Fried Pizza Dough Balls (Italian appetizer)

Those fried pizza dough balls are puffy inside with a lightly crunchy texture on the outside and filled with gooey melted cheese, salami, and marinara sauce.

Fried pizza dough balls piled with marinara sauce on the side.

About This Recipe

Let’s be honest. Italians know how to fry food. Anywhere you go in the country there’s always a fried specialty to taste.

From the scrumptious arancini (rice balls) in Sicily to the amazing and wonderful fritto misto ascolano (a mix of fried appetizers from Ascoli Piceno), to this crispy and gooey mozzarella fritta.

So, no wonder why those pizza dough balls are so popular here in Italy where you can find them as polpette di pizza fritta and are sold almost at every bakery, deliciously warm that you can’t stop eating one after other.

Fried pizza balls piled with one opened to show the filling.

Those bites are perfect to serve in a party buffet, especially at kid’s parties because they love them and you’ll see how this little appetizer will disappear in the blink of an eye!

We make those with a delicious and easy-to-make marinara sauce that was used not only for the filling but also to serve as a dip for the crispy and puffy pizza balls!

The Ingredients Needed

For the dough:

  • FLOUR. You can use either all-purpose flour or bread/pizza flour. The latest absorb best the liquids, so adjust the water quantity for best results.
  • YEAST. You will need instant dry yeast.
  • OIL. You will need extra virgin olive oil to make the dough, plus frying oil such as canola, sunflower, or peanut oil.
  • SUGAR. Sugar helps the yeast work better and rise the dough quickly, don’t skip it!
  • WATER. Lukewarm water for best results.
  • FILLINGS. Mozzarella cheese, salami or pepperoni small slices.

For the quick tomato marinara sauce:

  • 1 can of tomato sauce.
  • Fresh minced garlic.
  • Dried oregano.
  • Fresh or dried basil.
  • Dried parsley.
  • Salt and pepper.
  • Extra virgin olive oil.

How To Make Fried Pizza Balls

Make the dough

Add salt to the water and mix with a spoon to dissolve. Set aside. Place flour, yeast, and sugar on the bowl of a stand mixer with the hook attached and mix it over medium speed. 

Set the speed to low and slowly add half the water and half the oil, turn the mixer up to medium speed and add the remaining oil, then add more water, kneading until you’ll achieve a smooth and slightly sticky dough (read notes).

A collage showing how to knead the dough in a stand mixer.

Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled surface, make a ball and place it on a greased bowl.

Cover with cling film and let it proof for about 2 hours in a warm environment or until the dough has doubled in size.

The dough on a bowl after resting.

Make the tomato sauce

In a small saucepan heat one teaspoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add the tomato sauce and then garlic, oregano, parsley, and basil.

Season with salt and pepper and let it simmer at low heat for about 10 minutes or until the sauce thickens. Turn off the heat and let it cool to room temperature.

Tomato sauce just made.

Make the pizza dough balls

Once the dough is ready, place it onto a floured bench and knead it lightly to degas it.

Divide the dough into two parts and roll each into a thick log. Cut each log into 9-10 pieces about the same size (I used a kitchen scale and each piece weighed about 40 g/1,4oz).

The dough divided into small pieces.

Dust with flour on a smooth surface where you will place the stuffed balls later.

Lightly oil your hands. Take one of the balls and flatten it a little bit. Add a teaspoon of sauce in the middle, then a slice of pepperoni (salami), and then some mozzarella cheese.

A collage showing how to fill pizza balls.

Pull the borders to the center and pinch the edges together to seal. Use the palms of your hands to carefully re-shape the ball.

Last, place it seam side down on the floured surface.

A collage with 4 fotos showing how to shape the balls.

Repeat until all the pizza dough balls are assembled. Cover with cling film and allow to rest for about 15 minutes.

Fry them

In a deep frying pan, heat a generous amount of frying oil. Working in batches, fry the pizza balls for about 3-4 minutes or until puffy and brown. 

Pizza dough balls frying in a deep pan.

Transfer the balls to a paper towel-lined plate to absorb excess oil. Then serve immediately with the remaining tomato sauce.

Tips & Tricks

  • You might not need all water because flours brands vary from each other, that’s why you need to add the water little by little. If you notice you still need more water than the suggested in the recipe, add one tablespoon at a time.
  • Do not use so much sauce to fill the balls. If you do so, the balls will crack when they’re frying and the sauce will spill out the dough. 
  • Give the dough the proper time to proof, this is the only way to achieve fluffy and light balls.
  • In warm weather, the dough takes about 1 hour and a half to double in size and in winter it takes from 3 to 4 hours.
  • If you want the dough to rise more quickly you can place the bowl inside the oven turned off with the lights on.
  • Do not worry if the pizza dough balls deform a bit when you transfer them to the hot oil, they will puff and form a nice ball while frying.
Close-up of pizza fried balls filling.

How To Serve

Those puffy fried pizza balls are perfect to serve as an appetizer as they are, in fact, in Italy, they are served alone with no sauce on the side.

