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Calzone: The Complete Guide to Perfect Italian Stuffed Pockets

calzone

Calzone is a dish that originated in Naples, Italy in the 18th century.  

They are stuffed pockets typically made from salted bread dough with fillings such as ricotta and salami, folded into a half circle, and then baked. They can be served as a meal, a snack on the go, or as a side with pizza.

There are different regional variations, each featuring various ingredients, often associated with pizza toppings.

What Is a Calzone Exactly?

It’s a savory turnover typically filled with a mixture of cheese (mozzarella, ricotta, Parmesan, or pecorino cheese), meats (salami, sausage, or ham), vegetables (spinach or mushrooms), and sauce. 

It is often made with pizza dough, which is folded over and sealed to create a pocket (half-moon shaped.), and then baked until golden brown and bubbly. 

Calzones can be filled with sauce, although are often served with a side of dipping sauce such as marinara.

Stromboli vs. Calzone: What’s the Difference?

Both calzones and stromboli are dishes made with pizza dough and filled with savory fillings.

However, strombolis are an Italian-American creation, larger than calzone, rolled up into a cylindrical shape like a burrito, and typically incorporates more vegetables and meats without including ricotta cheese.

History and Origin of Calzone

Calzones or “calzoni” (plural of calzone in Italian) originated in Naples, Italy, in the 1700s. They were designed to be eaten by hand without having to sit down or using utensils.

Originally, a calzone was made by folding an uncooked pizza, topped with various ingredients, in half and then baking it. This half-moon shape gave the dish the name “calzone”, meaning “trousers”, as they resembled folded pants. 

The Art of an Authentic Calzone: Step-by-Step Recipe and Tips

Would you like to enjoy the authentic flavors of Italy in the comfort of your home?

Follow this step-by-step guide plus some useful tips to make a perfect homemade calzone!

Ingredients 

Dough:

  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup warm water

Filling:

  • 2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • ½ cup ricotta cheese
  • ½ cup tomato sauce
  • 1 cup combined of pepperoni and salami, sliced or diced
  • ½ cup yellow onion, diced

Additional Ingredient for Assembly:

  • 1 large egg, beaten (for brushing)

Instructions

  1. In a bowl, mix the yeast, sugar, and warm water. Let it stand for 5-10 minutes until frothy.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the flour and salt. Make a well in the center, pour in the activated yeast mixture along with olive oil, and mix until it forms a smooth dough.
  3. On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough for about 10 minutes until elastic. Then, place it in a greased bowl, cover, and let it rise in a warm place for 1-2 hours until doubled in size.
  4. Preheat your oven to 450°F and place a baking sheet with parchment paper inside to heat up. 
  5. Divide the dough into equal portions and roll out each portion into a circle or oval shape (ensuring it’s not too thin to hold the filling.) 
  6. On one half of each dough circle, spread a layer of tomato sauce leaving space around the edges (to allow for sealing.) Add the shredded mozzarella, ricotta, combined pepperoni, salami, and yellow onion onto the sauce side of the dough. 
  7. Carefully, fold the dough over the filling, forming a half-moon shape. Press and seal the edges firmly by crimping or folding them over. 
  8. Cut 3 air vents on the top of each calzone and transfer them onto the preheated baking sheet. Brush the surface with beaten egg (alternatively, you can brush with olive oil) and bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown and crispy. 
  9. Allow the calzones to cool for a few minutes before serving. Pair with your favorite dipping sauce (e.g., pizza sauce.) 

Exquisite Serving Suggestions for Your Homemade Calzone 

Once you’ve prepared your homemade calzones, serve them with these delightful accompaniments that complement their flavors:

Marinara Dipping Sauce

Serve a side of warm marinara sauce for dipping your calzone. This classic Italian sauce enhances the savory flavors and adds an extra zest.

Choose a marinara with herbs, spices, or a touch of heat.

Balsamic Glaze Drizzle

Drizzling a balsamic glaze over the calzone adds a touch of elegance and balances the calzone’s richness with its acidity. The tangy sticky sweetness of the glaze wonderfully complements the savory elements of the dish. 

Indeed, balsamic pairs really well with cheeses like the mozzarella and ricotta of your calzones.

Arugula Topping

Garnish your calzone with a handful of fresh arugula tossed in a lemon vinaigrette. 

The peppery arugula adds a burst of freshness and contrasts to the calzone’s heavier textures and flavors, helping cleanse the palate.

Garden Salad

Pair your calzone with a refreshing garden salad tossed with a light vinaigrette. You can add chopped veggies, fresh herbs, or even fruits like apples (if you enjoy sweet-savory contrast.)

This classic side dish cuts through the calzone’s richness with its crisp greens and tangy dressing.

Italian Antipasto Platter

Create an Italian-inspired antipasto platter including cured meats, cheeses, olives, and roasted vegetables. 

