Charles loves to cook and enjoys trying new recipes every day. He specializes in recreating gourmet comfort food.
History of the Calzone: From Italy to America
The humble calzone first got its start in Naples, Italy, around the 18th century. The calzone traces its roots to a portable, hand-carried meal of stuffed dough for workers on the go. Literally translated to "trouser" or "pants leg" in English, the calzone is quite possibly the great, great grandfather of the hot pocket—only a thousand times better.
In Italy, the calzone is traditionally filled with mozzarella, anchovies, and chopped tomatoes. Depending upon the region, calzone filling choices are endless, often similar to the toppings generally found on a traditional pizza.
The calzone arrived on the shores of America when the first pizzaiolos arrived in New York, circa the early 1900s. The American version is similar in size to the 1950s American-inspired stromboli—but they are not the same thing.
The American calzone is generally filled with mozzarella, ricotta, and Parmesan cheese. Often served with a side of homemade marinara, the portability of the Italian version has been lost and is much larger and generally eaten with a knife and fork.
The calzone surged in popularity in the 1990s when it was featured in an episode of the TV series Seinfeld. Instantly, the humble, portable pizza-like sandwich from Naples became an Italian American icon and remains a popular staple on every pizza shop menu in America.
My Take on the Traditional Calzone
Instead of the basic cheese-filled calzone, I decided to fill my calzone with some of my favorite flavors: sausage, ricotta, and spinach. I have found that the secret to good food is to always use fresh, high-quality ingredients. In the tradition of Italian cooks everywhere, I wanted just a few really good ingredients and for each ingredient to stand out in this calzone. Homemade long-fermented artisan dough along with quality meats and cheeses from your local Italian market makes all the difference in this crispy baked calzone right in your home kitchen. You could definitely speed up the process by using a good store bought pizza dough or picking up a couple of dough balls from you local pizza joint.
Prep time: 24-48 hours
Cook time: 15 min
Ready in: 24-48 hours 15 min
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Step 1: Make the Dough
- 350 grams King Arthur bread flour (12.7% protein)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons instant dry yeast
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon Sicilian sea salt
- 260 milliliters warm water
- Sesame seeds for sprinkling
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour and salt.
- In a separate bowl, combine the water, sugar, yeast, and olive oil. Stir and allow the yeast to proof for 5 minutes or until you see bubbles from the activated yeast.
- Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix together until well combined. About 3-4 minutes.
- Allow dough mixture to rest for 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes, remove the dough to a lightly floured countertop and knead for 5 minutes until the dough reaches the consistency of Play-Doh. If you notice that the dough is too sticky to work with, add small amounts of flour while kneading until the dough barely sticks to your hands.
- After 5 minutes of kneading, divide the dough into 2 equal pieces and form each piece into dough balls.
- Lightly oil the bottom of 2 containers and place the dough balls into the bowls, cover with plastic wrap.
- Allow the dough balls to rest on the counter for 1 hour before placing them into the refrigerator overnight. The longer the dough is allowed to ferment the better the result. This provides great taste and texture and is the secret to a crispy, chewy calzone.
- Allow the dough to come to room temperature before shaping your calzone.
Step 2: Make the Filling
- 8 ounces sweet Italian sausage
- 4 ounces mushrooms (any type)
- 2 ounces baby spinach
- 1/2 medium onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- 4 ounces shredded whole milk mozzarella
- 2 ounces fresh mozzarella
- 10 ounces ricotta cheese
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
- Pinch of crushed red pepper (optional)
- In a 12" saute pan, saute onions and sausage on medium heat until sausage is no longer pink. Remove from pan and drain.
- In the same pan, saute mushrooms with the olive oil on medium heat for 5 minutes until cooked through.
- Add the drained onions and sausage, spinach, and garlic to the pan and saute for 3 more minutes.
- Turn off heat and set aside to cool for 1 hour before filling calzone.
Step 3: Make the Marinara
- 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon crushed black pepper
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 cloves crushed garlic
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- In a 2-quart saucepan, saute the garlic and olive oil over medium heat until the garlic begins to release its aroma, about 2 minutes.
- Add tomato paste and saute for an additional 2 minutes.
- Add remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and keep warm.
Step 4: Assemble the Calzones
- Preheat oven to 500 degrees.
- On a lightly floured surface, roll dough flat into a 12" circle.
- Spread a layer of the ricotta on the dough, cover the ricotta with the sausage mixture.
- Top with mozzarella and Parmesan and fold the dough over the top.
- Shape the calzone into a half-moon shape (see photos).
- Seal the edges and cut a small slit on top to vent.
- Carefully transfer the calzones to a baking sheet and bake on the center rack for 15 minutes.
- Remove from oven, allow to cool for 5 minutes.
- Serve with warm marinara sauce. Enjoy!
© 2022 Charles Kikas