There's No Taste Like Home: Nebraskan Runzas

As someone who was born and raised in Nebraska, I have been a lifelong fan of Runzas. Well technically, Runza is the name of the restaurant, but everyone I know uses the term "Runza" also to refer to the specific food served at the restaurant -- ground beef and cabbage completely encased in very soft, fluffy bread. (Runza also serves burgers and other types of food, but I have never eaten anything other than a Runza at Runza restaurant.) It's been a while since I've been to Nebraska, but the last time I was there -- for a high school reunion -- we landed at Eppley Airfield, picked up our rental car, and headed directly to a Runza restaurant. 

So when I saw that Shauna Sever's cookbook Midwest Made includes a recipe for Nebraskan Runzas, I was psyched. But I hardly ever cook, so it took me a long time to finally give the recipe a try. I made Runzas for our New Year's Day dinner. 

I made the dough in my stand mixer by combining bread flour, sugar, and salt in the mixing bowl; pouring in a mixture of warm milk, melted butter, eggs, and yeast proofed in warm water; mixing with the dough hook until the dough was smooth and elastic; and putting the dough in an oiled bowl to rise. I punched down the dough after half an hour and let it rise for another 30 minutes. 

Meanwhile, I made the filling by sauteing minced garlic and onion; adding ground beef and cooking until browned; adding Worcestershire sauce and shredded cabbage and cooking until tender; and seasoning with salt and pepper (I also added some Penzey's Justice seasoning). After the mixture was cooled, I stirred in grated sharp white cheddar cheese. (Runzas currently come in many different varieties, including the cheese Runza with American cheese. I seem to recall only a handful of varieties being available as a kid, and my personal favorite is one that has been discontinued -- the Italian Runza, which included ground beef, olives, Italian sausage, mozzarella cheese, mushrooms, and tomato sauce.)
You portion out the dough, roll out each piece into a circle, and seal some meat filling inside, pinching the dough closed. Then you bake the Runzas until golden and brush them with butter right before serving.

These Runzas were so delicious. I happen to love cabbage, and I added some extra cabbage to the filling, which worked out great. The white cheddar disappeared into the filling and you couldn't even see it in the finished product -- in the future if I wanted a cheesy Runza I would either double the amount of cheese or maybe use sliced cheese and just lay a slice of cheese on top of the filling before sealing it in the dough (I think this is what they do with real Runzas). But cheesy or not, we absolutely loved them. The bread was soft and fluffy, and the Runzas were just incredibly satisfying. They also reheated beautifully the next day and I enjoyed one for breakfast. 
My husband now is dreaming of all sorts of Runza variations. While I'm sure we could come up with lots of interesting fillings to stuff into a Runza (and I would really love to recreate an Italian Runza), this recipe is terrific just as is. These Runzas were a wonderful taste of home.
Recipe: "Nebraskan Runzas" from Midwest Made by Shauna Sever.