West Virginia Pepperoni Rolls

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img_5263-1We interrupt this season of festivity to briefly return you to your regularly scheduled blog, The Balogs Eat Around the USA.

Did you think I forgot about cooking? I almost did. It’s been impossible to cook lately…Boy Wonder got a real job and a girlfriend and apparently a life outside of this house. Hubby’s been super busy at work as well. It’s been very hard to schedule a family dinner.

In fact, I can’t remember the last time the four of us ate together. There’s been many days that I’ve had full intentions of cooking (and cooking our next state cuisine), but I’ve had to alter our dinner plans because of changes to schedules. It seems like our whole lives are on hold lately, and we can’t get it together with anything, especially cooking.

Dinner has become a hassle and often a smorgasbord of food stuffs thrown together. (Have you ever had Chinese spare ribs with pasta, salad, and a can of pea soup?)

Tonight I put my foot down. Even though we weren’t going to all be home at the same time, I was cooking the next state, regardless.

I have a confession—I picked West Virginia and I knew exactly what the meal would be. I also knew the meal would be one that I could get away with making at 5pm, and everyone could eat it at their leisure. That’s when I decided it was getting made tonight, come hell or high water.

Had I picked California or something, I probably wouldn’t have been able to pull it off.

Actually, I almost feel like this whole meal was a cheat because I’ve made it before. Many. Many. Many. Times. Too many times to count. Wanna know what it is? I bet you’ll be surprised to know that West Virginia is famous for its…pepperoni rolls.

Yup, all you Italians take note of that. The West Virginia version of a calzone is their state food. I bet you thought it was Roadkill. (Actually there was a recipe for Roadkill Stew on one of the sites I found…that was not happening.)

The pepperoni roll became popular in West Virginia because it was easy for coal miners to take into the mines as a lunch or a snack. Some guy named Giuseppe Argiro from a bakery in West Virginia started selling these in 1927.

There are many variations on it. People put other meats and cheeses in it as well, sometimes with sauce on the side—it’s usually called a calzone then. My kids call it a Stromboli, even though it’s not because technically Stromboli has sauce inside.

My great grandmother used to make pepperoni rolls the time. She was Italian and also grew up in West Virginia (hmmmm, this is all starting to make sense to me). She would put on her apron, roll out the ball of dough (with a real wooden rolling pin—that thing was a weapon), add pepperoni (she used the big slices you got at the deli) and the mozzarella. She’d roll it up and bake it and we’d fight to the death to eat it. Whenever she made it, you could be sure that you needed to be right there when the oven dinged otherwise you weren’t getting any.

I started making it quite a few years ago for Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. It’s still a big hit. I don’t really know anyone in my family that won’t eat it, even my kids. The best part about this is it is sooooo easy to make, even I can’t mess it up.

I’ll give you the instructions in pictures:
Get a dough ball from your local pizzeria. DO NOT BUY THE DOUGH IN THE SUPERMARKET. It tastes like crap. This is probably one of the only places you can mess this up.
Roll out the dough. I have found if you make a rectangle so that you can roll up the long end, that prevents the middle of the dough from being undercooked.
I sprinkle the cheese next. Some people add the pepperoni first. It’s entirely up to you. There is no wrong way :).
Roll on the long side to ensure it’s cooked through.
I brush with olive oil, salt and pepper. My oven is wonky so I put it in on 450 for about a half hour but I have to watch it REALLY closely. My oven’s off by about 50 degrees so I would say 400 would be good.

This is the finished product:

And this is 5 minutes later:

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