Sourdough Savory Rolls With Parmesan & Ricotta

April 18, 2021
8 Ratings
Photo by Maurizio Leo
  • Prep time 7 hours 30 minutes
  • Cook time 35 minutes
  • makes 9 rolls
Author Notes

For me, the holidays were marked with a plethora of sweet desserts, sweet bread, chocolate, and of course, cookies. I craved a savory respite: something soft, a little buttery, salty, and something ushering in a new year with a unique flavor profile.

These savory sourdough rolls evolved over many trials, trying to home in on that savory flavor profile and soft texture I was after. The result was a versatile, naturally leavened dough paired with a savory filling that I could probably eat by the spoonful straight from a bowl. And the dough itself turned out to be a fantastic base for playing with many different savory filling options.

I gravitated toward a somewhat typical Italian pairing of ricotta, Parmesan cheese, and fresh thyme to fill these rolls. But I also found I liked grated cheddar cheese with a touch of fresh sage, Gruyère with herbs and chopped ham, or even the classic bacon, cheddar, and chive that always pleases. Because the dough has no sugar added, any savory combination would work well.

As is the case when I make enriched doughs that require rolling out to fill, it’s best to refrigerate the dough after bulk fermentation (its first rise) to make rolling and shaping easier. Once the dough is in the fridge and chilled, it can rest there for hours, or even until the next day, whatever works for your schedule. —Maurizio Leo

What You'll Need
  • Filling
  • 275 grams whole-milk ricotta
  • 20 grams Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 3 grams thyme, chopped
  • Dough
  • 459 grams all-purpose flour
  • 193 grams whole milk
  • 83 grams unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 92 grams beaten eggs (a little shy of 2 eggs)
  • 9 grams salt
  • 165 grams ripe sourdough starter
  • Egg wash
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon whole milk
  1. Mix the dough (9:00 a.m.)

    Place the butter in a small bowl and let sit out at room temperature to soften. Measure and warm the whole milk to about 76°F/24°C, either in the microwave or on the stove. Warming the milk will lead to warmer mixed dough, which ensures ample fermentation activity.

    To the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, add the flour, warmed milk, eggs, salt, and ripe sourdough starter. (Leave the cut butter aside for now.) Set the mixer to low speed and mix until all the ingredients are combined, and no dry bits of flour remain. Turn the mixer up to speed 2 and mix for 3 to 5 minutes until the dough starts to clump around the dough hook (it won’t completely come off the bottom of the mixing bowl).

    Let the dough rest 10 minutes in the mixing bowl, uncovered.

    The butter should be at room temperature by this time—a finger should easily push into a piece without much resistance. If the butter is still cold, place it in the microwave for a few seconds at a time until it’s soft to the touch.

    Turn the mixer down to low and add the butter, one ½-inch piece at a time, waiting to add the next until the previous one is fully incorporated into the dough. While mixing, continue to add all the butter and mix until the dough smooths and once again begins clumping to the dough hook. Adding the butter and finishing to mix could take a total of 5 minutes or so. The dough will be homogenous and moderately elastic at the end of mixing, but still sticky and not fully developed. We will perform a few sets of stretch and folds during bulk fermentation to continue strengthening the dough.

    Transfer the dough to a bowl, cover, and bulk ferment.
  2. Bulk ferment the dough (9:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.)

    Set a timer for 30 minutes; for the duration, let the dough rest, covered, at a warm temperature (77°F/25°C). After 30 minutes, give the dough its first set of stretch and folds (we’ll do this three times total).

    For each set, use slightly wet hands to grab the edge of the dough farthest from you in the container, then stretch it up and over to the side nearest you. Then, grab the dough on the side closest to you and stretch it back up and over to the farthest side of the container. Repeat two more folds, one at the right side of the container and one at the left—you’ll now have a folded up square in the container. Let the dough rest for another 30 minutes, again covered and at room temperature, then stretch and fold a second time. Repeat this process once more for a total of three sets. After the third set, let the dough rest, covered, for two more hours (the whole bulk fermentation process will take 3 ½ hours).
  3. Chill the dough (1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.)

