Being from New York, I have a deep fondness for all things Italian “fast food”. I am still convinced there is no pizza like a slice from any pizzaria in my home town! (Sorry artisanal blah blah pizza…!) In college there was a tiny little pizza kitchen in the student union, which had previously been a bar, and they made fresh cheese calzones that were amazingly good! That’s all I would eat, and boy did I love it! In case you don’t know what they are, think hand pies, or they are called pasties in Michigan. You can fill them with all kinds of goodness!
I was trolling my Twitter feed the other day, ad came across this article from Saveur magazine, a recipe for homemade fried calzones. I was intrigued, and read with skepticism. It would be way too complicated, waiting for dough to rise, etc. Well, it turns out it’s the simplest possible dough, no rising, no waiting for yeast to proof. So, dear reader, here is the simplest dough possible, and with a little imagination, an easy and yes, fast, evening dinner. If you’re really ambitious and have some time, you can also make your own ricotta for this with this recipe.
For filling, you can honestly use a small amount of anything, veggies, meat, different additions of cheeses or a combination of any of them. Just remember, more is not better with these. Small amounts of flavor work really well if you’re frying them and the baked method shouldn’t be overstuffed, it will cause them to explode when cooking. Baking takes about double the time to make them, but they come out just as delicious!
Calzones (makes 6 pies)
- 4 cups flour, plus more for dusting
- 3 tsp. baking powder
- ¾ tsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste
- 1½ tbsp. canola oil, plus more for frying
- 1 ½ cups cold water
- 2 cups ricotta cheese
- 8 oz. chopped prosciutto/cooked and cooled sausage/cooked and cooled mushrooms/cooked and cooled spinach or any filling you like
- 6 oz. mozzarella, shredded
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
If you’re baking these, when you’re ready, pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees, start this about 20 minutes before you’re ready to bake them.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt, mix them well. Add the oil to the water and stir to combine, then add to the flour mixture. Stir well with a wooden spoon, the mixture will be rather sticky. Turn all of the contents of the bowl out onto a lightly floured surface and knead with your hands. It will feel too dry and then suddenly will spring into a lovely soft dough. Once the dough is well kneaded, form it into a ball or square, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and allow it to rest for 30 minutes. While it’s resting you can make the filling.
Since I make these for the Hubby and I, I split the ricotta into two bowls, I make one a meat eaters mixture and one a veggie mixture. Combine the ricotta and the filling items you have in a bowl, season with salt and pepper and any other seasoning you may want. Take a pinch and see if it tastes good to you. If not, amend until you like it. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and put in the fridge until you’re ready to use it.
Once the dough has rested, cut the ball in half, then each half into 3 even pieces. At this point, if you’re frying them, put about 2 inches of canola or peanut oil in a high sided pan, put a plate nearby with some kitchen towel ready to drain the pie. Put it on a medium heat, until a little flour sizzles when you drop it in.
Take the first piece of dough and put it onto a clean dry surface, and press it into a round shape. Then use a rolling pin to roll it into a roughly 9 inch circle. Once you’ve gotten the shape, take 2/3 cup of the ricotta mixture and place it on the center of half of the dough, and spread it until it has a 1 inch border of free dough. Sprinkle mozzarella over the mixture, to cover it. Wet the 1 inch edge all around with some water and your fingers, just dabble the edges, it will look like the photo below.
Once you have wet the edges, carefully pull the edge over the filling to form a half moon shape. Be sure to get as much air out of the pie as you can, and use a fork to crimp the edges closed. If you’re only making one, you can stop here and freeze the rest of the cough and filling for another time. If you’re making more follow the same directions.
If you’re frying these, check the oil, to make sure it’s hot, and cook these one at a time, 3 or 4 minutes on one side until it’s golden brown, then flip and cook the other side, another 3 – 4 minutes.
Remove the completed pie from the oil and drain it on the paper towels you prepared earlier.
If you are baking them, make all the pies and line a jelly roll tin, or a cookie sheet with parchment or foil. If using foil, brush it with a little oil so nothing sticks. Bake them in the oven for 10 minutes, then flip them and cook another 5 – 10 minutes, or until they are puffed and start to turn golden.
You can serve these with some marinara sauce for dipping, or just as they are. They’re hot, so be sure to let them cool before you bit or cut into them.