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How to Make a Calzone — Tips for Making Your Own Italian Classic

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How to Make a Calzone

Sadly, calzones don’t get as much attention as their open-faced counterpart, pizza — which is weird, right? Especially when you consider the genetic makeup of these bad boys.

Loaded with cheeses, topped with Parmesan and filled with your favorite meats and veggies, these half-moon-shaped pies are truly the stuff Italian-food-themed dreams are made of.

Below, we’ll dive into the wonderful world of calzones, with recipes and tips for how to make your own from scratch — or mostly from scratch — coming right up.

Let’s dive right in, shall we?

Calzone Basics

OK, the first thing you’ll notice about calzones are their distinctive shape. It looks like an empanada or an elevated version of your college staple, pizza-flavored Hot Pockets.

The whole concept of the calzone is pretty amazing, though. It’s like an outside-in personal pizza stuffed with delicious amounts of cheese — ricotta, mozzarella and good old Parmesan — and comes with an anything-goes approach to filling.

Calzones usually come equipped with a side of dipping sauce, despite the fact that these pizza-like pastries do typically include a thin layer of tomato sauce on the inside.

Calzones are an Italian street food, hailing from Naples, specifically. Italian calzones tend to be a bit smaller than their U.S. counterparts, making them the perfect portable tidbit for those folks craving crust.

Often, people mix up stromboli and calzones, as both go heavy on the carbs and include much of the same adornments you’ll get on your average pizza. Don’t be fooled — they are not the same.

So, What’s the Difference Between Calzone, Stromboli and Pizza?

Stromboli, calzones and pizza: All are Italian staples, and all contain cheese, meats and veggies interchangeably. Of course, pizzas are the most common and universally beloved of the three — an open-faced flatbread with a lot of versatility.

Calzones are an outside-in version of a pizza, looking like you folded a smaller pizza in half and sealed up the sides. Aside from the difference in presentation, there are a few key distinctions. Calzone fillings all get mixed before filling up the dough, as opposed to pizza’s layered approach. Sauce combines with cheese and meat, then acts as a sort of pie filling.

The second differentiator between calzones and pizzas is the cheese combo — traditionally, pizza is a mozzarella-only zone, while calzone counts on ricotta, Parmesan and mozzarella. That said, the taste experience is pretty similar — though calzones give crust lovers everything they crave.

Stromboli, on the other hand, are similar to calzones in that they’re pastries loaded with cheese and meat. But they differ in the fact that they don’t traditionally have red sauce. They’re more of an outside-in sandwich than an outside-in pizza: a filled loaf of bread that may contain condiments like mustard.

Now that we’ve cleared things up, let’s get into the technical stuff — tips for making a calzone.

what is a calzone

How to Cook a Calzone

There’s some debate about how to make a calzone with pizza dough. You’ll find a lot of variation in toppings — people are confused about which cheeses belong where, or which toppings to include in the mix. The beauty of calzones is there’s no wrong way to make them — the best way to make a calzone is with whatever your favorite ingredients are.

Below, we’ve outlined a traditional calzone recipe, complete with a cheese trifecta and a Parmesan-olive oil finish we think really takes this pastry to the next level.

Ingredients

  • 10 ounces of pizza dough — store-bought or homemade, it’s up to you
  • 2 cups of pizza sauce
  • 1 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup of ricotta
  • 2-3 cups of the pizza toppings of your choice
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Garlic-Parmesan seasoning — two tablespoons of Parmesan cheese, one tablespoon of garlic salt and one tablespoon of dried parsley flakes
  • Flour or cornmeal, for dusting