    After bulk fermentation, place the contained, covered dough into the refrigerator for at least an hour (or up to 24 hours). This time in the fridge will chill the dough, making it easier to roll out, shape, and cut it into rolls.
  4. Roll out the dough, spread the filling, cut the rolls (2:00 p.m.)

    Liberally butter a 9 x 9-inch baking pan. I like to use my USA Pan, which has a natural nonstick liner, but you could also use parchment paper folded and pressed to the inside.

    In a small bowl, add the ricotta, Parmesan, and thyme and mix vigorously until it is smooth. Set aside.

    When thoroughly chilled, remove the dough from the refrigerator and flour the top of the dough and your work surface. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out to a rectangle approximately 16 by 15 inches, the longer sides parallel to you. If the dough begins to stick at any point, add additional flour to the dough and the work surface to prevent sticking.

    Using an offset spatula or back of a spoon, spread the filling onto the dough and smooth it out into an even, thin layer. Then, starting with the dough closest to your body, roll the dough up into a tight cylinder.

    Using a sharp chef’s knife (or unflavored dental floss), cut the roll into 1 ½-thick rounds. I like to trim the ends of the cylinder just about 1/2-inch, so the remaining pieces are more uniform. You might also end up with one extra roll (for a total of 10) in the end, depending on how thinly you’ve rolled out the dough.

    Place the cut pieces into the prepared baking pan in 3 rows of 3 with a little space around each roll, giving it room to relax and rise during proofing.
  5. Proof the shaped rolls (2:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., temperature depending)

    Cover the baking pan and let the dough proof at warm room temperature for 2 to 2 ½ hours, depending on your kitchen’s temperature. If it’s cooler, the dough may take longer until ready. When the rolls have relaxed and risen fully, the dough will be very soft to the touch.
  6. Bake the rolls (4:30 p.m.)

    Preheat your oven to 400°F (205°C) with a rack positioned in the middle of the oven.

    In a small bowl, make the egg wash: Whisk together the egg and whole milk until frothy. Using a pastry brush, gently brush the egg wash onto the proofed dough in a thin, uniform layer.

    Bake the rolls for 35 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the bake time. The rolls are finished when the tops are golden, and the internal temperature should be above 200°F (93°C).

    When baked, remove the pan from the oven and let the rolls rest for 10 minutes in the pan. Then, remove from the pan to a wire rack, grate a little additional Parmesan cheese on top, and enjoy.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Benjamin Ong
    Benjamin Ong
  • Meredith Frick Kim
    Meredith Frick Kim
  • Randi H
    Randi H
  • Vienna C.
    Vienna C.
  • Tracy Marr
    Tracy Marr
Maurizio is the software engineer-turned-baker behind the award-winning sourdough website, The Perfect Loaf. Since baking his first loaf of bread, he's been obsessed with adjusting the balance between yeast and bacteria, tinkering with dough strength and hydration, and exploring everything sourdough. His New York Times Bestselling sourdough cookbook, The Perfect Loaf, is now available.

