Calzones are the original pizza pockets. Street vendors sell them in Italy because they are very portable and easy to eat on the go. They can be stuffed with anything you'd typically put on a pizza. My favorite combination is the recipe I'll be presenting here, but I've been dreaming about some creative fillings like goat cheese, mushrooms and spinach, or roasted eggplant, zucchini and kalamata olives.
Wrap in foil and bring them along for picnics, tailgate parties, or office lunches. If you like cold pizza, (I do), they are the perfect pocket of spicy goodness.
I've been making these for many years and my methods have evolved into the easiest and most efficient techniques. One perfect shortcut is to use loaves of frozen bread dough instead of pizza dough from scratch. The frozen bread dough I use is Bridgford Ready-Dough and can be found in the frozen food section of most markets. This bread is easy to work with and is sturdy enough to hold up to the oozy filling.
If you DO decide to make your own dough, make a large batch, the equivalent of three 14" pizza crusts.
Recipe for 12 calzones
- 3 loaves frozen bread dough, Bridgford Ready-Dough
- 1 lb. Italian sausage meat, sweet or hot
- 1 small onion, diced
- 1 sweet red pepper, diced
- 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
- 2 cups basic tomato sauce
- small handful of fresh basil leaves, chiffonade
- 15 oz Ricotta cheese
- small handful of fresh flat parsley, minced
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- olive oil
Here's some music to listen to while you work.
Bring the frozen dough to room temperature. This takes a couple of hours, so plan in advance.
When dough is thawed, slice each loaf into 4 equal pieces. Coat each section lightly with olive oil and let them rest for a bit while you start the filling.
Saute the sausage meat in a large skillet over medium heat, break up the meat with a spoon as you cook. Saute until the meat is no longer pink. If there is a lot of fat rendered, remove all but a light coating of fat and then add the peppers and onions. Continue to cook and stir until the onions are translucent and the peppers are softened. Add the minced garlic, tomato sauce and the basil. Let simmer while you work. Stir occasionally.
Flatten out the dough pieces and form into 7-8 inch rounds. I like to do this on parchment paper. Coat your hands lightly with olive oil to prevent sticking. Keep your rounds fairly thick and even. As each round is formed place it on a baking sheet that has been covered with parchment paper (optional), and coated lightly with olive oil. I cook 6 at a time, so you'll need two baking sheets. You'll have a hard time fitting these on your sheet. I let half of each round dangle over the edge. This half will be folded over the filling.
Turn off the heat on the meat filling so it will cool down a bit.
Now, in a small bowl, combine the Ricotta cheese, one egg, and the parsley. Mix well.
Preheat the oven to 400º.
Back to the dough rounds, they may have contracted a bit, so pat them back into a nice round shape, about 8" across. No need to measure, eyeball it.
On each round, place a dollop of the meat mixture. This recipe is just enough for 12 calzones, so divide the mixture equally on each dough round. Add a large spoonful of the Ricotta mixture, again 1/12 of the bowl. And then top with the shredded Mozzarella.
In a small bowl, whisk one egg with a few drops of water. Dip your finger in the egg and coat the edge of a round of dough. This creates a seal so that the filling will not leak out while cooking. Carefully fold the dough in half, over the filling. Using a fork, press the two edges of the dough edge together, See the last photo above. Continue with each calzone. Brush the tops of the calzones with olive oil.
(Optional) If you would like your calzones to be shiny and golden, brush the tops with beaten egg instead of the oil.
Bake each tray @400º for about 20 minutes. The calzones should be golden brown. Remove from the oven and let them cool on a wire rack. If you don't do this, the bottoms will become soggy from condensation. And if they do? No problem, brush the bottoms with olive oil and fry in a hot skillet to seal and crisp up the dough.
This sounds like a lot of work, but its pretty easy, once you get into a rhythm. And you'll have calzones coming out the yin-yang. Maybe you'll get a break from cooking tomorrow. Toss a salad, heat up a calzone in the oven wrapped in foil and call it dinner.