Panzerotti in English means, “busted bellies”; which I imagine is what would happen if you ate one too many. It is a fried potato croquette popularly found around Naples and other parts of southern Italy where they are also known as Crocchette di Patate. In their most basic form, panzerotti are simply made with potatoes, butter, eggs, flour and breadcrumbs; then fried and served hot with a dip, often a fresh Marinara sauce or a mayonnaise-based dip such as an aioli. In addition to the basic panzerotto (singular for panzerotti), there are many stuffed variations that include various cheeses, prosciutto, cooked ham, and chopped vegetables.
The best panzerotti require the right potatoes of which there are three types: waxy, starchy and in-between. Waxy types such as red skin or new potatoes have a low moisture content and are great for salads and other dishes that require the potatoes to maintain their shape; but they do not mash or fry well and are not a good choice for panzerotti. Starchy potatoes such as Idaho have high moisture content and are great for fries or mashing and are a good choice for panzerotti. However, in my opinion the best type of potato to use is the venerable Yukon Gold. This is considered an in-between type of potato having lower moisture content than starchy types and higher than waxy types. Panzerotti made with Yukon Gold potatoes have a creamy but firm texture that maintains its cylindrical shape well when fried.
This recipe is for a stuffed panzerotti and my favorite stuffing is cheese and prosciutto. I prefer Provolone cheese as it melts well and has a sharp, slightly salty taste. However, you can use any semi-firm melting cheese you prefer such as Swiss, Cheddar, Colby or Monterrey Jack for example. You won’t find these used in Italy, but they work well nevertheless. I have the Provolone cheese sliced at the deli in ¼ inch thick slices, then I further cut them into ¼ inch wide sticks two inches long for stuffing into the Panzerotti.
When we hear “prosciutto” we immediately think of the salty, air-cured ham product. In Italy this type is more generically referred to as “prosciutto crudo” or uncooked prosciutto. There is another type of prosciutto known as “prosciutto cotto” or cooked prosciutto, which is similar to the cooked hams found in American delicatessens. Either type can be used based on your preference, though I prefer prosciutto crudo. In this recipe, I do not stuff the Panzerotti with the prosciutto in the same manner as with the cheese. Instead I first have the prosciutto thinly sliced at the deli and then at home I chop the sliced prosciutto into roughly ¼ – ½ inch square pieces. The chopped prosciutto is mixed into the potatoes before forming into the traditional cylindrical shape of the panzerotto. This way you won’t be over-filling the center of the panzerotto, which can cause them break and the cheese to melt out.
Finally we come to the breadcrumbs and the easiest to use are the pre-seasoned Italian breadcrumbs available in any supermarket. You can also make your own by grating stale dry bread and adding your own Italian seasonings. I use both depending on what’s on hand. A good variation is to use Panko Japanese style breadcrumbs. I find that they fry to a crisper texture and seem to absorb less oil. You can find Italian seasoned Panko breadcrumbs in many supermarkets. If you can’t find them in your supermarket, buy the plain Panko and season them yourself.
So, these are my thoughts on achieving great panzerotti. They are great for parties, a snack or an appetizer. Serve them hot with a condiment for dipping; I mentioned earlier that Marinara is typical as is an aioli. So whip a batch and let me know what you think.
- 1 lb potato
- 4 tbsp. salted butter
- Fresh ground white pepper
- Nutmeg, optional to taste
- 3 large eggs
- ¼ cup (2 oz) Parmigiano cheese
- ½ cup prosciutto, thinly sliced and chopped
- 4 oz Provolone cheese sliced into 2 inch long by ¼ x ¼ inch wide sticks
- 1 tbsp. finely chopped fresh parsley
- 2 cups dry Italian breadcrumbs, more if needed
- All-purpose flour
- 2 cups vegetable oil
- Scrub the potatoes well leaving the skin on; then put the potatoes in a medium saucepan and add enough cold water to cover by 2 or 3 inches.
- Over high heat, bring the water to a boil and then lower the heat to maintain a gentle boil. Depending on the size of the potatoes cook for about 20 to 30 minutes until tender. Drain the potatoes and let stand until cool to the touch then peel.
- Into a medium saucepan, pass the potatoes through a potato ricer or mash well with a potato masher making sure not to leave any lumps.
- Add the butter and over medium heat whip or stir until the butter is well incorporated and the mixture is smooth, about a minute. Remove from heat add the Parmigiano cheese and season with salt, white pepper, and a pinch or two of nutmeg if desired.
- Beat one egg then along with the prosciutto and parsley stir into the potato mixture until all the ingredients are well mixed; then cool to room temperature.
- Using about 3 tablespoons of the potato mixture for each Panzerotti, form into cylinders about 3 inches long. Press a stick of Provolone cheese lengthwise through one end of the panzarotto, Make sure to reseal the end.
- Refrigerate the Panzerotti uncovered until firm, about 20 to 30 minutes. Note the Panzerotti can be prepared to this point and refrigerated covered for up to one day.
- Beat the remaining two eggs well in a wide, shallow bowl and spread the breadcrumbs and flour out onto separate plates.
- Dredge each panzarotto in flour lightly coating it and shaking off any excess. Then dip the floured panzarotto into the egg, coating all sides evenly. Finally, lay the Panzarotto in the breadcrumbs and roll to coat all sides and ends making sure the breadcrumbs are well adhered. Lay them out on a sheet of waxed paper.
- Heat the vegetable oil in a heavy, medium skillet over medium heat to 350°.
- Add about half the Panzerotti into the skillet and fry carefully, turning them until golden brown on all sides, about 4 or 5 minutes. Adjust the heat as necessary so the Panzerotti cook evenly.
- Remove the Panzerotti with a slotted spoon and drain them on a paper-towel lined baking sheet.
- Repeat with the remaining Panzerotti and serve hot.
- Note: The Panzerotti can be kept warm on a baking sheet in a 200° oven for about to 30 minutes.
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