperature between 350 and 375 F – adjust the heat under the pot as necessary. Use a spider strainer to transfer the pizza to the wire rack you prepared earlier to allow any excess oil to drain. Return the oil to 375 F before frying the next batch of rolls. Continue until they’ve all been fried.

The rolls will be very hot when they come out of the oil so let them cool for a few minutes before serving. Serve as is or with marinara sauce for dipping.

Makes 5-6 dozen