Why This Recipe Works: To bring pizza party flavor to a fun, easy appetizer, we turned classic pepperoni pie into a rich, cheesy dip that we could bake and serve right in the skillet. The cast iron’s excellent heat retention ensured that the cheese didn’t separate or become congealed but stayed warm and gooey until the skillet had been scraped clean, with no need for Sterno or a hot plate. For the rich base of our dip, we combined cream cheese, mozzarella, and pizza sauce. Stirring in crisped pepperoni finalized the familiar flavor profile. Naturally, the perfect partner for our creamy, saucy dip was pizza dough. We rolled out 1/2‑ounce dough balls, tossed them with garlic oil, and baked them right in the skillet. The cast iron created a crisp, golden bottom on these pull-apart garlic rolls. The dip mixture was then spooned into the center of the skillet, inside the ring of parbaked mini rolls, and the whole thing was baked in the oven. We topped the dip with fresh basil and reserved pepperoni crisps. Partygoers can simply pull off a garlicky roll and use it to scoop out some cheesy dip.
Serves 8 to 10
We like the convenience of using ready-made pizza dough from the local pizzeria or supermarket; however, you can use homemade pizza dough. To soften the cream cheese quickly, microwave it for 20 to 30 seconds.
3 ounces thinly sliced pepperoni, quartered
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound pizza dough
8 ounces cream cheese, cut into 8 pieces and softened
3/4 cup pizza sauce
4 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded (1 cup)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Cook pepperoni in 10‑inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat until crisp, 5 to 7 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer pepperoni to paper towel–lined plate; set aside. Off heat, add oil and garlic to fat left in skillet and let sit until fragrant, about 1 minute; transfer to medium bowl.
2. Place dough on lightly floured counter, pat into rough 8‑inch square, and cut into 32 pieces (1/2 ounce each). Working with 1 piece of dough at a time, roll into tight ball, then coat with garlic oil. Evenly space 18 balls around edge of skillet, keeping center of skillet clear. Place remaining 14 balls on top, staggering them between seams of balls underneath.
Cover loosely with greased plastic wrap and let sit until slightly puffed, about 20 minutes.
3. Remove plastic. Transfer skillet to oven and bake until balls are just beginning to brown, about 20 minutes, rotating skillet halfway through baking. Meanwhile, whisk cream cheese and pizza sauce together in large bowl until thoroughly combined and smooth. Stir in mozzarella and three-quarters of crisped pepperoni.
4. Spoon cheese mixture into center of skillet, return to oven, and bake until dip is heated through and rolls are golden brown, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with basil and remaining crisped pepperoni. Serve.
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