September 30, 2014
Remember pizza day at your school cafeteria? It was my favorite, which is amazing considering the icky frozen pizza that my cafeteria served! I’m giving pizza day a makeover with these awesome make-ahead Pesto Pizza Rolls that are perfect for the lunchbox or an easy weeknight dinner.
You all know I’m a sucker for scratch cooking, but it isn’t always possible to make a pizza entirely from scratch, especially when it’s for school lunch. It isn’t even necessary given that it’s pretty easy to find quality store bought ingredients for this recipe. You can also swap in pizza sauce (again, homemade or store-bought) for the pesto and ricotta to make traditional pizza rolls.
Pesto is the easiest ingredient to make homemade and I have a bunch of pesto recipes that would be awesome in these pizza rolls; if you’re going to buy store-bought, look for an all-natural kind in the refrigerator section of your market. It won’t last as long as the jarred kind, but that means it is—and will taste—fresher. If you’re worried about shelf life, just throw whatever you don’t use into the freezer for another time.
My homemade ricotta cheese recipe is also shockingly easy. Seriously! If you give a shot once, I guarantee that you’ll make it again and again, but store-bought will work well in this recipe, too. If you’re going to buy ricotta at your market, look for fresh ricotta, which is entirely different than the kind you get in the yellow tub. That said, if the kind in the yellow tub is all you can get, do it; it’ll blend in well enough in this dish.
Most important for this recipe: pizza dough! There are tons of great recipes for pizza dough online, but you’ll notice that I don’t have one. The truth is that with so many great pizzerias near me, I rarely feel moved to make my own. Maybe if I had more time, but you know how that goes. If you’re like me, pick some up at your local pizza shop or market. Just be sure to get a round of dough and skip those pre-packaged, par-baked jobbies.
With all of your ingredients lined up, you’ll have these pizza rolls in the oven in no time. I tend to cook enough for one school lunch or dinner and then freeze the rest before baking. To freeze them, I individually wrap each pizza roll in plastic wrap and put them all in a ziplock bag. Then, when it’s time for pizza rolls again, I pop as many as I need straight from the freezer onto a parchment lined baking sheet and bake until golden brown.
And just like that: Pizza day 2.0.
Pesto Pizza Rolls
(Can be shared with kids 10+ mos)*
Makes 9-10 2″ rolls
1 round of pizza dough
1/2 cup ricotta
1/4 cup pesto
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. On a lightly floured surface, roll pizza dough into a rectangle that’s approximately 10″x8″ (don’t worry about being exact, the point is to make it about the size of a round pizza, but in a rectangular shape).
2. In a medium bowl, use a fork to thoroughly combine ricotta cheese and pesto. Starting at one side of the pizza dough, spread the mixture over 3/4 of the rectangle.
3. Sprinkle ricotta cheese over the ricotta/pesto mixture.
4. Starting at the edge of the pizza dough that has ricotta spread on it from top to bottom, roll the pizza dough into a log. This process is a lot like making cinnamon rolls (watch the video for a quick visual cue). Once rolled, position the dough so that the length of the log is parallel to the edge of your kitchen counter. Using a very sharp knife, cut the log into pieces every 2″ or so. You should get 9-10 pizza rolls.
5. Place the pizza rolls on a parchment lined baking sheet, cut side up (they should look like little pinwheels) and bake until cheese is melted and crust is golden brown, about 12 minutes. Cool a little before serving or, if you’re making these to pack in a lunch, cool completely before wrapping them up for storage in the fridge or the lunchbox.
*Note: While there is nothing in this that is unsafe for younger eaters, I recommend this for kids 10+ months already safely managing finger food. If sharing these with little eaters, be sure to cut the pizza rolls into age appropriate bite sizes.