But of course, the marinara sauce is one of the best options if you want to dip those crispy treats! Well, I even serve them with guacamole sauce ^^

Check out also my quick and easy recipe for cilantro lime creamy sauce, It goes perfect with this delicious treat as well!

Dipping a fried pizza ball into the tomato sauce.

How To Store, Freeze, and Reheat

This appetizer like any other fried treat is best served warm and freshly made, as the texture changes as time pass.

But, if you got some leftovers and want to enjoy them later you can place them in a container, loosely cover them, and store them at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Reheat in the preheated oven for about 5-7 minutes at 375°F/190°C.

Want to freeze the pizza dough balls? No problem, but you need to do that before frying them.

  • Once assembled and before the last proofing, place them in a floured tray that can fit in your freezer.
  • Freeze until firm (about 3 hours).
  • Transfer the pizza balls to a zip bag and store them for up to 2 months.
  • When you want to eat them, thaw them completely on a floured surface covered with a kitchen towel.
  • Allow to proof for 30 minutes then fry as suggested in the recipe.
Fried pizza dough balls with tomato sauce on a board.

Fried pizza dough balls (italian appetizer)

Those fried pizza dough balls are so addictive and make them the perfect appetizer for any day party! They’re so puffy inside with a lightly crunchy texture on the outside and filled with a  gooey melted cheese and tomato sauce.
PREP 30 minutes
COOK 20 minutes
resting time 2 hours
TOTAL 2 hours 50 minutes
5 from 2 votes
Print Pin Rate
Servings: 20
Author: Maricruz

Ingredients 

  • 1 lb all-purpose flour (about 3 ⅓ cups)
  • 2 ¼ tsp instant dry yeast
  • 1 cup lukewarm water (read notes!)
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese (diced or shredded)
  • salami or pepperoni small slices (about 20)
  • frying oil (peanut, canola, sunflower)

For the tomato sauce

  • 1 ¾ cup tomato sauce
  • 1 tsp dry oregano
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • 1 garlic clove (minced)
  • 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

Make the dough

  • Add salt to the water and mix with a spoon to dissolve.
  • Place flour, yeast, and sugar on the bowl of a stand mixer with the hook attached and mix it over medium speed.
  • Set the speed to low and slowly add half the water and half the oil.
  • Turn the mixer up to medium and add the remaining oil, then add more water, kneading until you’ll achieve a smooth and slightly sticky dough (read notes).
  • Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled surface, form a ball and place it on a greased bowl.
  • Cover with cling film and let it proof for about 1-2 hours in a warm environment or until the dough has doubled in size.

Make the tomato sauce

  • In a small saucepan heat the olive oil over medium heat.
  • Add the tomato sauce and then garlic, oregano, parsley, and basil.
  • Season with salt and pepper and let it simmer at low heat for about 10 minutes or until the sauce thickens.
  • Turn off the heat and let it cool to room temperature.

Make the pizza dough balls

  • Once the dough is ready place it onto a floured bench and knead it lightly to degas it.
  • Divide the dough into two parts and roll each into a log.
  • Cut each log into 9-10 pieces about the same size (I used a kitchen scale and each piece weighed about 40g).
  • Next, dust with flour on a smooth surface.
  • Lightly oil your hands. Take one of the balls and flatten it a little bit.
  • Add a teaspoon of tomato sauce in the middle, then a slice of pepperoni, and last some mozzarella cheese.
  • Pull the borders to the center and pinch the edges together to seal. Use the palms of your hands to carefully re-shape the ball.
  • Place the dough ball seam side down on the floured surface.
  • Repeat until all the dough pieces are assembled.
  • Cover with cling film and allow to rest for about 15 minutes.

Fry the pizza balls

  • In a deep frying pan, heat a generous amount of frying oil.
  • Working in batches, fry the pizza balls for about 3-4 minutes or until puffy and brown.
  • Transfer the balls to a cooling rack and serve with the remaining tomato sauce.

NOTES

  • Add water as needed as some flour brands could need more water than others.
  • Try to use just a little bit of sauce only, or the balls will crack when they’re frying and the sauce will come out of the dough if you add too much. 
  • Give the dough the proper time to proof, this is the only way to obtain fluffy and light balls.
  • In warm weather, the dough takes about 1 hour and a half to double in size and in winter it takes from 3 to 4 hours.
  • If you want the dough to rise more quickly you can place the bowl inside the oven turned off with the lights on.
  • Don’t worry if the pizza dough balls deform a bit when you take them, they will puff and form a nice ball while frying.
  • Calories info doesn’t include oil for frying.
Nutrition
Calories: 143kcal | Carbohydrates: 20g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 5g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Trans Fat: 0.02g | Cholesterol: 5mg | Sodium: 270mg | Potassium: 111mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 133IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 38mg | Iron: 1mg
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2 Comments

  1. Do you like mouth watering food and good television!?!? Tune into the all new Deep Fried Dynasty premiering tonight on A&E 10/9 C. It will satisfy all of your cravings! 😋