If you are traveling in Sardinia, this is the dish to have. And if you want a taste of Sardinia at home, this is the dish to make. Pardulas resemble large ravioli, stuffed with sliced provolone. They're not cooked like pasta, though, but fried until crisp and oozing melted cheese. They're like grilled cheese sandwiches-kids love them. In fact, everybody does. Pardulas make a great appetizer flanked by some tossed salad or sliced tomatoes. For a more elaborate and substantial turnover, add some blanched asparagus or broccoli, or prosciutto or ham, to the stuffing; just cut down a bit on the cheese to make room. And if you make them half-sized, they're a terrific hors d'oeuvre to pass at a cocktail party. They are traditionally served drizzled with honey but are delicious just fried and plain. For convenience, make and fill pardulas in advance and fry them when your guests arrive. If necessary, you can fry them up to 30 minutes ahead of time and keep them warm in the oven.
3 cups durum-wheat flour
½ teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons butter, cut in small chunks, at room temperature
9 ounces provolone, in 12 slices
vegetable oil, for frying
honey, for drizzling (optional)
Put the flour, salt, olive oil, and butter chunks in the food-processor bowl. Process until the fat has been incorporated and the mixture has a sandy texture. With the processor running, pour 1 cup minus 2 tablespoons water through the feed tube, and process just until a dough forms and gathers on the blade and cleans the sides of the bowl. If the dough is too sticky, add another tablespoon or two of flour; if too dry, add 2 tablespoons water. Process briefly, until the dough comes together, turn it out on a lightly floured surface, and knead by hand a few times, until it's smooth and soft. Press dough into a disk, wrap well in plastic wrap, and let rest at room temperature for at least 1/2 hour.
To make the pardulas: Cut the rested dough in half. On a lightly floured surface, roll each piece out to a rectangular sheet about 12 by 16 inches-the dough should be about 1/4 inch thick. To mark twelve circles, press the cookie cutter lightly on the sheet of dough but do not cut through it. Break each provolone slice into three or four pieces, and arrange them, overlapping, to fit inside one of the traced circles, leaving space around the edges. (If the cheese slices are large or thick, or weigh an ounce or more, don't try to fit them all inside the dough circle. Each pardula should have about 3/4 ounce cheese.)
Roll the other half of the dough to roughly the same size as the first. Pick it up and drape it over the bottom dough, covering all the rounds of sliced cheese. Gently press the top sheet around the cheese layers so the edges are distinct. Dip the cookie cutter in flour, center it over one portion of cheese, and cut through both layers of dough, to the work surface, cutting out one pardula. Cut all of them the same way, then pull away the excess dough between them. Pinch the edges of each pardula, sealing the cheese inside.
Pour vegetable oil into the big skillet to a depth of 1/2 inch, and set it over medium heat. Let the oil heat gradually until a piece of dough starts to sizzle when dipped in (without darkening immediately). Carefully slide as many of the pardulas into the pan as fit comfortably, with some space between them. Fry until crisp and golden, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. If the cheese begins to leak out during frying, flip the pardulas to the other sides. Drain the pardulas on paper towels, and keep them warm in a low oven.
Serve as soon as possible, while the pardulas are crispy and hot and the cheese is molten (with honey drizzled on top, if you like)