41 Reviews

kimmiebeck February 8, 2022
Can you convert metric measurements?
Benjamin O. April 12, 2021
Hi Maurizio. Saw this recipe and the one with Cheddar, looking forward to make it (I am at Day 5 of making my starter). Just a question. If I want to bake it for breakfast/brunch in the morning. Is it possible to rest in the fridge overnight after proofing the shaped rolls? Or maybe proof half the time then into the fridge?
Maurizio L. April 12, 2021
Yes, you called it. After you shape them, cover the pan and transfer them to the fridge. In the morning, take out and let finish proofing (if necessary) until they are very puffy and soft to the touch. Enjoy!
kerrisf February 28, 2021
I made these yesterday, and they were great. I've been just making sourdough bread and I have never made any kind of roll before, so I was a feeling a bit nervous. The detailed instructions were very helpful. The dough was actually really easy to work with and I added a little salt to the ricotta mixture based on earlier reviews. They were great! The rolls were filling though, so I think next time I would serve them maybe with pasta, or chicken, but with beef it was a little too much! My mistake. I'll definitely make them again and also try out different fillings too. Reheated for lunch today and it was delicious.
Maurizio L. March 1, 2021
So glad to hear that, Kerri! Yes, I think a little salt in the mixture is a great suggestion--I tend to go low salt with just about everything, but it really helps here. Enjoy!
Lhall235 March 31, 2021
Do you make your own sour dough starter?
Or where should one get it?
Maurizio L. March 31, 2021 🙂
Lhall235 March 31, 2021
Thank you for the info!
ccmaco7 February 25, 2021
Would love to try a savory sourdough roll, but don't have any fresh herbs at the moment. Would dried work in this type of recipe? Maybe Italian seasoning? Also, another reviewer mentioned Gruyere, which I love! What herbs would pair nicely with that? Thank you!
Maurizio L. February 25, 2021
Dried herbs will work well! Any herbs you think will work well together, really. I played with oregano, thyme of course, and even rosemary in a small percentage.
Meredith F. February 21, 2021
Made these yesterday - had some leftover homemade ricotta (thank you Ina) from last week’s veg lasagne. Huge hit. They reminded the family of an Italian restaurant we loved. Soft, fluffy, lighter than you expect, but also richly flavored and super satisfying. I hope they’re at least close to as good leftover!
Maurizio L. February 21, 2021
So glad to hear that, Meredith! I've had them for leftover, and they're pretty darn tasty the next day. Give them a quick heat in the oven (I used the broiler on super low) 🙂 Enjoy!
jcqus February 21, 2021
I froze any left after 1-2 days and reheated @350 in toaster oven until they smelled ready! Reheated similarly but less time when they hadn’t been frozen yet. Just as good as fresh!
Meredith F. February 21, 2021
Thanks! Well give it a go!
jcqus February 6, 2021
Made these with grated cheddar, caramelized onions, and crushed garlic - yum! And did all the mixing/kneading by hand - it took a bit longer, but I felt good knowing that I wasn't over-kneading and honestly just like to feel the dough. It was cold in my house (67* is a luxury in February, let alone 77*!) so I put the bowl of dough in a pot of hot water in the oven, with the oven light on, for the bulk ferment, and it seemed to work. Can't wait to try the ricotta/herb version when I can get my hands on some. Thanks for your amazingly detailed instructions and delicious offerings!
Maurizio L. February 7, 2021
That sounds absolutely delicious! You're very welcome, I hope you like the ricotta version, it's tasty. Happy baking!
[email protected] February 9, 2021
Look for Maurizio's recipe for ricotta! Delicious, easy, no need to shop if you have whole or 2% milk. Don't forget to save the whey in the fridge to replace water when baking bread! Thanks Maurizio!
jcqus February 9, 2021
Thanks for reminding me - great idea!!
Maurizio L. February 10, 2021
You're welcome and thank you!
Alison January 25, 2021
these were very tasty, and the lofty sourdough rise produced a beautiful texture. I agreed with a few of the other reviewers that the filling could be a little bland, and added a pinch of salt as well as little dash of an onion/garlic powder blend in my spice cabinet. The author's notes certainly accommodate different seasoning, even different cheeses, so I felt comfortable modifying the flavor slightly. I suppose it also depends on what you intend to eat with the rolls. They have a photo-worthy appearance, too--I had to use a 10-inch deeper springform, since I don't have a 9-inch square pan, but not problematic. I recommend these!
