Jam, cream cheese, pudding, and chocolate are all well and good as sweet fillings for pastries… but what should you do when savory inspiration strikes?
Take it, and run with it!
Or, in the case of our spicy and savory pinwheels, roll with it!
Perfectly suited to enjoy at a leisurely brunch nuzzled up next to frittatas or scrambled eggs, or easily crafted as a mouthwatering appetizer at a big dinner party or epic game day fest, these swirly-twirly pastries will be an unstoppable force of flavor the next time you serve them at your chosen event.
Once you get the pinwheel rolling, you’re bound to have a good time.
This is the time to splurge and spoil yourself a little on a convenient store-bought product: puff pastry dough.
You don’t need to make a complicated pastry dough from scratch, not for this occasion. Save that crazy energy for making your homemade holiday pies.
This heavenly creation, with its crisp, light-as-air texture and buttery layers, serves as the ideal base to encompass a simple and savory filling of crumbled spicy sausage, assorted cheeses, and fresh herbs.
You’ll be able to strategize by completing prep steps ahead of time in order to minimize rushing at the last minute.
You can cook the sausage and shred the cheese up to a day in advance of beginning the rest of your prep, and once you have assembled and rolled the pastry, you can also store it – uncut and covered with plastic wrap – in your refrigerator for up to one day before slicing and baking.
Be the life of the party without the extra anxiety – swirl and twirl your way through this easy recipe so you can enjoy all the festivities!Print
Want a special finger food to serve at your next party? Bake our spicy sausage pinwheels, with layers of crisp puff pastry, sausage, and cheese.
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 pound bulk spicy Italian sausage
- 2 large cloves garlic, minced
- 1 14-ounce puff pastry sheet, thawed in the refrigerator if frozen
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup grated fontina cheese
- 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh parsley or basil
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
- All-purpose flour, for dusting
- Heat the olive oil in a large, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat on the stovetop. Place the sausage in the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally and breaking up larger clumps to create small crumbles, until browned and almost cooked through but still slightly pink in the center, about 5-8 minutes.
- Add the garlic to the pan and stir constantly until the garlic is lightly browned and aromatic and the sausage is completely cooked through, about 2 minutes.
- Transfer the sausage to a large plate lined with paper towels to soak up any excess grease. Set aside to cool completely.
- Place the puff pastry sheet on a lightly floured work surface, with the wider end facing closest to you. If the sheet is uneven, gently flatten it out with a lightly floured rolling pin to make a flat rectangle roughly 10 inches in length and 13 inches wide.
- Leaving about a 1/2-inch border, scatter the cooked sausage over the dough in an even layer. Sprinkle the parmesan and fontina cheese over the sausage in an even layer. Sprinkle the chopped herbs over the cheese, then season with the salt and pepper.
- Lightly brush the top 1/2-inch border furthest away from you with water using your finger or a pastry brush. Starting from the wider end closest to you, begin to tightly roll up the sheet over the filling, continuing to tightly roll away from you to create a long log with the seam at the bottom. Gently roll the log back and forth to seal the seam.
- Carefully transfer the log to a baking sheet or large platter lined with parchment paper. Cover tightly with plastic wrap. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill for at least 1 hour, or up to 24 hours.
- When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 400°F. Line two clean baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.
- Transfer the chilled log to a large cutting board. Using a sharp chef’s knife, divide the log into 16 even pieces that are about 3/4 inches thick. Divide the pieces between the two baking sheets, leaving about 1 inch of space between each piece.
- Transfer the baking sheets to the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the pastry is a deep, golden-brown color.
- Remove the baking sheets from the oven and allow the pastries to cool on the sheets for 5 minutes before transferring them to cooling racks.
- Serve immediately while still slightly warm or at room temperature.
- Prep Time: 30 minutes
- Cook Time: 30 minutes
- Category: Meat
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: Appetizer
Keywords: pinwheel, sausage, pastry, spicy
Cooking by the Numbers…
Step 1 – Prep
If you haven’t done so already, thaw your puff pastry sheet in the refrigerator if you bought it frozen. It will need about one to two hours in the refrigerator to thaw.
It should be pliable, but should still be very cold and slightly stiff. It shouldn’t be so soft that it’s difficult to handle and won’t keep its shape.
Avoid thawing it at room temperature – puff pastry dough can become soft and temperamental quickly, so it’s best to keep it in the refrigerator.
If the pastry dough becomes too soft to work with, place it back in the refrigerator and let it chill for 30 minutes to one hour.
This recipe uses one 14-ounce puff pastry sheet. If you cannot find this particular size – some brands sell smaller sizes in a set of two pastry sheets – you will need to divide the ingredients between the two sheets.
Set out one pound of bulk spicy Italian sausage. If you bought links of sausage, remove the meat from the casings.
Using the coarse side of your box grater, grate the parmesan and fontina cheese to yield half a cup of each type of cheese.
Not really sure how much cheese to buy at the store? You will need about two ounces of each cheese, not including the rind. I’ll usually buy a quarter-pound of each (or four ounces) to make sure I have enough.
Step 2 – Cook the Sausage and Garlic
You can cook the sausage as you are waiting for the puff pastry to thaw.
Set aside a large plate lined with paper towels.
Place the bulk sausage into the pan. Using a sturdy, heatproof spoon or spatula, stir the sausage occasionally, breaking up larger pieces as it cooks to make smaller crumbles.
