Occasions when having this dish in your back pocket is handy: post-game Little League gatherings, movie nights, midnight study sessions, football playoff parties, birthdays bashes — need I go on? If you’ve got a pizza-loving crowd, this appetizer is there for you. Here’s how to put it together.

Serves 8 to 10 as an appetizer

For the sauce:
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 large shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 (14-ounce) can crushed tomatoes

For the pizza bites:
8 ounces low-fat, low-moisture mozzarella cheese
1 (14- to 16-ounce) ball pizza dough, store-bought or homemade
24 to 30 slices pepperoni, optional

Chef’s knife
Box grater
Pastry scraper or chef’s knife
10-inch oven-safe skillet


Heat the oven to 400°F and prepare the sauce: Place a rack in the middle position while the oven heats. Warm the oil in an oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and garlic, and cook until the shallots are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the salt and the crushed tomatoes, and stir to combine. Let the sauce come to a rapid simmer, then reduce the heat to low and let it simmer while you prepare the pizza bites.

Prepare the mozzarella: Cut the block of mozzarella in half. Cut one half of the block into 24 cubes roughly 1/2 inch in size. Grate the rest of the mozzarella on the large holes of a box grater.

Turn the pizza dough out onto a lightly-floured counter.

Cut the dough into 24 more or less even pieces using a pastry scraper or a chef’s knife.

Flatten one of the pieces of dough in the palm of your hand and place a cube of cheese in the middle.

Wrap the dough around the cheese and pinch the seam closed.

Lay the ball seam-side down on the floured counter. Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough and cubes of cheese. Flour your hands as needed to keep from sticking.

Arrange the bites in the skillet: Remove the skillet of sauce from the heat. Carefully arrange the balls of dough in the pan, seam-side down and spaced slightly apart.

Fold pieces of pepperoni in half and tuck them the bites, if using.

Sprinkle as much of the shredded cheese as you like over the top of the bites.

Bake 25 to 30 minutes, until the bites are puffed and golden-brown on top, the shredded cheese has melted, and the sauce is bubbling around the bites.

Cool briefly, then serve: Cool at least 10 minutes, until the sauce is no longer bubbling and the skillet is safe to touch. Then you can carry it to the table and let the crowd dive in. Serve bites straight from the skillet.