This salty and savory ensemble makes for a perfect accompaniment to your calzone, cutting through its richness.

Wine Pairing

Pair your calzone with a glass of Italian wine that complements your calzone’s dominant flavors, like a Sangiovese.

The acidity and fruity notes of wines like this harmonize beautifully with the flavors of the dish.

Limoncello 

A shot of chilled Limoncello, the Italian lemon liqueur, balances out the calzone’s savory flavors and leaves a pleasant taste on the tongue.

Traditionally, Limoncello is served as a digestif, since its citrus notes help break down the meal and promote digestion while providing a refreshing end to the savory experience.

Variations of Calzone: Leveraging the Incredible Versatility of this Stuffed Pockets 

Italian calzone is such a versatile dish that it allows you to express your creativity in your kitchen like no other. 

Here you have some examples to inspire you:

Bacon Mushroom Calzones

Try this variation filled with crispy bacon and earthy mushrooms.

Fry the bacon until crispy and combine with mushrooms, mozzarella cheese, olives, and anchovies. It can be seasoned with garlic and onions, and served with marinara sauce.

Buffalo Chicken Calzones

If you’d like a calzone with a spicy kick, then buffalo chicken is the way to go. 

These calzones are filled with shredded chicken tossed in a hot sauce and topped with melted mozzarella cheese. 

Garnish with a drizzle of ranch dressing for a tangy finish or blue cheese sauce.

Ricotta and Spinach Calzones

This is a lighter option filled with ricotta and spinach wilted in olive oil. 

The filling may also include garlic, herbs, and a touch of Parmesan cheese.

Ham and Cheese Calzone

Needless to say, a super classic combination. Filled with savory ham slices, melted mozzarella cheese, and often a hint of Swiss cheese typically seasoned with garlic, onions, and a touch of mustard.

It goes really well with marinara sauce for dipping. 

Green Calzones

Some popular options include spinach, kale, broccoli, and zucchini often seasoned with garlic and herbs.

You can sprinkle some vegetarian cheese on top and enjoy a vegan calzone.

10 Tips for Success in Crafting a Perfect Calzone 

Calzone recipes require attention to detail and a few key techniques. 

Here are 10 valuable tips to ensure your calzones turn out delicious every time: 

  1. A well-kneaded dough ensures a light and airy crust. So, achieve the right dough consistency by kneading it until it’s smooth and elastic. 
  2. Proper rising time is crucial for creating a soft, fluffy texture. Therefore, be patient and make sure to allow ample time for the dough to rise properly. 
  3. Refrain from overfilling your calzone as this can cause it to burst open during baking. Aim for a 2:1 ratio of dough to filling.
  4. Also, avoid overly wet fillings, because they can make the calzone soggy. Pre-cook veggies if necessary, and use cheeses that don’t release too much moisture.
  5. Leave a border around the edge and crimp it to seal the dough properly. Make sure that it’s sealed tightly to prevent the filling from leaking out while baking. 
  6. Lightly brush the calzone with an egg wash or olive oil before baking. This helps achieve a golden-brown color, a crispy crust, and a touch of shine.
  7. Also before baking, create steam vents on the top of the calzone by poking the surface with a fork to avoid potential bursting.
  8. Ensure your oven is adequately preheated before baking. Besides, preheat any baking sheets as it helps achieve a crispy crust.
  9. Be mindful of the size and thickness of your calzone and adjust the baking time to ensure the filling is thoroughly cooked without over-browning the crust.
  10. After baking, let the calzone rest for a few minutes before serving. This allows the fillings to settle and the flavors meld together, and also prevents the hot filling from oozing out when cut.

Healthier Options and Dietary Considerations 

You can create healthier versions of calzone without compromising on taste and satisfaction. 

So, if you’re looking to enjoy calzone while considering dietary preferences or aiming for a healthier version, keep in mind these modifications and alternatives: 

  • Whole Wheat Dough: When making the calzone dough, use whole wheat flour as whole grains add fiber and nutrients to your meal.
  • Lighter Cheese: Use low-fat cheeses to reduce the calorie and fat content without compromising on flavor.
  • Gluten-Free Option: Those with gluten sensitivities or celiac disease can use gluten-free flour alternatives or pre-made gluten-free pizza dough.
  • Plant-Based Variations: Create a vegan calzone with plant-based cheeses, tofu, tempeh, or a medley of roasted vegetables.
  • Homemade Sauces: Make tomato sauce using fresh tomatoes and herbs to control the sodium and sugar content compared to store-bought versions.
  • Mindful Seasoning: Reduce salt by using fresh basil, oregano, garlic, and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes, as they can add taste without excess sodium.

Prepare Your Flavorful Calzones and Buon Appetito!

Calzone stands as an emblem of culinary creativity with its versatility that knows no bounds.

Now it’s time to roll out that dough and channel your inner Italian Nonna!

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