Instructions

  1. Heat the oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Divide pizza dough into two sections and roll into balls.
  3. Place dough balls on a large baking sheet with a light handful of the cornmeal or flour.
  4. Roll balls around, coating in the dry mixture, then press it into two flattened circles, making sure dough is the same thickness throughout.
  5. In a large mixing bowl, add the three kinds of cheese, toppings of your choice and tomato sauce. Gently mix with a wooden spoon.
  6. Spoon the filling into the two sections of dough, then spread the filling evenly over half of each circle of dough.
  7. Fold the other half of each flattened piece of dough over the filling, creating a half-moon shape.
  8. To seal, add a bit of water to the edges of the dough. Press together with your fingers, then, starting at one end, pinch two sides together and gently twist the dough diagonally.
  9. In a small bowl, combine olive oil and Parmesan cheese mix, then lightly brush olive oil and Parmesan mixture over the tops of the calzones.
  10. Slice steam vents horizontally into the tops of the calzones with a sharp knife.
  11. Place the two pastries in the oven for 10 to 12 minutes, then rotate the pan and cook for another 10 minutes. The crust should appear a light golden brown.
  12. Remove from oven and serve hot.

Note: If you’d like, you can stop at step 8 of these instructions and freeze or refrigerate the premade calzones for later.

How to Bake a Calzone

Before you get started, place your oven rack toward the middle, so the tops don’t get burned. As we mentioned above, you’ll need to rotate the calzones halfway through baking. This step ensures they cook evenly and get a consistent golden-brown color as they bake. The edges should be slightly darker, and the filling should be hot and bubbling.

A quick warning: Some of the calzone fillings might try to escape through the steam vents we mentioned in step 10. It’s nothing to worry about — these pastries are sure to come out tasting delicious, regardless of any attempted escapes.

no wrong recipe for calzones

Nonstick Action

We mentioned this above in the recipe we included, but because you’re working with some very sticky dough, you’ll want to be careful to not dismantle your pastries on the way out of the oven.

Just a light sprinkle of coarse cornmeal can keep the calzone from sticking to your pizza stone or baking sheet, and it gives the crust a nice, crispy crunch. Alternatively, flour can have the same nonstick effect, but you’re not getting the added crunch.

If you’d like to skip adding any extra texture, you can line your baking sheets with parchment paper. As the crust bakes, it sticks to the paper less and less, and you’ll get a nice texture on the crusty hand-pie.

Make Your Own Pizza Dough

If you’re making calzones at home, store-bought pizza dough works just fine. But if you’re an overachiever or Italian-food aficionado, making homemade dough elevates this process to an experience, rather than a straightforward act of cooking dinner.

If you’ve never made dough before, don’t panic — it’s not as difficult as you might think. The secrets to making pizza dough from scratch are patience and the ability to follow directions.

Ingredients

  • 2 packs of active, dry yeast
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1/4 cup of extra-virgin olive oil — keep bottle on hand for brushing
  • Two teaspoons of kosher salt
  • 4 cups of all-purpose white flour — keep additional flour close by for the working surface

Instructions

  1. Add a cup and a half of warm water to a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle your two packets of yeast over the top and let sit for about five minutes. The mixture should become fizzy.
  1. The next step is to whisk in the oil, sugar and salt into the yeast mixture. Then, slowly add the flour, stirring until the dough starts to stick together.
  1. Coat a clean bowl with olive oil and transfer the dough into the new vessel. Cover your bowl with cling wrap, then place in a warm, dark area until the dough doubles in size. This step should take about an hour. Alternatively, you can drape a clean kitchen towel over the top to block out the light.
  1. After the dough has doubled in size, flour a clean work surface and knead your dough a few times before using.
  1. If you wish to freeze the dough for later use, wrap the dough in cling wrap and place in a large Ziploc bag. The dough will stay fresh for up to three months. Otherwise, you’re all set to kick-start your calzone journey.

Toppings and Combos — Tips for Making a Calzone All Your Own

Just like sandwiches, pizza and stromboli, topping combinations for calzones are nearly endless. Calzones traditionally contain ricotta cheese, Parmesan and mozzarella, plus your standard Italian fare — spinach, pepperoni, sausage, tomatoes and so on.

That said, why not customize? In case you’re in the market for a unique calzone that’ll tickle your taste buds and impress your dining mates, here are some ideas.

Please note, the amount of dough will stay the same for all these recipes — we’re just switching up the toppings.