Continue cooking and stirring the sausage until the crumbles are browned on the exterior, yet still slightly pink in the center. This will take about five to eight minutes.
Then, add the minced garlic to the pan, stirring constantly to avoid burning it. After about two minutes, the garlic will be lightly browned and aromatic and the sausage will be completely cooked through.
Remove the sausage and garlic mixture from the pan and place it on the prepared plate – the paper towels will help to absorb any excess grease.
Set aside to cool completely.
Step 3 – Unroll and Flatten Dough
Once the puff pastry has thawed to the optimal pliability, lightly dust a clean work surface with flour.
Unfold the puff pastry onto the work surface. The dough should already have a rectangular shape close to the size you need, but it may be a little uneven and misshapen from storage and thawing.
Position the dough so that one wider end is closest to you and the other is furthest away from you, and the shorter ends are positioned to your left and right.
Using a rolling pin that has been lightly dusted with flour, flatten out the dough. You may also need to roll it out slightly to form a rectangle about 13 inches wide and 10 inches long.
If you’re working with two smaller portions of puff pastry, these should measure seven and a half inches by five inches.
Step 4 – Assemble
Gather your cooked sausage, cheeses, herbs, and salt and pepper and place them next to the dough, where they’re easy to reach.
Before you begin, remember to leave about a half-inch border around the perimeter of the dough – this empty space will ensure excess filling doesn’t spill out on either end of the roll, and will help to create the finishing seal.
Scatter the cooked sausage crumbles in an even layer on top of the dough. Then, evenly sprinkle both cheeses on top of the sausage. After that, sprinkle the herbs on top of the cheese. Finally, season with the salt and pepper.
Step 5 – Roll
Have you made a lot of cinnamon rolls before? Maybe a pretty jelly roll or two? The same rolling method applies to this dough!
Use your finger or a pastry brush to very lightly brush water on the top 1/2-inch border of the dough on the wider end furthest away from you. This will help the dough stick to create a seal along the seam.
Starting at the wide end closest to you, gently – yet tightly – roll up the entire width of the dough over the filling. You don’t want to loosely roll it, or else the filling will not stay intact between the dough layers.
Continue rolling the dough over the filling away from you until you create a fully formed log with the seam positioned on the bottom. Gently roll the log back and forth on the counter to seal the seam.
Step 6 – Chill
Transfer the log to a baking sheet or large platter lined with parchment paper. Cover the log with plastic wrap.
Transfer the platter to the refrigerator. Allow the log to chill for about one hour. This will stiffen the puff pastry dough before it bakes, helping it maintain its shape in the hot oven without too much spreading.
You can also store the log like this for up to 24 hours if you prefer to make it in advance.
Step 7 – Cut
When you’re ready to bake, preheat your oven to 400°F. You will need two oven racks for this, positioned in the top and bottom thirds of the oven, or you can bake one pan at a time. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.
After chilling, remove the platter from the refrigerator and dispose of the plastic wrap. Place the log on a large cutting board.
Using a sharp chef’s knife, slice the log into 16 even pieces that are about 3/4 inches in width.
Divide the pieces between the two prepared baking sheets – eight on each tray with about an inch of space between each piece.
Step 8 – Bake
Transfer the baking sheets to the oven.
Bake the pinwheels for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the pastry is a deep, golden-brown color.
Warning: your kitchen is going to smell sooooo gooood!
Step 9 – Cool and Serve
Remove the baking sheets from the oven. Allow the pastries to cool on the sheets for about five minutes before transferring them to cooling racks.
Wait for about 10 minutes before serving them while they are still warm, or you can serve them at room temperature.
No matter what, this style of baked good is best served soon after it comes out of the oven, while the pastry is still super crisp and perfect!
Customize with Tasty Additions
The recipe for these simple and savory pinwheels is flexible enough to suit different taste preferences, and many ingredient combinations.
Follow our Italian-influenced theme by sprinkling in some toasted pine nuts or finely chopped oven-dried tomatoes. Or consider spreading a few tablespoons of pesto or a tapenade made from our roasted garlic and herb olives onto the dough before layering the sausage and cheese on top.
You can also serve these on the side as delightful dipping companions. A freshly made roasted tomato sauce would also be tasty.
And feel free to change up the cheese! Stick with a 50/50 blend of one semi-soft cheese that melts to perfection – like mozzarella, gruyere, or a young gouda – and one hard-aged cheese that packs a punch of salty flavor – like pecorino, sharp cheddar, or an aged asiago.
Can’t take the heat? Use a milder sausage from the store, or make your own homemade version if you have the time. You’ll like our recipe for turkey breakfast patties with sage and fennel.
Will you customize your creation, or stick with the original for your first time? I’m looking forward to reading about all your lip-smacking ideas in the comment section below!
Succulent and savory, sausage provides powerful flavor and meaty heartiness to a dish. The next time you’re out grocery shopping, talk to your butcher to see if they made any fresh and fun mixes. We have more recipes featuring sausage, so buy a pound or two to make these next:
About Nikki Cervone
Nikki Cervone is an ACS Certified Cheese Professional and cheesemonger living in Pittsburgh. Nikki holds an AAS in baking/pastry from Westmoreland County Community College, a BA in Communications from Duquesne University, and an MLA in Gastronomy from Boston University. When she's not nibbling on her favorite cheeses or testing a batch of cupcakes, Nikki enjoys a healthy dose of yoga, wine, hiking, singing in the shower, and chocolate. Lots of chocolate.