During the 1930s, my great-grandfather was a coal miner in Anawalt, West Virginia. It’s estimated that during this era more than 27 different nationalities were represented in the mines, with nearly half originating from Southern Italy.
As a culinary result, many native West Virginians were introduced to traditional Italian cooking for the first time in their lives, including my family. Homemade meatballs, peppers in tomato sauce and slow-cooked tomato “gravies” laden with beef, sausages and pork were commonplace at our dinner table and still are today. Yet, there’s one particular delicacy that defines the Italian melting pot that is contemporary West Virginia—the pepperoni roll.
Without question, the pepperoni roll has achieved iconic status throughout West Virginia, and not just as a quick lunch for immigrant coal miners. This convenient treat has a dizzying array of variations, including stuffing the rolls with mozzarella cheese, onions, marinara and/or sweet peppers cooked in tomato sauce. It’ll soon be achieving iconic status in your home, thanks to this simple pepperoni roll recipe.
- 1 36-count package frozen dinner roll dough
- 8 ounces pepperoni stick, sliced (or pre-sliced pepperoni, sliced again in half)
- Cooking spray
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 egg
Toppings and variations
- Jar of sweet peppers in tomato sauce (such as Oliverio’s)
- Shredded mozzarella
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Spray cutting board with cooking spray and turn dough pieces onto board. Take a piece of the dough and push it flat with your hand. Then place 4-5 pieces of pepperoni (depending on size) in the middle and roll it up.
- Pinch the ends of the dough to hold the pepperoni inside. Repeat until you’ve used up all your dough and pepperoni.
- Place on a lightly greased baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap that’s been lightly sprayed with oil and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
- In a small saucepan, melt butter and sugar. Remove from heat and let cool. Whisk in egg.
- Brush rolls with mixture.
- Bake until golden brown, about 10 minutes.
Serve pepperoni rolls by themselves, or slice open and fill with peppers in tomato sauce and top with shredded mozzarella. Bake for about 10-12 minutes in a 350-degree oven until cheese is melted and bubbly.