Pizza is, arguably, one of the best dishes around. It’s great for almost every occasion, from a movie night with family to a dinner date with your partner. But for those who want to shake things up, the calzone is right up your alley.
All in all, the calzone is basically a pizza folded in half. However, it tends to be so much more. Because of its construction, the calzone is often sturdier, able to hold fillings that pizza is too flimsy to handle.
From big chunks of chicken to heaps of mozzarella, the calzone is easily the beefier, fuller version of the pizza – simple to eat off a plate or while on the go. With a well-constructed calzone, you don’t have to worry about toppings falling into your lap or tomato spilling onto your fingers!
Calzones are a great dish to order over the phone, but making one yourself isn’t complicated (and you can go overboard with the toppings for free). If you know how to make a pizza, you can make a calzone, no problem! All you need is a bit of folding and crimping.
But before all of that, what exactly is a calzone, and where did it come from?
What is a Calzone?
Originating from Naples in the 18th century, the calzone was intended as a one-serving pizza that could be easily, cleanly taken on the go.
Of course, calzones in the modern day are slightly different. They are, without a doubt, much larger – and most varieties are designed to feed more than one person.
In fact, most calzones can easily feed three people. Because of their size, they’re typically too large to carry around, unless you seek out smaller batches in stores or at home.
Calzones in the modern-day come with a wide range of fillings. From the classic goat’s cheese and pepperoni to more unique flavors, like pineapples and anchovies, there’s a calzone for everyone.
Origin and History
To understand the origins of the beloved calzone, we must look to its predecessor, the pizza.
Unlike most dishes, the pizza of today is strikingly similar to the first pizzas. Various ancient cultures have a form of flatbread; in Rome, the focaccia was a flatbread dish topped with various ingredients.
This eventually evolved into classic pizza when the tomato arrived in Naples from the Americas during the 18th century. The calzone followed soon after.
Roughly translated to mean ‘pant leg’ or ‘trouser’, the calzone was designed as the first ‘Hot Pocket’, centuries before that brand name came into existence.
Calzones were traditionally packed with the classic pizza fillings, like mozzarella and tomatoes, but fillings could also be more eccentric, like capers, currants, and chicory hearts.
Like their predecessors, the calzone was meant to be a meal for one person. But, much like the pizza, the portions of a calzone increased when it was introduced to the U.S. Modern calzones are now filled to almost bursting capacities, and can feed at least three people.
Nonetheless, in the modern-day, Italian lunch counters continue to offer calzones in single servings. Much like you would make a sandwich, these tasty meals are portable enough to be eaten while on the road.
How to Make a Calzone
Of course, when you make it at home, you have complete control of your calzone’s portions. Smaller portions are great for squirrelling food away on busy days, lessening the chances of spoilage.
This calzone recipe is ideal for those who want to store portions for later.
It makes eight small calzones, and can serve two to four people. Each calzone can be prepared ahead of time, so you can defrost each serving for quick meals.
This recipe also uses a spinach-ricotta filling, which you can easily swap for any other filling you prefer, including leftovers. For those who want to use their own filling, prepare at least two-cups’ worth, using about ¼ cup for each calzone.
For the Dough
3/4 cup of water, lukewarm. 1 teaspoon of yeast. 2 cups of all-purpose flour. 1 1/2 pinch of salt. 1 tablespoon of olive oil. 1 large egg.
For the Filling
2 tablespoons of olive oil. 1 medium onion, diced. 3 cloves of garlic, minced. 1/2 teaspoon of salt. 1/4 teaspoon of ground black pepper. 6 ounces of baby spinach. 1/2 cup of ricotta cheese, drained. 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese, shredded. 1/2 cup of tomato sauce.
