Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Calzones (or what to do with all that ricotta)

Dear Kate,

You may still be a picky eater, but at least you are branching out within the limited foods you enjoy.  No longer is it plain noodles, but also noodles with red sauce or noodles alfredo.  Then you discovered that noodles, sauce and cheese are even better, liked baked ziti and lasagna.  The same holds true for your beloved pizza.  There was a time when pizza had better be round, not too saucy, not too cheesy, not too brown...well, you get the idea.  This week, during our Pizza Week, you've enjoyed stromboli, deep dish pizza (extremely saucy and cheesy), and calzones.

And not just any calzones, but a calzone with homemade ricotta cheese, which you agreed after viewing the photos, does look like spit up.  Once wrapped in a nice pocket of dough, with a few seasonings and some sauce on the side, you bravely put aside thoughts of spit-up and dug in.  Just a year ago, I think you would have pushed your plate aside and said, "Is there anything else?"  As the saying goes, You've come a long way baby.  (Actually, that is a slogan from an old cigarette ad - something you are not old enough to remember.)

You can make a calzone with any number of ingredients from taco filling to scrambled eggs, but the classic calzone is cheese, maybe some meat or veggies.  For you, I made a simple cheese filling.  For your dad and me, I threw in some chopped pepperoni.  Browned ground beef or sausage is always good too, even leftover meatballs if you have them. The amounts below are guidelines - you can always add more provolone or mozzarella, or other cheese you want to try.


Pizza Dough
2 cups ricotta cheese
4 ounces provolone cheese (shredded)
4 ounces mozzarella (shredded)
2 ounces freshly grated Parmesan
1 egg (lightly beaten)
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil (or 2 teaspoons dried)
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh oregano (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1/4 Cup finely chopped or grated onion
Salt and pepper
Garlic Bread Seasoning (see below)

1.  Preheat oven to 450 degrees, with pizza stone in place if you have one, with rack on lowest position in oven.  (If you have a pizza stone, make sure the oven has a good 30-45 minutes of preheating before you put the calzones in.) Mix all ingredients (other than the dough) in a large bowl. 
2.  Divide dough into four equal portions.  Set three aside, covered.  Place a portion on a lightly floured surface.  Let rest for 5 to 10 minutes.  
3.  Roll dough to a 1/4-inch thick circle.  Move to a sheet of parchment paper cut big enough to accommodate the dough, placed on a pizza peel if you have one or the back of a cookie sheet if you don't.  If you don't have a pizza stone, you can put the parchment on a cookie sheet (right-side up).
4.  Place 1/4 of the filling in a semi-circle on one-half of the dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border.
5.  Fold other half of dough over the filling, leaving a bit of the border uncovered.
6.  Fold that little exposed border of dough up and over, pressing to seal.  Sprinkle with Garlic Bread Seasoning.
7. Make 3 slices on the top of the calzone to allow steam to escape.
8.  Repeat with another portion of the dough.  (My pizza stone allows me to make two at a time.  If you can fit more on your stone, repeat again.)
9.  Using the peel or the back of the cookie sheet as if it were a peel, slide the calzones on the parchment paper onto the pizza stone.  If you are cooking on the cookie sheet, simply place in the oven.
10.  Bake for 15-20 minutes.  Because oven temperature and size of the calzones may vary, check often.  The calzone should be golden brown and cheese just bubbling out the slices on top.
11.  Remove from oven and let sit 5 minutes to firm up.  Serve with warm pizza sauce on the side.

Garlic Bread Seasoning

I got this recipe from ourbestbites.com, and while I wasn't thrilled with it on garlic bread, I do like to sprinkle it on pizza crust or calzones.

1/2 cup powdered Parmesan cheese
2 Teaspoons salt
2 Tablespoon garlic powder
2 Teaspoons dried oregano
2 Teaspoons dried basil
2 Teaspoons dried majoram
2 Teaspoons dried parsley

Whisk together.  Store in the refrigerator, in a container with a sprinkle top if you've got one.

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