Calzones are a favorite in my house, not only for a relaxed weekend dinner but also for wrapping up, freezing, and eating for lunches all week long. Lunch or dinner, they're the perfect little "hot pockets" (ahem!) of cheese, veggies, and leftover meat. Here's how to make them.
I see calzones as the perfect vehicles for using up leftover odds and ends in the fridge. The traditional filling of spinach and ricotta is fantastic, but I also like to play with leftover steak, pulled chicken, grilled veggies, wilted greens, chickpeas, feta, goat cheese, and whatever else sounds good that day.
These calzones make such a good make-ahead meal that I often make a double batch. Some get eaten right away and the rest go in the freezer for lunch emergencies or quick dinners.
What You Need
1 batch thin-crust pizza dough or 2 lbs store-bought pizza dough
2-3 cups filling: any favorite combination of cooked meat, cooked veggies, and cheese
Olive oil or melted butter (optional)
1. Preheat the Oven to 450°F
2. Divide the Dough: Divide the dough into equal pieces. Six pieces make good dinner-sized calzones. Eight pieces make nice smaller calzones for lighter meals and lunches.
3. Roll Out the Calzone - Method #1: Press the dough into a flat disk, then use a rolling pin to roll it into an 8"-9" circle for larger calzones or 6"-7" for smaller calzones. Roll from the middle of the dough outwards, as you do for pie dough. If the dough starts to shrink back on you, let it rest for five minutes and try again. Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough.
4. Roll the Calzone - Method #2: You can also roll out the dough on parchment paper. This is handy if your dough is very sticky or if you're not feeling confident about your calzone-stuffing skills! As they bake, the parchment will unstick from the calzones.
Cut a square of parchment and roll the calzone dough on top. The dough will stick to the parchment. If it starts to curl, let the dough rest for five minutes before continuing. Repeat with remaining pieces of dough.
5. Fill the Calzones: Spread a generous 1/3 cup of filling in the bottom third of the calzone (slightly less for smaller calzones), leaving a a clear border around the edge.
• For Method #1, fold the top of the dough over the filling and press to seal. If you have enough dough, you can roll that edge up (simply fold it over on itself) to form a more secure seal.
• For Method #2, pick the calzone up in both hands and press edges tightly to seal. Set the calzone back on the work surface and press lightly to distribute the filing evenly.
Transfer calzones to a parchment-lined baking sheet.
6. Bake the Calzones: Brush calzones (the ones not wrapped in parchment) with olive oil or butter, if desired. This gives the calzones a nice golden color, but is not necessary. Slice steam vents in the top of the calzones with a sharp knife.
Bake for 15 minutes. Rotate the tray and bake for another 15-20 minutes until the calzones are golden, browned on the edges, and the filling is bubbly. The calzones in parchment will brown slightly less. And don't worry if some filling spills out - there always seems to be at least one explosive calzone in every batch!
6. Eat or Freeze Calzones: Allow to cool a few minutes before eating so you don't burn your mouth. Slip the parchment off the parchment-wrapped calzones. Let leftover calzones cool completely, then wrap each individual calzone tightly in plastic wrap. Transfer to a plastic freezer bag and freeze.
7. Reheat Calzones: Thaw the calzone for a few hours in the fridge, or extend the cooking time to re-heat from frozen. If you put one in your lunchbag in the morning, it will be thawed enough by lunchtime. Unwrap from the plastic before reheating.
Reheat them in the microwave in one-minute bursts on HIGH until heated through (2-3 minutes total), or in the oven or a toaster oven at 300° until heated through.
• Traditional Spinach-Ricotta Calzone Filling: 1 diced onion, 2-3 minced garlic cloves, about 6 ounces baby spinach, 1/2 cup ricotta, 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella, and 1/2 cup tomato sauce. Sauté the onion and garlic until softened, the stir in the spinach and wilt. Let cool a bit, then stir in the cheeses. Spread a little sauce on the calzone dough and spoon the filling on top.
• You can make the calzone dough up to three days ahead of making the calzones themselves and keep it in the refrigerator. I actually find the dough easier to work with when it's still cold from the fridge.
• Calzones are also fantastic on the grill! Rub the outside with a little extra flour before grilling and follow the method described in Grilled Flatbread Stuffed with Curried Potatoes, Spinach, and Chickpeas.
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(Images: Emma Christensen)