3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, plus leaves for garnish
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon ground fennel
1/2 teaspoon dried Italian herbs
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 pound store-bought pizza dough, at room temperature
1 cup shredded 4-cheese blend (Parmesan, Asiago, fontina and provolone)
Place oven rack in the middle and preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Put a large cast-iron skillet into the oven to preheat.
In a small bowl, add 1/4 cup of olive oil and the garlic. Stir to combine and set aside to infuse.
Into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment, add the pepperoni. Process until the pepperoni is finely ground. Remove into a large mixing bowl. Add the ground beef, egg, breadcrumbs, basil, red pepper flakes, fennel and Italian herbs. Using a fork, mash together the meatball mixture to evenly combine. Form the mixture into 4 even-sized meatballs.
In a medium, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, add the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil. Gently place the meatballs in the pan and cook for 3 to 4 minutes per side, to sear (not fully cook). Remove the meatballs from the pan onto a plate to cool.
Lightly dust a clean, flat work surface with flour. Roll the pizza dough out into a 12-inch circle and then cut into quarters. Put 1/4 cup of shredded cheese in the middle of the dough. Top with a meatball, 2 tablespoons of tomato sauce and sprinkle with Parmesan. Enclose the meatball with the dough, gathering it at the top like a top knot. Tie the knot with butcher’s twine. Using a pastry brush, coat the exterior of the knot with the infused garlic oil. Season with flake salt. Set aside on the floured surface and quickly assemble the remaining 3 knots in a similar fashion.
Carefully remove the heated cast-iron pan from the oven. Place the meatball knots onto the hot pan and return to the oven to bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until browned and the dough is fully cooked. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.