Maurizio L. February 1, 2021
Glad to hear you liked them, Alison!
Beesterbee January 24, 2021
These looked beautiful, but they were a little bland. Next time I would change the spices in the filling- maybe some paprika?
Maurizio L. January 25, 2021
I've never paired paprika with ricotta, but yes, so many options to change up the filling to whatever you like and sounds good to you! This weekend I'm going to make these with cheddar and jalapeno 🙂
oniond0g January 17, 2021
I tried this out today and it was delicious! I didn't have parmesan or thyme handy so used gruyere and chives instead and still tasted yummy.
Maurizio L. January 17, 2021
So happy to hear you liked them. Gruyere is one of my favorite cheeses, and this dough goes so well with it! Enjoy 🙂
Randi H. January 17, 2021
Easy and tasty recipe. Might doctor thr filling a bit more next time. I found it needed a bit of salt and I wouldn't have minded garlic or garlic powder in it as well. Otherwise, delightful!
Am thinking I have to store extras in the fridge bc of the cheese?
Maurizio L. January 17, 2021
I like those ideas. In fact, I was on the fence about whether to add a dash of salt to the filling or not... It could go either way! I store them in the fridge (because of the cheese) and then warm them in the oven before eating. Enjoy!
Randi H. January 17, 2021
Easy and tasty recipe. Might doctor thr filling a bit more next time. I found it needed a bit of salt and I wouldn't have minded garlic or garlic powder in it as well. Otherwise, delightful!
Christina H. January 16, 2021
How much instant yeast would I use if I don't have any sourdough starter?
Maurizio L. January 17, 2021
It's hard to say since I've not tested this. My guess would be around 1-1.5%?
Vienna C. January 15, 2021
Absolutely amazing! Extremely easy and simple recipe to follow. I also followed some of your starter maintenance tips that greatly helped my starter be more active with the cold weather. Thank you!
Maurizio L. January 15, 2021
Thanks, Vienna! Happy to hear my guide helped as well 🙂 Happy baking!
Tracy M. January 15, 2021
These were amazing! I am always looking for new things to do with sourdough and these were perfect with our broccoli and cauliflower cheese soup. I only let dough sit for 90 minutes in the fridge because I wanted them tonight 🤣 I will for sure do an overnight dough ferment next time just for a bit more tang. Great recipe thank you ❤️
Maurizio L. January 15, 2021
I totally get you, Tracy; I have cut that chill time down myself 🙂 Glad you enjoyed them, and thanks for the comments!
ganga C. January 14, 2021
Liked the recipe until I saw Sourdough starter. I can't make if don'
t have sourdough starter!!
Maurizio L. January 14, 2021
They are sourdough rolls, after all! If you don't have a starter (they're so easy to create!), you could use instant yeast instead.
Fleur January 20, 2021
Just to be sure that I have understood : I can replace the sourdough starter with how much instant yeast ?
Should I add more wet ingredients then since it might lack humidity from the starter ?

Thanks so much
Maurizio L. January 20, 2021
It'll take a bit of trial and error in adjusting. The amount of flour and water in the starter will need to be accounted for. I'd add 50% flour and 50% water for the starter weight I call for, then add maybe 1% instant yeast to the mix. I have little experience in baking with instant yeast, so that's just a guideline! Typical percentages I see are .5-1.5% or so.
Fleur January 20, 2021
Thank you. I will try by the end of the week and will let you know in the comments. :)
Smaug January 22, 2021
Yeast amounts really aren't that critical, since it's reproducing when activated- less yeast may take more time, but room temperature, strength of the yeast, humidity, type of water etc. will have at least as much influence as the initial amount of yeast- you just need to recognize when your dough reaches the desired state. Don't see any reason why active dried yeast couldn't be used- it would best be dissolved before adding it to the dough, though I have skipped this step in high hydration doughs and gotten away with it. A big
variable in this recipe is the flour- AP can vary from about 9.5% to 12% protein, a pretty wide range. The popular King Arthur brand, at 11.7%, is a good choice for breads.
Fleur February 1, 2021
I have tried the recipe and used a 8gr packet of dried baking yeast. I didn't add any extra moisture in and they were really nice. :)