Method Begin with the dough. In a large bowl, combine the water and yeast, and wait for about five minutes while the yeast dissolves. Once that’s finished, add the flour and salt. Mix it thoroughly until you form a dough. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface, add in any leftover flour, and begin kneading. Knead until all the flour is incorporated, for about 8 minutes. The dough should be smooth and elastic, and its surface should be slightly moist and tacky. If it is too sticky, add more flour and continue kneading until it becomes less sticky. Lightly coat the previous large bowl with olive oil and return the dough to the bowl. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rise for about 1 ½ hours. The dough should have doubled in size at this point. You can also refrigerate the dough inside an airtight container. Make sure to let it sit at room temperature for 1 hour before working the dough further. If you don’t want to immediately continue with the recipe, this dough will keep for up to three days in the fridge. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and place a rack in the lower third of the oven. Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Now it’s time to make the filling. Begin with the spinach. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add oil. Once the oil begins to simmer, add onions and garlic, and then cook until browned. Add in the spinach and constantly toss for about one minute, until it’s wilted. Remove from the heat. After letting the spinach cool (for about 2 to 3 minutes), add in the ricotta and mozzarella cheese. Mix to combine and set aside. Divide the dough into 8 pieces, about 2 ounces each. Roll out the dough, one piece at a time. Roll out each piece into a ball, about 6 to 7 inches in diameter. Be sure to maintain an even thickness. Place about 1 tablespoon of tomato sauce on the bottom half of each piece, leaving about an inch of space from the bottom edge of the dough. Then, add two tablespoons of filling on top of the sauce. Make sure not to overfill the calzone to avoid spilling while in the oven. Fold the dough over the filling, making sure not to pull the dough too thinly. Press the edges tightly, rolling the bottom edge over the top. Crimp the dough to seal. Transfer each piece to the baking sheet you prepared earlier. In a small bowl, beat an egg with 1 tablespoon of water. Brush each calzone lightly with the egg; this will give them their nice, brown finish. With a sharp knife, make two to three small cuts on the surface of each calzone. Slits will allow the steam to escape from inside the calzone, so that it doesn’t break apart inside the oven. Bake the calzones for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until they are golden brown. Let cool before serving.
Here’s a video showing an example of how to make a calzone.
How to Make a Calzone in a Bread Machine
If you’re pressed for time or don’t want to knead dough yourself, a bread machine can easily cut down your prep time.
This recipe reduces your prep time to 30 minutes, so you can let your bread maker do the work!
We’ll be using Italian sausage, pizza sauce, and mozzarella cheese for the filling. However, you can treat this recipe as a base, and change up the filling as you see fit!
1/4 cup of water. 2 teaspoons of active dry yeast. 1 1/2 tablespoons of white sugar. 3 cups of bread flour. 1 teaspoon of salt. 1 teaspoon of powdered milk. 3/4 cup of sliced Italian sausage. 3/4 cup of pizza sauce. 1 1/4 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese. 2 tablespoon of melted butter.
Method Begin by creating the dough. Select the dough cycle, and place water, yeast, sugar, flour, and powdered milk in the bread machine – according to the order suggested by your machine, if it specifies. Lightly dust a surface with flour. When the cycle is finished, roll out the dough on the surface into a 16 x 10-inch rectangle. It should be about a ¼-inch-thick, but no less. Next, prepare the sausage. Set the heat to medium. In a large skillet, brown the sausages for about 5 minutes on each side. Drain the excess fat and set aside. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease a cookie sheet, and transfer the rolled-out dough onto it. Now to add the toppings! Begin with the tomato sauce by spooning it down the center of the dough, lengthwise. Then, top the sauce with cheese and sausage. For the braiding, begin by cutting diagonal flaps on each of the longer sides, about 1 ½-inches-long each. The diagonal strips should lean towards the center, with the center flaps left as horizontal. Then, fold one half of the dough over the filling. Cross the strips over each other to form a braid, sealing it with water. Brush the top of the calzone with melted butter to achieve a well-browned surface. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 35 to 45 minutes. You will know when it’s done when it is golden brown. Let cool for at least five minutes before serving.
For those who would like to prepare their calzones beforehand, you can create the dough and store it for future use. It will keep well in a refrigerator for three days, but no longer.
Let the dough rest for about one hour at room temperature before continuing with the recipe. You can also freeze the dough, where it will keep properly for up to three months.
Alternatively, you can construct the whole calzone, filling and all, and store it in a fridge before baking. Place each calzone, properly spaced from each other, on a baking sheet. Once frozen, transfer them to a zip-lock bag.
You can keep calzones like this for up to three months, and storage will not change their taste or quality. To cook, transfer them to a preheated oven and bake for 30 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you need to store cooked calzones back in the fridge, store them in an airtight container for up to three days, or in the freezer for up to three months. Let the calzones thaw, then microwave on high with one-minute bursts.
Using Store-Bough Dough
If you lack the time to create your own dough, store-bought is perfectly fine.
For those who want to use store-bought dough, any type advertised for pizza is acceptable. Pizza dough is identical to calzone dough, and you can easily make a calzone instead of a pizza using the same ingredients.
Just make sure that it’s pliable enough to be folded in half. If you notice that your dough is too gummy, just pop it in the fridge for a few days. It should come out stretchy and elastic, perfect for calzones.
This video goes into more detail on calzone variations.
From its humble beginnings in 18th century Naples, to its popularity in the modern-day, the calzone continues to be a fan favorite.
They’re easy to eat and easy to make as well! They’re a good meal to prepare in advance, so you can easily whip up dinner or breakfast on the go. As a plus, they’re super tasty!
The next time you have a craving, pull out your ingredients and set aside an hour – the result will be days of tasty leftovers.
What’s your favorite calzone combination?