(Photo by Stephanie Swarr)

Our Pepperoni Roll Recipe, Appalachia’s Delicious Little Secret

You love pizza, right? Well, it isn’t easy to throw a slice in your backpack or lunch and be on your way. Maybe you should try a pepperoni roll. 

The pepperoni roll was first created in the 1920s by an Italian immigrant who saw the need for a portable, non-perishable meal option for coal miners. The man behind the meal was Giuseppe Argiro, founder of the Country Club Bakery in Fairmont, West Virginia. You can still get pepperoni rolls there today, and if you want to taste the roll that started it all, you can order online and have them shipped to you.

In its original form, the pepperoni roll was made with bread dough and sticks of pepperoni.

Over the years, many variations of the pepperoni roll have emerged. Some have pepperoni slices instead of pepperoni sticks, and some cooks have added cheese and even peppers to their rolls. Needless to say, they come in all shapes and sizes. While purists make them only with pepperoni, I say, “Go with what you like.”

The United States military also realized the advantages the pepperoni roll had to offer, and added it to MREs in the early 2000s and later to the FSR (First Strike Ration) — in these it is known as a “pepperoni pocket sandwich.”

The pepperoni roll is available all over the Appalachian region in bakeries, convenience stores and pizza parlors, and it is baked in many homes. They are also a very popular option at sporting events. They are great for lunches, camping, hiking and road trips. In fact, pepperoni rolls are good anytime.

If the pepperoni roll intrigues you and you don’t live in West Virginia, try to make some for yourself. Your taste buds with thank you!

My favorite recipe is super simple.


—Frozen dinner rolls thawed until soft and pliable (I use Rhodes Bake-N-Serv Dinner Rolls.)

—Pepperoni slices (I use Hormel brand.)

—Shredded mozzarella cheese (Sometimes pepper jack is nice for a little kick.)


Thaw bread dough according to directions on the package on a plate covered loosely with plastic wrap. If you are in a hurry, you can speed up the process in the microwave, making the dough pliable enough to work with (but don’t let it start to cook). I prefer letting it thaw on its own.

When the dough is ready, preheat your oven to 350 degrees and lightly spray a baking sheet with a cooking spray.

Next, press a roll flat into a circle on the baking sheet like you would a little pizza, but not too thin. Then pile with a good pinch of shredded cheese and cover with slices of pepperoni.  

Take one side of the bread and fold over the pepperoni while trying to keep the cheese tucked inside. Roll that section over the rest of the filling and pinch the bread closed along the seam so that everything stays inside during baking. You will find that sometimes cheese will ooze out and get nice and crunchy on the baking sheet (yum!), as will some of the oil from the pepperoni. The bottom of the roll will end up coated in the spicy oils from the pepperoni (again, yum!). Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown on top. 

Enjoy them warm out of the oven or for up to a few days if stored at room temperature in an airtight container. You can always reheat them in the microwave if you prefer your pepperoni rolls warm. 

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