If you’re dreaming of pizza dough encasing gobs of yummy melted cheese and a tasty meat filling submerged in a delicious dipping sauce bite after bite, that means it’s time for you to make calzones.
Calzones often are described as folded pizza shaped like an Italian taco. It’s sister food, stromboli, resembles more of a burrito. Both are amazing and similar to pizza, with just a few differences aside from their shape. Calzones are sealed by crimping the edges, trapping that amazing filling inside. Calzones hail from Naples, Italy, and they were likely created as an easier way to eat a floppy, sloppy slice of delectable pizza. Both use cheese, meat, veggies, herbs and special sauce that leave you unable to stop after just one, no matter how stuffed you feel.
Recipe developer Stephanie Rapone has created a calzone recipe that you’ll want to whip up every single week. Just don’t forget to take your dough out of the refrigerator two to three hours before you prepare these delicious treats.
Gather your calzone ingredients
It shouldn’t be surprising that something this scrumptious takes quite a few ingredients. You’ll need olive oil, Italian sausage, cream cheese, shredded mozzarella, fresh baby spinach, fresh or frozen pizza dough (or frozen bread dough), an egg, Parmesan cheese, tomato paste and sauce, oregano, basil, garlic powder, onion powder, freshly ground black pepper, kosher salt, sugar, and flour for rolling out the dough.
Rapone uses turkey sausage specifically for this recipe, because the calzones are hearty enough with the cream cheese. The lighter turkey and spinach balance out some of that richness. Rapone also suggests using full fat cream cheese, but low fat would work fine.
What type of dough to use to make calzones
You’ll need one pound of fresh pizza dough or, if you’d rather keep it simple, you can opt for frozen pizza or bread dough, just so long as it’s one containing yeast, Rapone advises.
"I prefer and recommend the fresh dough, for sure. Frozen dough will be a little puffier, and the texture is more bread-like than pizza-like; pizza dough has more of that chewy texture," Rapone says.
To make fresh pizza dough, you can powdered mix in a package and just add hot water or make it yourself from scratch with a just a handful of ingredients, as we explain here in our deep dish pizza recipe. But if you want to save time, some stores even carry ready-made pizza dough, or you can make your dough ahead of time for meal prep.
Prep the dough for your calzones
Two to three hours before digging in to the calzone recipe, take the pizza dough out of the refrigerator. Then, drizzle two teaspoons of olive oil in a medium-sized bowl and place the dough on top of it. Turn the dough over and over to lightly coat it with the oil. Then, cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a dish towel and stow away in a warm place to rise, such as by the stove or on top of the refrigerator, Rapone advises. The heat will help it double in size, which is the goal.
"If using frozen dough, follow the instructions on the package for thawing and rising. You may need to thaw overnight," Rapone says.
When you are ready to make the calzones, preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Separate the pizza dough into six sections and set it aside to rest while you make the filling.
Whip up the filling for your calzones
Add the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil to a large skillet and heat over medium-high heat. Add in one pound of Italian sausage and brown the meat, crumbling with a spatula. If needed, blot up excess moisture or fat carefully with a paper towel, or strain the meat after it’s cooked.
Add 5 ounces of fresh baby spinach to the meat and then cover the skillet with its lid to let cook for 2 minutes. Remove the lid, stir, and break the spinach up with the spatula, cooking until completely wilted.
Turn off the heat and add four ounces of cream cheese, and then put the lid back on for 1 to 2 more minutes to soften it. Then, add one-fourth of a cup of Parmesan cheese and 1 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese and stir until thoroughly combined. Turn off the heat and set filling aside.
Work with the calzone dough before filling
Choose a surface for rolling the calzones and sprinkle flour across it and on your rolling pin. Roll and stretch each ball of dough into a sex to seven-inch disk approximately a quarter inch thick.
