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. Whether you enjoy them for lunch or dinner, they're the perfect little "hot pockets" (ahem!) of cheese, veggies, and leftover meat. Here's how to make them.
What Are Calzones?
Think of calzones as the original Hot Pocket, reportedly created as a way to eat pizza on the go in 18th century Naples (at that time, pizza was eaten "properly" with a knife and fork). The idea is pretty simple: Fold pizza dough around the toppings so you can eat dinner with one hand and not worry about losing any cheese.
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.
For Your Information
- The recipe below will give you about a pound of pizza dough. You're welcome to use store-bought dough instead — just pull the dough out of the fridge at least an hour before making the calzones so it's easier to handle.
- If you want to replace this spinach-ricotta filling with leftover bits and bobs, you'll want about 2 cups of filling —about 1/4 cup of filling per calzone.
Key Steps for More Successful Calzones
You can reduce the chance of a calzone explosion five ways.
- Do not roll the dough too thinly. If you can see the cutting board through the bottom of your dough, you have stretched it too thin and the calzone will burst from the bottom.
- Do not overload the calzone with filling. Spinach, cheese, and tomato sauce will give off a lot of steam during baking.
- Fold the dough loosely over the filling. Don't pull it tight.
- Don't forget to cut steam vents in the top of each calzone. This prevents the dough from getting soggy, but it also releases the steam that builds up inside the pocket and causes the seam to burst.
- Egg wash for closure and shine. An egg wash not only makes the crust golden-brown and shiny, but it also helps "glue" the crimped dough together.
Serving and Freezing Calzones
These calzones are 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. If you're eating them fresh out the oven, allow them to cool a few minutes so you don't burn your mouth.
To freeze, let any leftover calzones cool completely, then wrap each individual calzone tightly in plastic wrap. Transfer to a plastic freezer bag and freeze.
Thaw the calzone for a few hours in the fridge, or extend the cooking time to reheat from frozen. If you put one in your lunch bag in the morning, it will be thawed enough by lunchtime. Don't forget to remove the plastic wrap before reheating. You can reheat them in the microwave in one-minute bursts on HIGH (2 to 3 minutes total) or in the oven or a toaster oven at 300°F until heated through.
How To Make Calzones
Makes 8 calzones; serves 2 to 4
What You Need
- For the calzone dough:
active dry yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons
- For the spinach-ricotta filling:
freshly ground black pepper
ricotta cheese, drained if watery
shredded, part skim mozzarella cheese
Measuring cups and spoons
Knife and cutting board
Clean kitchen towel
Kitchen scale (optional)
Make the dough. Combine the water and yeast in a large bowl, then wait a few seconds until the yeast dissolves. Add the flour and salt and mix with your hands or a spatula until it forms a shaggy dough.
Knead the dough. Turn the dough and any loose flour from the bowl out onto a clean work surface. Knead until all the flour is incorporated and the dough is smooth and elastic, 6 to 8 minutes. The dough will feel moist and a little tacky. If the dough sticks to your hands significantly, knead in more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until smooth.
Check the dough for windowpane. Tear off a small piece of dough and use your fingertips to gently stretch it into a square. If the dough stretches thinly enough that you can see light passing through it without tearing right away, you have developed enough gluten to pass the windowpane test. If not, keep kneading and check again after a few minutes. Incorporate that small piece back into the dough and knead into a ball.
Let the dough rise until doubled in size. Coat the bowl and the top of the dough with the olive oil, then place the dough in the bowl. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours. (Alternatively, refrigerate the dough in a large, airtight container for up to 3 days. Let sit at room temperature for 1 hour before continuing with the calzone.)
Heat the oven. Arrange a rack in the lower third of the oven (place a pizza stone on the rack if using), and heat to 450°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.
Make the spinach-ricotta filling. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Add in the spinach (in batches if needed) and toss until wilted, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and let cool for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the ricotta and mozzarella and stir to combine; set aside.
Divide the dough. Cut dough into 8 (2-ounce) pieces.
Roll out the dough. Working with one piece of dough at a time, press each piece into a flat disc, then use a rolling pin to roll into a 6- to 7-inch round. Be sure to maintain an even thickness of the dough, as the calzone will burst if the dough is too thin. If the dough shrinks back and is difficult to roll, let it rest for 5 minutes and try again. Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough.
Fill the calzone with tomato sauce and spinach-ricotta filling. Spread 1 tablespoon of the tomato sauce on the bottom half of each calzone dough round, leaving a 1-inch border around the bottom edge of the dough. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the filling on top of the sauce. Do not overfill the calzone.
Fold and crimp the edges of the dough. Fold the dough over the filling, making sure not to pull the dough too tightly. Press the edges tightly to seal and roll the bottom edge up and over the top, crimping the dough to seal. Transfer the calzones to the baking sheet.
Brush the calzones with egg wash and cut steam vents. Beat the egg with 1 tablespoon of water with a fork in a small bowl until the egg is broken up. Brush each calzone lightly with the egg wash. Using a sharp knife, cut 2 to 3 steam vents on the top of each calzone.
Bake the calzones. Bake until the calzones are golden brown and the filling bubbles, 15 to 20 minutes. It is likely that at least 1 calzone will burst, despite all efforts to prevent it. Let the calzones cool for a few minutes before serving.
Storage: Baked calzones can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw the calzones in the refrigerator before reheating in 1-minute bursts on HIGH in your microwave for 2 to 3 minutes total. The calzones won’t be as crisp when reheated in the microwave.
Make ahead: The dough can be made up to 3 days in advance and refrigerated. Take the dough out of the refrigerator about 1 hour before you make the filling to take the chill off. Alternatively, freeze unbaked calzones in a single layer on a baking sheet. Once frozen, transfer to a zip-top bag and freeze for up to 3 months. To cook calzones from frozen, bake at 400°F for 30 minutes or until the filling reaches 160°F.
Using a stand mixer: You can also make the dough using a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. Follow the instructions above for assembling the dough and mix on medium speed for the same amount of time, 6 to 8 minutes.
Other fillings: If you'd like to use other fillings, you will need 2 cups (1/4 cup for each calzone).