Garlic Bread Meets Pizza in These Fluffy, Pull-Apart Dinner Rolls

You'll never make rolls the same way again.

January 16, 2019
Photo by Rocky Luten

We've partnered with Muir Glen to celebrate the season with recipes, tips, and videos that make entertaining easy, elegant, and totally stress-free. Here, a pillowy garlic roll with a tangy, herby tomato center.

Making good bread is like a magic trick I never tire of, that alchemy of transforming a few staple ingredients into a pan of, say, fluffy rolls with a golden brown crust. Good bread should be savored, not considered merely a side or mealtime supporting actor.

One of my favorite tricks, of late is turning the humble dinner roll into something much more attention-worthy. Beyond just topping or coating warm rolls, like I would for garlic bread or cheesy pull-apart bread, actually stuffing the rolls themselves means a surprise when you tear into them—plus the freedom to use ingredients that wouldn’t bake well if you tried adding them to the outside.

Photo by Rocky Luten

Tomato sauce is a perfect example. I love the savory, addictive aroma of garlic and butter and tomatoes cooking together. I will never tire of garlic bread, but it’s always served alongside tomatoey pasta or pizza, or with a tomato-based dipping sauce. The flavors are such excellent partners, so the logical next step for a baker like me—who’s always tinkering with the classics—is to marry them together.

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But how best to achieve that cross between a slice of pizza and a hot piece of buttery garlic bread? You could attempt to coat buns with a tomato mixture...but this is an exercise in mess and frustration that I will save you from, having gone through the trial and error myself. You could also roll out the dough, spread it with a tomato filling, roll it up again, and slice it like a cinnamon roll. This does work, but still I find it difficult: The filling spills out as you roll, and the tomatoes bake unevenly.

Enter my new hero: the filled roll! I start by cooking down the tomatoes, butter, and garlic into a thick and chunky sauce. I pinch off pieces of dough (a dream of a recipe: soft, pliable, elastic dough that doesn’t stick), fill them with a generous spoonful of the sauce, then seal them. The sauce is thick enough that it won’t run out as you fill the dough, but it does take a bit of patience and finesse to pinch them shut. Practice makes perfect!

They bake up beautifully, with a golden crust that’s shiny with garlic butter. Your unsuspecting friends will think they’re about to bite into a simple dinner roll, and then bam! The first bite reveals an interior of saucy tomato goodness. You could easily add a few small balls of fresh mozzarella to the rolls before baking, if you want to go even further in the pizza direction (never a bad path to go down).

Don’t skip the step of brushing the buns with garlic butter both before and after baking: Doing so at both points ensures that the rolls get a nice browned crust, as well as maximum flavor. Warm and pillowy from the oven, this sophisticated take on a casual pizzeria classic will make you forget that regular garlic bread ever even existed.

More Easy, Tomatoey Recipes

In partnership with Muir Glen—makers of premium, organic tomato products grown in California's Sacramento Valley, aka our go-to canned tomatoes—we're excited to share all the ways we holiday. From make-ahead appetizers to dinner table showstoppers, you can look forward to party-ready recipes that are even easier (and tastier!) when you bring a few cans of Muir Glen tomatoes into the mix.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

I like warm homemade bread slathered with fresh raw milk butter, ice cream in all seasons, the smell of garlic in olive oil, and sugar snap peas fresh off the vine.