When calzones started to become ubiquitous in pizza parlors in California in the early 90’s, I was intrigued because they were not like the ones we had growing up. The ones that they started serving were filled with basically all of the ingredients one would get on a pizza and then baked. In essence, they’re pizza pockets, and my research shows that these indeed are popular around Italy in a variety of forms. Still, they weren’t Carol’s (my mom) or nonna’s (my grandma). This is their recipe.
As I have said many times, my Italian family hails from Naples, Italy, and recipes vary widely depending on the region. For example, in my later twenties, I tended bar at a fine dining Italian restaurant in Irvine, California, and the superb chef from Apulia, Gino Buonanoce (his name translates literally as “Gino Good Walnut”), served a panzerotti, which means “belly-buster.” This thing was a baked foot-long pillow filled with cheese, olives, capers, and other sundries; four people would have trouble finishing this beast. From what I know, the calzones I ate growing up are street food in Naples, and when you try one, you’ll understand why they’re still popular.
A very sad time in my life occurred when Carol burned her hand pretty badly while frying calzones for us for dinner. As she was flipping one, she caught a fingernail on it and the back of her hand splashed into the hot oil. Ow. From then on, she became a bit gun shy about making them, and instead started to bake them, which is a different idea entirely in terms of flavor. My nonna also started baking them, citing that fried dough isn’t very healthy. ‘Tis true, but goddamn will it bust your nuts. So a year ago, I found the recipe and decided to make them, frying and all, health be damned. My first bite knocked me back 25 years, and while I won’t make these all of the time, tempting as it is, they are on the “special treat” menu for the years ahead.
This recipe is meant to use the leftover half of the dough from my nonna’s dough recipe (https://dinnerwithjonny.com/2012/11/12/nonnas-pizza-from-naples/). You can substitute any pizza dough, I imagine, and you’ll be fine. Also, traditionally, the only meat in here would be diced salami, but I decided to get a bit funky with it for kicks.
Pizza dough for one full size pizza
1 small ball mozzarella cut into 1/4″ slices
1/2 to 3/4 cup ricotta cheese
1 cup diced salami or pepperoni slices
1/2 cup grated or shaved Romano or Parmesan cheese
Salt and cracked black pepper to taste
1/2 cup oil for frying
Roll out the pizza dough into roughly a 12″ square (if you need flour to keep it from sticking, cool). Cut this into four smaller 6″ squares. If they’re a bit oblong and awkward, no worries, as you’ll see.
Working with one small square at a time, place 1 to 2 slices of mozzarella on the dough, but a little off-center (it’s going to be like a turnover, in other words). Place a scoop of ricotta on the mozzarella. Then, top this with 1/4 of the salami or pepperoni, and then add 1/4 of the parmesan. Sprinkle it with salt and pepper. Repeat this with the rest of the dough squares. You’ll get this:
(Note: I added a touch of pizza sauce to this to experiment, fyi. Also, notice the abnormal dough shapes. No big whoop.)
Now for each one, take the farthest corner and pull it over the cheese mound. Seal the edges by folding the bottom dough over the top dough and pinching it closed. You’ll get these:
(Rustic ugly is a good thing for me.)
In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. You have to wait for it to get hot before you fry each one. A good rule of thumb is that a drop of water will crack like the dickens when it touches the hot oil. But, you don’t want the oil too hot or the inside won’t melt totally.
Place one calzone in the oil at a time. Fry each one slowly, basting the top with oil as it cooks. Flip over and make sure each side is a nice golden brown. It takes me about 2 1/2 minutes for each side. Remove from the oil and drain on paper towels. Let them cool slightly and serve them.
If you want to serve these with a side o’ sauce, go for it, but they are unbelievable on their own.
A glass of beer would round out the festivities for sure, but a glass o’ red wine does the trick as well.
Say it loud, and louder in conservative company:
Acqua Fresca, Vino Puro
Fica stretta, cazzo duro.
Until later, eat, drink, and peace out, yo.
©Jon Marino 2013