Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Calzones Like the Pros

My family can't exactly trace its roots to the Mayflower. In fact, I'm not sure I want to dig too deep into my ancestry. I shudder to think what sort of unsavory characters I might find in the old family tree. But if I were a betting woman, I would bet good money I don't have more than a drop or two of Italian blood.

That doesn't mean my people don't cook Italian. In fact, my Grandma Mary Ellen learned to cook as a young bride from the Sicilian woman who lived next door. I grew up (and out) on Grandma Mary Ellen's spaghetti and lasagna, and the highlights of the Christmas season were her panettone and pizzelle.

I haven't been brave enough to try panettone, and I don't have a pizzelle iron, but pizza, lasagna, and various lighter pasta dishes are regulars on the menu in our house. Recently, I discovered a great recipe for calzones, and they're rapidly becoming a staple in our kitchen. The dough goes together like a dream (if you have a stand mixer), and the filling is easy and delicious. Putting them together takes a bit of labor, but with just a little practice you'll be filling, folding, and crimping like a seasoned vet.

If you're cooking for a crowd, each member of the family can customize his calzone with additional fillings (like individual pizzas). If you're cooking for two, the baked calzones reheat nicely, so there's no waste here.

Ricotta and Spinach Calzones


4 c. bread flour
1 envelope (2 1/4 tsp.) instant yeast
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 1/2 c. + 1 Tbs. warm water

Seasoned Oil:

1/2 c. olive oil
2 Tbs. minced garlic
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes


2 Tbs. seasoned oil
15 oz. ricotta (whole milk or skim)
2 c. shredded mozzarella
3/4 c. grated parmesan
10 oz. frozen spinach, thawed and water pressed out
1 egg yolk
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. dried (or 1 Tbs. fresh) oregano

kosher salt
tomato sauce (from a jar, or combine a 28-oz. can of crushed tomatoes with a couple tablespoons of seasoned oil, a dash of salt, and a teaspoon or two of sugar - simmer on low for about 1/2 an hour)

First, make the dough: in bowl of standing mixer, combine flour, salt, and yeast. Attach to mixer with dough hook. With mixer on medium-low, add olive oil and then water (slowly!). Continue mixing for 10 minutes, until dough is smooth and elastic. Transfer to large bowl sprayed with nonstick spray. Cover with plastic wrap (also sprayed with nonstick spray) and place in a warm spot to rise for about 1 1/2 hours (until doubled in size).

While dough is rising, make seasoned oil. Combine oil, red pepper, and garlic in a small skillet or saucepan. Heat over medium heat until the garlic sizzles and just starts to color. Remove from heat and let sit for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the oil is cool, strain the oil and dump the garlic/pepper flakes.

Now make the filling: mix the ricotta with the seasoned oil and the egg yolk, then the salt/pepper/oregano. Finally, mix in the parmesan, the mozzarella, and the pressed spinach.

About an hour into the dough rising time, ready the oven. Put the rack on the very lowest setting. Put a pizza stone on that rack. Preheat the oven to 500 (the stone will need to heat for half an hour after the oven reaches its temperature).

When the dough has risen, divide it into 6 equal portions. Shape into balls and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Cover with oiled plastic wrap and let rest for 15 minutes (no more than 30).

On a pastry mat, roll out each dough ball into a 9 inch round (roughly). Place each round on a 9 inch square of parchment paper, and stack them (keeping the top round covered with plastic wrap). When they're all rolled out, take each round and plop about 1/2 a cup of filling in the middle. Add any other goodies you want (well-sauted/drained mushrooms, sundried tomatoes, chopped artichoke hearts, etc. - just make sure the fillings don't have much liquid in them).

Fold over top, leaving a 1/2 inch of the bottom round showing. Fold that 1/2 inch up over the top piece and crimp around. Trim parchment. Using a sharp knife, cut a few vents in the top layer of dough. Brush calzones with seasoned oil and sprinkle with a little kosher salt.

Slide the parchment pieces onto a pizza peel and then onto the pizza stone. Bake 3 at a time for 11 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from oven, throw away parchment, and let cool on a wire rack for a few minutes before serving.


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  1. Wendy, anything with spinach and ricotta in it gets my vote! And that looks like a really easy filling to prepare. Thank you!

  2. I enjoy calzones. Thanks for the great recipe.

    Thoughts in Progress

  3. Wendy thank you for this recipe. My husband keeps hounding me to make pepperoni calzones, but I could never find a good recipe on how to make them. Now I have no excuse :). So many variations you can do with this recipe. I might try it this weekend.

  4. Babs - you can definitely use different fillings. We've used mushrooms, sun dried tomatoes, and Morningstar Farms sausage crumbles.

    The three keys are: (1) make sure you don't introduce a lot of moisture (so pre-saute your mushrooms to get the extra liquid out); (2) don't rely on the calzone baking time to "cook" anything (so if you use real sausage, for example, cook it first); and (3) chop fillings small to get a good distribution in the calzone.

  5. Wow. These are really labor intensive. So many good things are! They sound fabulous!

    ~ Krista

  6. Krista, they're labor intensive the first time or two you make them, but after a couple goes, it becomes second nature. And a lot of the "labor" is actually "waiting." :)

  7. Sweet! My Italian-born mom and aunt often made "pizza pies" -- what Americans know as calzones. Really nice version of a favorite. And your tips are spot on, especially the warning to keep the fillings as dry as possible and make sure any meat that you add is fully cooked (because the calzone baking time will not properly cook such things as raw sausage). My aunt Mary's favorite filling was diced ham, ricotta, fresh chopped parsley, grated Pecorino, and egg. Great post, Wendy.

    ~ Cleo
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  8. I love calzones...will put this recipe in my book.

  9. Thank you for the tips Wendy :) I am definitely going to make them this weekend. Cleo I was thinking of ham and cheese for me. I love pepperoni, but ham is just as good with a few cheeses yum.

  10. Yummm..I've been looking for a filling like this. Your timing and your recipe are perfect!

  11. Yummy filling. What a great history, Wendy.

  12. terrific... Thanks for the extra tips in the comment section... so a tomato sauce would be too much liquid??? How about tomato slices?

  13. Grill Guy - I wouldn't put tomato sauce *in* the calzones, but rather pour over top or (as we do) dip. Although I suppose you could do a really thick sauce (we buy a canned pizza sauce called Pastorelli's that's delish and really quite substantial). I just wouldn't use much.

    Fresh tomatoes that were seeded and drained would be o.k. I think. I hesitate to endorse either option, as I haven't tried them. Cleo?