I have a fascination with hand pies. A precursor to the sandwich, they’re portable, eaten with the hands, (hence “hand” pie), and can be filled with almost anything edible that won’t dissolve the crust. In my last post we traveled in our kitchens to bonnie auld Scotland and made the iconic Scotch pies. This week we’re heading down to Italy to make some calzones.
Calzones are Italian hand pies invented in the southern Italian city of Naples during the 18th century. Filled with cheese, vegetables, and often meat, they’re named, for some reason, after pants. Some say it’s because you can walk and eat them at the same time. Not your pants, the calzones. If I invented calzones, I probably would’ve named them “stivali” for boots. Boots are made for walking, right? Pants are made to protect your legs and your nethers from the elements and roaming eyeballs. Apparently, I was born a couple centuries too late and on the wrong continent to name them boots. So, we’ll just have to go with calzone. It’s actually not a bad word. In fact, it’s delicious.
How to Pronounce Calzone in Italian
For me, all Italian words sound like food – really, really good food. Take boots and pants, for instance. Who wouldn’t want to eat stivali or calzone? Of course, people who speak Italian would probably die before they ordered stivali from a menu, but you know what I mean. On the other hand, they eat “pants.” So, who knows? (By the way, in the U.S., we eat Hoppin’ Johns and Limpin’ Susans. Suddenly, eating pants seems reasonable.)
All that aside, it’s nice to know how to actually pronounce something you’re going to eat. English speakers usually pronounce “calzone” like the “kal” in California and “zone” like school zone. You probably already guessed that’s not how it’s pronounced in Italy. No. In Italian, they say “kal’tzone” with the “tz” sounding like “ts” and the “e” on the end sounding like the “e” in “egg.” The plural of calzone in Italian is “calzoni” or “kal’tzonee.” So, if you’re an English speaker at home, you can call this a recipe for calzone (kowl-zōn) but, when in Rome, you know…
How to Make this Calzone Recipe
Make the Dough and Let it Rise
Basically a folded pizza, calzones really are very simple to make. Some people use store-bought pizza dough to make them. When I cook or bake, I usually don’t like to share credit with a machine and an assembly line. So, I make most everything fresh from scratch, especially dough. I love dough. It’s magical. Flour, water, and salt must be the most versatile combination of ingredients on the planet. I love touching it, stretching it, shaping it, and with some added yeast, I love watching it grow. But, if you’re busy or in a hurry, by all means, use store-bought pizza dough. I won’t tell.
To make calzone dough, add a cup of warm (100° – 110° F / 38° – 43° C) water to a medium bowl and stir in the yeast to dissolve. Next, add the flour and salt. Mix with a spoon or your hands until a dough forms. It will be a little tacky. Allow the dough to rest for 15 minutes.
After it’s rested, knead the dough on a well-floured surface with well-floured hands for about two minutes. You don’t want to overwork it. The dough should be smooth. Divide it into four pieces – a scale comes in handy here – and shape each piece into a ball. Roll the balls in a lightly oiled bowl until they are coated with oil and set them side by side in the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and allow them to rise at room temperature for 1 1/2 hours or until they have doubled in size. When the dough is about half risen, place a pizza stone on the bottom of the oven and preheat to 425° F. If you don’t have a pizza stone, line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
Make the Filling
While the dough is rising, chop the peppers and onions and mince one or two cloves of garlic. Add two teaspoons of extra-virgin olive oil to a small pan and sauté the peppers and onions with a pinch of kosher salt until lightly softened. Stir often to avoid scorching. Add the garlic to the pan and cook for 30 seconds more while stirring then, remove the pan from the heat.
Place the sautéed vegetables in a bowl along with all three cheeses and stir until well combined. If you like, add a couple teaspoons of crushed red pepper to the cheese mixture to “kick it up a notch.” You can also chop the pepperoni slices and mix them in with the cheese and veggies. Or, just leave the slices whole and layer them over the cheese mixture when assembling the calzones.
Assemble the Pies
When the dough has doubled in size, cut the balls apart in the bowl. They’re actually wedges at this point. Remove each wedge from the bowl and gently reshape them into balls. One at a time, press each ball into a disc and roll on a very well-floured surface into an 8 inch circle. Then, spread one quarter of the cheese mixture over the half of the circle closest to you, leaving a one inch margin from the cheese to the edge of the dough, and layer five pepperoni slices over the cheese, if you haven’t mixed them into the cheese already. Fold the empty half of the dough over the top of the pepperoni and cheese mixture by lifting it and pulling it towards you. You should now have a semi-circle. Press the edges together with your fingers right up to the edge of the filling.
At this point I like to make sure the edges are sealed by pressing them together with a fork. Then I lay the tip of my left index finger (non-dominant hand) at an angle on top of the one inch edge of dough, starting on the left tip at the fold. Then, I pull the edge of the dough up over my fingertip and press it down firmly just next to the edge of the filling. I continue doing this until I reach the other end of the dough. This makes a pretty edge. You can use any technique you like to seal the edge. Just make sure there’s no way for the filling to leak out while baking.
Once the edges are done, carefully lift the unbaked calzone onto a piece of parchment placed on a pizza peal or a sheet pan. This is why it’s important to make sure your rolling surface is well-floured. You don’t want your beautiful calzone to be stuck to the counter.
With the pie on the parchment paper, cut three slits in the top crust to keep it from blowing up like a balloon in the oven. It’ll still puff up a bit while baking, but the slits will allow the hot air to escape and the pie will flatten out again. Now, using a pastry brush, thinly paint the top of the calzone with the well-beaten egg. This is the egg wash and it adds color and a bit of shine to the crust.
Lastly, sprinkle the top of the pie with a bit of Italian seasoning and shredded Parmesan cheese and bake for 15 to 17 minutes. I have a round pizza stone on the bottom of my oven and a pizza peal that will easily hold two calzones. So, I bake in two batches. If you have a large enough stone or baking sheet, you should be able to bake all four pies at once. Place the sheet on a lower middle rack to bake and keep an eye out for burning. If your bottoms are browning too fast, raise the sheet pan to the next higher level.
Remove from oven and allow to cool on baking racks for 5 to 10 minutes. This will keep the bottoms from getting soggy. Serve with your favorite pizza sauce on the side for dipping.
Want more hand pies? Try my Mexican Fried Picadillo Empanadas!
Equipment Needed to Make This Recipe
- Mixing bowls and spoons
- Measuring devices
- Chef’s knife
- Cutting board
- Digital thermometer (optional)
- Kitchen scale (optional)
- Pastry mat (optional)
- Rolling pin
- Dough cutter (optional)
- Small sauté or frying pan
- Pizza peal (optional)
- Pizza stone or sheet pan
- Parchment paper
Nutrition information an estimate based on online calculators.