Chicken Sausage and Goat Cheese

Chicken sausage and goat cheese offer a unique spin on the classic calzone toppings. Mushrooms and fresh basil give this calzone an herbal, earthen touch — well-balanced by the side of marinara for dipping.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of cooked, chopped chicken sausage
  • 2 cups of goat cheese
  • 2 cups of mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup of chopped mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup of fresh basil, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil, divided in half
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 cup of your favorite pizza sauce, for dipping

Instructions

  1. Whisk together garlic and olive oil in a small bowl.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, add goat cheese, mozzarella, chicken sausage, basil, mushrooms and olive oil/garlic mixture.
  3. Fill dough with the mixture, then brush with remaining olive oil.
  4. Cook according to the instructions in the original recipe, and serve with a side of marinara.

Vegan Variation

If you’re vegan, allergic to dairy or just need a break from meat and cheese, here are some adjustments you can make to change up your calzone, sans dairy, but loaded up with veggies and vegan sausage. Swap vegan cheese substitute for regular cheese if you’re looking to make it vegetarian instead.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of your favorite vegan cheese shreds
  • 1 cup of vegan sausage
  • 1 cup of marinara for use in the calzone, plus additional sauce for dipping, if desired
  • 1/2 cup of halved cherry tomatoes
  • 1 cup of sautéed onions
  • 1/2 cup of chopped mushrooms
  • 2 cups of greens of your choosing — such as kale or spinach
  • 3 cloves of minced garlic
  • For outside glaze: 2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast, 1 tablespoon garlic salt, 1 tablespoon parsley flakes and 2 tablespoons of olive oil

cornmeal for calzones

Ham-and-Cheese Breakfast Calzones

Because calzones are heavy on the dough and flexible on filling, we find they adapt quite easily to the breakfast table. Ham, eggs and cheddar round out the dish, punctuated by scallions and a dash of greens. We’ve left the marinara off the ingredient list, but feel free to include it if you see fit.

Ingredients

  • 6 eggs, scrambled
  • 1 cup of diced ham
  • 1/2 cup of sliced scallions
  • 1 cup of spinach
  • 2 cups of cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup of mozzarella cheese

Steak-and-Peppers Calzone

Inspired by the cheesesteak, this steak-and-peppers calzone gives you plenty of sautéed veggies, meat and deliciousness topped with gooey cheese.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of cooked steak, chopped
  • 1/2 of an onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 bell peppers, cut into strips
  • 1 cup of pepper-jack cheese
  • 2 cups of mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup of marinara sauce, plus extra for dipping
  • 1/2 tablespoon of black pepper
  • 3 cloves of minced garlic

Barbecue Chicken Calzone

A perennial favorite pizza topping, barbecue chicken is the perfect fit for a calzone. Swap the pizza sauce out for honey and barbecue sauce, and you’ve got a completely different dish on your hands.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of honey
  • 2 cups of shredded cooked chicken
  • 1/4 cup of cilantro
  • 1/4 cup of diced onion
  • 1/4 cup of cooked bacon, chopped
  • 1 cup of barbecue sauce — additional portion for dipping, if desired

Chicken Pesto Calzone

The perfect way to use up some leftover chicken, this calzone trades red sauce for green and throws in some extra veggies for good measure.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of shredded cooked chicken
  • 1 cup of pesto
  • 1 cup of ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup of chopped kale
  • 2 cups of mozzarella cheese
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 2 cloves of minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup of fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup of diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup of diced red onions

breakfast calzone

Still Craving More Italian Food? Yeah, Us Too

Look, we understand — even if you’ve gotten your calzone fix, you’re probably down to go after some pizza shortly after that, or a big pile of hearty pasta. And as much as we love a calzone, a stromboli or any iteration of cheese, crust, veggies and cured meats, sometimes we just want to kick it Chicago style — with a deep-dish, double-decker pie.

If the mood strikes, treat yourself to the Giordano’s experience. We welcome you to enjoy our family-friendly sit-down restaurant, or call us for delivery or carry-out if you’d rather stay in for a pizza and a movie night. Faraway friends, we’ve got you covered, too — order one of our pizzas, and we’ll ship it straight to your door, so you can heat it up yourself.