Dinner Rush! Picnic Pizza Rolls

This is it, the moment we’ve all been waiting for: Memorial Day has passed and summer is officially here!  I think it's only fitting to celebrate the advent of summer with a bit of al fresco dining (what’s all this beautiful weather for, anyway, if not to enjoy?)  This week’s Dinner Rush! is heading outside with a picnic basket in hand.

OK, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a picnic — the point is these pizza rolls are great to make in advance for dinner anywhere from the front porch to the city park.  Like any good pizza, you can pretty much fill them with whatever you want, then just pack them up and get out for some fun in the sun!

Most stores offer pizza dough that is already prepared and can be picked up from the refrigerated case (or even the freezer).  If your market seems to be out, give your corner pizza shop a call — they’ll usually sell you a ball of dough no problem.

Happy Summer!
Picnic Pizza Rolls
Yield:  4 to 6 servings  (12 pizza rolls)
Prep Time:  10 minutes
Active Time:  10 minutes
Total Time:  35 minutes (plus cooling time)
All-purpose flour, as needed for dusting
2 (1-pound) balls pizza dough
1-pound ball fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups mixed grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup basil leaves, torn
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and ground black pepper

Preheat an oven to 450 degrees F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Lightly dust a work surface with all-purpose flour.  Carefully stretch both balls of pizza dough out into a rectangle about 12-inches long and 8-inches wide (the dough should be between 1/4- and 1/2-inch thick).  Scatter the mozzarella, tomatoes, basil, and pepper flakes evenly over each piece of dough.  Drizzle the olive oil evenly over both portions of dough and season them with salt and pepper.

Starting on the wider side of the dough, roll each piece of dough into a log.  Slice each log into 6 equal portions and transfer the rolls to the prepared baking sheets leaving at least 1-inch between each roll.

Bake the pizza rolls, rotating the pans halfway through baking, until deep golden brown, about 25 minutes.  Let the rolls cool slightly before serving them warm (if packing them up for a picnic, let them cool completely).

NOTE:  The fresh mozzarella has to be very dry for these rolls to keep their shape.  If your fresh mozzarella is packed in water, lay the slices out on a few sheets of paper towel and let them dry out for a couple of minutes.  You can also use shredded mozzarella to guarantee a successful turnout.

COOK’S PERKS!  As some of the mozzarella melts during baking and caramelizes on the parchment paper, it makes a delicious snack – to the victor go the spoils!

Patrick W. Decker’s life revolves around food. Always has, probably always will. As a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America and past member of the culinary teams for Food Network stars Rachael Ray, Sandra Lee, Bobby Deen and Paula Deen, he now works as a food stylist and producer in NYC by day and a food writer and recipe developer at his home in New York’s Hudson Valley by night. You can see what he’s up to by following his latest tweets on Twitter at  @patrickwdecker  or visiting his website at  patrickwdecker.com .

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