Even those of us who used to (or still do) snack on those microwaveable bite-sized pizza snacks have to admit: they don't taste much like pizza. Coupled with their lack of nutritional value, there's really no reason why they're still one of America's highest-selling frozen snack foods. Especially since making pizza poppers at home is surprisingly easy — plus they freeze perfectly for a post-work snack!
Prepare the Ingredients Ahead
While you can certainly prep and make this dish all in one go, you can also get a head start by preparing all the ingredients ahead of time. You can use store-bought pizza dough, although making it at home is really easy.
→ Make your own pizza dough! How To Make Pizza Dough
Make the pizza dough up to three days ahead. And while you're at it, go ahead and whip up a quick batch of pizza sauce.
→ Make your own pizza sauce! How To Make Pizza Sauce
If you plan to use sausage in your pizza poppers, you can also cook that ahead of time, then store it in a covered container in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Rolling out the Dough
This part of the process is crucial for pizza popper success. I speak from experience. The thin-crust pizza lover in me rolled out an entire batch way too thin. Don't make the same mistake. The thickness of the rolled dough needs to be just right, not too thick and not too thin; the ideal is about 1/4-inch thick. When the dough is too thick, it doesn't cook all the way through, and when it's too thin, it's tough to seal the poppers.
Filling the Dough
Do you dream of a pizza popper that oozes with melty cheese, sauce, and meat once you bite into it? Me too! But don't let that vision cloud your judgement when assembling the pizza poppers. This step requires complete and total restraint. It is essential that you not overstuff the dough. In fact, you should use less filling than you think you need. Once filled, it may seem like your pizza poppers are skimpy; but they're not, and it's a sign you're on the right track.
Preheat the oven and gather the ingredients: Preheat the oven to 500°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Gather the pizza dough and bring it to room temperature, as well as the sauce, mozzarella cheese, and cooked, crumbled sausage (if using).
How To Make Pizza Poppers
Makes 24 to 36 poppers
What You Need
1 ball pizza dough (about 1 pound), store-bought or homemade
1 cup tomato sauce, store-bought or homemade
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 pound cooked sausage, crumbled (optional)
Flour for dusting
Bench scraper (optional)
Preheat the oven: Preheat the oven to 500°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
Gather the ingredients: Gather the pizza dough and bring it to room temperature, as well as the sauce, mozzarella cheese, and cooked, crumbled sausage (if using).
Combine the ingredients: In a medium bowl, combine the pizza sauce, cheese, and sausage. Stir until completely mixed together.
Roll out the dough: Cut the dough into workable pieces, about the size of a tennis ball. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough into a long rectangle, until it's about 4 inches wide and about 1/4-inch thick.
Add the filling: Down one side of the dough, drop small spoonfuls (roughly 1 teaspoon) of filling ingredients in little mounds. Leave about 1 inch between each mound of filling.
Fold the dough: Fold dough over the top of the toppings and press between the mounds of filling with your fingers.
Cut the dough: Using a bench scraper or sharp knife, cut each pizza bite apart from the next.
Pinch the seams: Pinch the freshly cut ends together. They'll be sticky and should hold together nicely, making a neat edge. The amount of execution needed for this step will usually depend on your dough and its willingness to play nice.
Brush with olive oil: Transfer the pizza bites to a baking sheet, spaced about 1-inch apart. Lightly brush the top of each pizza bite with olive oil and sprinkle with a pinch of kosher salt.
Bake until golden: Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until the tops are golden-brown. Remove from the oven, cool slightly, and serve.
Using store-bought pizza dough: While you can certainly use store-bought pizza dough, the dough sold in the "pop tube" does not hold up as well with this dish.
To freeze: Simply cook by the above directions and allow to cool completely. Freeze individually on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Once frozen, slide into a zip-top bag for storage. To reheat, place on a sheet pan in the oven or toaster oven to reheat at 350°F for 25 minutes (time may vary depending on oven and amount of pizza rolls being reheated).
Refrigeration: If they become a family favorite (like they are at our house), you can also keep a thawed bag in the refrigerator for faster reheating. They should last a solid 7 days in the the chill chest ... although we're betting they all get eaten before then.
This post has been updated — first published August 2010.
(Image credits: Kelli Foster)