What is a Calzone?
A calzone is the original hot pocket. Calzones are authentically Italian just like pizza. They are generally considered a form of pizza and were first sold in Naples in the mid 18th century. Calzones are similar to pizza. They are made with pizza dough, mozzarella cheese, veggies, and other goodies. But calzones are folded over, not sideways like a slice of New York style pizza, but over top on itself creating a pocket to hold the delicious melted cheese and fillings.
Calzone actually means trousers in Italian, and many workers would eat calzones standing up. They were an early Italian fast food. Eating a Napoletano pizza is a sit-down affair requiring silverware and a table. But a calzone can be held in one hand and eaten as workers went about their busy days.
Depending on where you are in Italy, they are made with different ingredients. In Basilicata, they make a calzone with goat meat or pork called a pastizzi. In Apulia, they make a fried version rather than baked called panzerotti. And in Sicily, they stuff their calzones with anchovies, olives, and mortadella. In Marche, they make sweet calzones filled with honey and nuts and topped with sugar.
In Italy, calzones are sold at lunch counters and offer a hearty meal to take on the go. In the U.S., calzones are found at many Italian restaurants, and their fillings vary from chef to chef. Popular fillings include ricotta and spinach; mortadella, peppers, onions; and sausage and mozzarella.
How it Differs From Pizza
Calzones are different than pizza in a few ways. While they may be served with marinara sauce on the side for dipping, you won’t find any sauce on the inside. The fillings are similar to things you might find at your favorite local pizzeria, like a mix of salamis, veggie, parmesan, and mozzarella.
They often include ricotta which is rarely found on pizza. Calzones folded over shape makes it easy to take on the go, and they are usually baked like pizza but can also be fried in oil, creating a crispier crust.
History of Calzones
It’s hard to know the exact time Italians started eating calzones. Many places in ancient Europe had some form of flatbread. The Romans had the thick focaccia, which later turned into pizza.
Then, sometime around the Industrial Revolution, pizzas were turned into a walkable pizza pocket or the working man’s pizza. Back then, they were small and perfect as a single serving. The calzones of today are bigger and can definitely fill the bellies of more than one.
When Italian immigrants arrived in New York, not only did they bring pizza, but they also brought calzones. As Italian immigrants spread to other parts of the U.S., they introduced new variations of pizza-related foods.
Deep in an Italian neighborhood in Philadelphia, the Italian-American immigrants created the stromboli. Stromboli is similar to calzone in that it’s made from pizza dough and has cheese with meat or veggie fillings.
Stromboli starts with an elongated rectangle of dough. Then, it’s filled and rolled up like a burrito. Stromboli only uses mozzarella, while a calzone has a mix of cheeses and almost always incorporates ricotta. A stromboli is usually cut into slices and shared.
How to Make Calzones at Home
Now that you know the difference between a pizza, a calzone, and a stromboli, let’s look at a calzone recipe to try at home.
Since calzones are made with pizza dough, here is a simple dough that you can use.
Simple Pizza Dough
3 cups of flour if you want a crispier crust, use bread flour and chewy crust use all-purpose flour
1 packet instant dry yeast
1 ½ cups warm water
A pinch of sugar
2 pinches of salt
2 tablespoons of olive oil
Mix in a large mixing bowl. Cover with a towel and let it rise for about two hours. Punch it down and let it rise another two hours. Knead on a floured surface and create your calzone.
Or you can buy premade dough at your favorite grocers. Some pizzerias even sell their dough.
Ok, so now you have your dough. Let’s get crazy and make a calzone.
First, you need to decide on filling. There are lots of possibilities.
Here we are going to share our favorite. This classic spinach and ricotta combo is delicious and easy to make.
Spinach and Ricotta Filling
2 ½ cups of cooked spinach (if using frozen, make it 3 cups and squish out the moisture by putting the frozen spinach in a strainer and letting it defrost and squish it). If it’s too wet, you will end up with a soggy calzone, and nobody wants that.
2 cups of ricotta (to be honest we usually just buy the large tub, it is probably more than 2 cups).
Add two handfuls of parmesan cheese, real parmesan, not the green shaker bottle. If you want authentic Italian anything, you have to, I mean absolutely have to, use Parmesano Reggiano.
A handful of grated mozzarella to help it all melt together.
Add ¼ teaspoon of nutmeg and a pinch of salt.
Stretch out the dough like you are making a pizza, add the filling, and fold over. Pinch the sides together. Then, place parchment paper on a baking sheet and lay the calzone on top. Make an easy egg wash of 1 egg and a bit of water. Use a pastry brush and brush the calzone with egg wash. This will give a nice golden top. Slice the top of each calzone for steam to release—Bake on 450F for around 15 to 20 minutes.
This recipe makes two calzones. As the chef, you can play with the size if you want to make smaller calzones or one big larger one.
Helpful Tips for Making Calzones
- Don’t overfill the calzones.
- Don’t roll the dough out too thin as it will break.
- Don’t pull the dough too taut or it will break.
- Do have fun and try other combinations.
- Do feel free to make a double or triple batch and freeze. They will last three months in the freezer in storage bags.
Other Yummy Calzone Fillings
- Chicken, parmesan, and artichokes
- Spicy Italian sausage, sauteed green peppers, onion, and mushrooms
- Anchovy, kale, garlic, parmesan, and ricotta
- Artichokes, black olives, mushrooms, sundried tomatoes, and ricotta
- Proscuitto, mushrooms, parmesan, and ricotta
If you want some more calzone ideas, check out this great cookbook with creative ways to fill your calzone.
Have you tried calzones? What are your favorite fillings?