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.