CalzonePizza gets old. Trust me, I’m a pizza fan, but sometimes I like to tweak the ingredients into something just a little bit different. Hey, I’m not the only one–calzones certainly seem like an excuse to reinvent pizza.

Calzones, with their pizza-like dough that’s folded over yummy ingredients like Italian sausage and mozzarella cheese, do seem an awful lot like a handheld pizza. But what I like about calzones is the excuse to dive into the fridge and uncover fun ingredients to toss in. Roasted veggies on hand? Make a roasted veggie and cheddar cheese calzone. Pesto and leftover chicken? Throw in some Parmesan and mozzarella, even a little baby spinach, and you have a tasty pesto calzone. (This time we made sausage and veggie calzones and the veggie variety were my husband’s favorite!)

You can cut down the prep time for calzones and buy pizza dough from the grocery store, but where’s the fun in that? Yes, calzones do take some time to make, but if you use your food processor, it goes pretty quick.

Hint #1 I always, always double the recipe and freeze some of the extra calzones to use for lunches or a quick dinner later. Making a big batch of dough also means that I have to get creative—who wants 12 calzones all with the same filling? I let my kids come up with whatever cheese and meat or cheese and veggie—or more likely cheese, meat and veggie–combo for their calzones.

Hint #2 Only put a couple tablespoons of sauce—tops—into the calzone! Putting in too much sauce makes for a soggy calzone. Serve heated up spaghetti sauce, alfredo or pesto sauce along with the calzones and let your kids dip instead of trying to tuck the sauce inside.

Hint #3 Let the calzones rest after they’ve baked for at least 15 minutes. These come out hot. Your kids will like them a lot better if the calzones have had time to cool down.

Hint #4 Calzones make for easy breakfasts. You can even eat them cold!

Recipe

Inspired by a recipe that first appeared in Cuisine at Home.

Prep Time: 30 minutes + rising time of 1 ½ hours

Servings: 4-6

1 cup warm water

1 yeast packet

¼ teaspoon sugar or honey

2 Tablespoons olive oil

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 ½ cups bread flour (optional, or just use more all-purpose flour)

1 Tablespoon sugar or honey

2 teaspoons salt

Filling ingredients (mix and match a meat and cheese—or 2!)

1 pound Cooked Italian sausage

1-2 cups Mozzarella cheese

½ cup Parmesan cheese

½ to 1 cup Ricotta Cheese

Dash of salt and pepper

Other possible ingredients

Diced ham

Roasted veggies

Prepared spaghetti sauce (for dipping and to include with the filling)

Directions

In a large measuring cup or small mixing bowl, put the first 3 ingredients into the bowl and whisk vigorously. Let this mixture sit for around 6 to 10 minutes or until you see bubbles forming (the bubbles show that the yeast is active and that your dough will rise, yeah!). After the mixture has stood and bubbled, go ahead and add in the oil.

In a food processor (you could do this with a standing mixer or a handheld mixer, but it’s easiest in the processor), pulse together your flours, 1 Tablespoon sugar and salt. Just a note on the flours, bread flour will make the dough stiffer and the finished calzone crispier. I’ve found that using all bread flour makes the dough too hard to roll out. The 50/50 combo works perfectly. Once these ingredients are blended, run the machine as you pour in the yeast mixture. The batter should come together to form a ball (this should only take a few seconds).

Spray a large mixing bowl with oil. What I do is let the dough rest in the food processor while I clean out the mixing bowl. I towel dry it and then spray it with oil. Not only does taking a minute to clean out the bowl make for less mess, but the bowl is also slightly warm when I put the dough in it, making it rise that much more.

Remove the dough ball from the food processor and onto a lightly floured cutting board. Gently knead the dough a few times until it’s no longer sticky and feels smooth.

Place the kneaded dough ball into the oiled mixing bowl and cover with plastic wrap that you’ve also lightly sprayed with cooking oil.

Let rise for 1 hour.

After rising, punch down once and then place the dough ball onto a lightly floured cutting board. Divide the dough with a sharp knife or pastry cutter into 6 pieces. Form the 6 pieces into balls and then place them on a lightly oiled baking pan. Cover the pieces with a slightly damp cooking towel. Let them rise for 30 more minutes while you prep the filling ingredients.

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit (yup, that’s hot!).

Lightly spray a 9 x 13” baking pan with cooking oil and then sprinkle with cornmeal to prevent the dough from sticking to the pan.

In a bowl, mix a combination of your selected ingredients. For example, 1 pound Italian sausage plus 1 to 2 cups mozzarella cheese, ½ cup Parmesan, ¼ pound diced ham or replace the sausage with diced, roasted veggies. I also like to add ½ to 1 cup ricotta cheese and 1 tablespoon of prepared spaghetti sauce. So get creative with the calzone fillings!

One at a time, take one of the dough pieces and using a rolling pin make a circle ¼” thick on a floured cutting board. Move the dough onto another floured cutting board for filling. Place about ½ to ¾ of a cup filling into the center of the dough circle. Pull one end of the dough over to meet the other side. With your finger, place a little bit of water onto the inside edge of the dough circle to seal.

Use the edge of a fork to make indents into the sealed end of the dough. (So now that your circle is a half circle, the curved side.) Place the filled calzone onto the prepared baking dish and prepare the rest of the dough pieces using the same process.

Lightly brush the calzones with olive oil before placing them in the oven.

Cook for 10 to 15 minutes or until the calzone are lightly browned at the edges. Let the calzones rest for at least 15 minutes before serving. Heat spaghetti sauce to serve with the calzones.

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