Beat the egg with a fork in a small bowl and set aside. Take about a quarter cup of prepared filling and place it on one side of a disk of dough, right next to the middle (be sure to leave some edges for folding and sealing). Brush the edge of the dough disk with the beaten egg.
Fold the empty part of the disk over the side with the filling to close the calzone. To seal the dough, bring the bottom side’s edge up and over the edge of the top dough, folding in as you work your way around the calzone. When you reach the end, tuck the bit of extra dough under the bottom. Do this for each calzone.
"I find that bringing the bottom dough up over the top and tucking it in, following around the crust, actually holds a seal much better than simply pressing together or using a fork to crimp the edges," Rapone says.
When done filling and sealing the calzones, brush the closed calzones with the remaining egg. Then, add two to three small slashes onto each pocket with a small knife and sprinkle the calzones with the remaining Parmesan cheese. Bake until golden for approximately 12 to 15 minutes.
Make the calzone dipping sauce
While the calzones are baking in the oven, combine 6 ounces of tomato paste, 15 ounces of tomato sauce, 1 tablespoon of dried oregano, 1 teaspoon of dried basil, half a teaspoon of garlic powder, half a teaspoon of onion powder, one-fourth of a teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper, half a teaspoon of kosher salt and 1 teaspoon of sugar in a medium saucepan. Heat the pan on the stove over medium-low heat with the lid on, but stir every minute, so the sauce doesn’t scorch on the bottom.
"The dipping sauce is something I came up with. I wanted a pizza sauce that was thicker than the stuff that’s already pre-made at the store, and I love the dried basil and a little sugar in pizza sauce. And it had to be fast," Rapone said. "I used to make [these] for my roommates in the pre-family days. They’re just different enough than a super cheesy pizza, but still so yummy and satisfying."
Once the sauce is done, serve it warm with the calzones, and enjoy!
To make these calzones with homemade pizza sauce you’ll need some pizza dough, tomato sauce and paste, sausage, mozzarella and parmesan, herbs and veggies.
- 4 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 pound bulk Italian sausage or turkey sausage
- 4 ounces cream cheese
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella
- 5 ounces fresh baby spinach
- 1 pound pizza dough
- 1 egg
- ½ cup Parmesan
- 6 ounces tomato paste
- 15 ounces tomato sauce
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 tsp. dried basil
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- Dry flour for rolling dough surface
- Take the dough out of refrigerator two to three hours before cooking
- Drizzle 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a medium bowl
- Place the dough in the bowl and turn it over to lightly coat in the oil
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a dish towel and put in a warm place to rise
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit
- Separate pizza dough into 6 sections
- Add the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil to a large skillet and heat over medium-high heat
- Add sausage and brown, crumbling with a spatula
- Add spinach, cover with lid and let it cook for 2 minutes
- Remove the lid
- Stir and break the spinach up with the spatula
- Turn off the heat
- Add the cream cheese and put the lid on for 1 to 2 minutes to soften.
- Add one-fourth of a cup parmesan
- Add the shredded mozzarella
- Stir until thoroughly combined
- Turn off heat and set aside
- Spread some dry flour on your rolling surface and on your rolling pin
- Roll and stretch each dough ball into a 6 to 7- inch disks about a quarter-inch thick
- Beat egg with a fork in a small bowl
- Place about one-fourth of a cup of filling just to the side of the middle of dough.
- Brush disk edge with beaten egg
- Fold the top of the disk over
- To seal, start at the edge and bring the bottom dough up over the edge of the top dough and work your way around the calzone
- Tuck extra dough tail under the bottom
- Repeat for all six calzones
- Brush tops with egg
- Add 2 to 3 small slashes on each calzone with a small knife
- Sprinkle remaining parmesan on top of calzones
- Bake until golden, approximately 12 to 15 minutes.
- Combine the tomato paste, tomato sauce, dried oregano, dried basil, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, salt and sugar in a medium saucepan
- Heat over medium-low heat on the stove with the lid on stirring every minute
- Serve calzones with warm pizza sauce for dipping.