I grew up calling them “Panzerotto’s” or “Panzerotti’s” and others know them as Calzones. The truth is that my version is probably not very traditional and can be made 1,000 different ways. What I make is a stuffed pizza – and I love it.
The magic of a Calzone, to me, is that the outsides of the pizza are dry and firm while the inside is semi-steamed and moist from the evaporating sauce and cooking vegetables. The super hot pizza ovens in Italian bakeries tend to cook the bottom so fast that the moisture doesn’t leak through (at least that’s my guess) but home-made results always lacked. I always had the same problem – an amazing stuffed pizza with perfect crust on the top – but the bottom was soggy and generally fell right through.
The results went from marginal failure (an awkward mess) right through to disaster (a deconstructed doughy mess with most of the pizza stuck to the pan or scattered on the floor).
My problem was simple: longer cooking times meant sauce ‘melted’ through the pizza and made the bottom soggy to the point that it either fell apart or it became fused to the pan. My secret to the best home-made Calzone isn’t so much about any recipe – it’s more about how to cook a Calzone so that the bottom resembles the top in terms of texture and composure.
Here’s my secrets:
- Make a pizza dough (here’s a link to our homemade pizza dough which we shared yesterday).
- As your dough rests before rolling, prep your veg and sauce. We use regular tomato sauce that’s cooked at a gentle simmer with some salt and pepper. I often add a few dried hot peppers to rehydrate them at the same time. It’s ok (and even great) for your sauce to be thin (for years I cooked it down to try to stop the leaking at the bottom to no avail).
- Roll it into a long rectangle on a floured cutting board or counter.
- Start to heat the oven – we cook around 450.
- Transfer your dough to a piece of parchment paper (don’t be too delicate – as long as you handle pizza dough with steely confidence, it won’t usually rip :)).
- Make sure you’ve on the parchment paper – it will soon become much more difficult to transfer it.
- Cut slits – lots of them – on both sides of the dough. Don’t be afraid about cutting too close to the center – being too close is actually better (I tend to leave a space as wide as the narrow part of my ladle). It’s ok if you cut through the parchment paper (but you probably won’t).
- Lift the parchment paper and dough and place on a large rack (we use these to cool our jars when preserving). It’s far easier to move it now than when it’s loaded up. This rack is a key component.
- Place the rack on top of a cookie sheet – this will levitate the calzone over the cookie sheet which will later catch our excess moisture.
- Lay down your sauce, veggies and the rest.
- Criss-cross the slits like your tying your shoes. Don’t be too delicate. It’s ok if there’s some space and you don’t have to follow the same pattern all the time. Mine isn’t perfect (it just looks it 🙂
- You’ll notice some sauce has already begun to leak onto the parchment paper. Time to create drainage holes: use a steak knife (or cheap pairing knife) and cut holes close to the Calzone. Cut lots. Excess moisture will drip through these and drain into the cookie sheet. The parchment paper is necessary at the start to stop the dough from baking INTO the rack.
- Bake for 15 minutes – test the bottom of the calzone and as soon as you think it’s cooked enough to not get shredded by the rack, remove the parchment paper by sliding it out. This allows complete drainage and air circulation that will ensure the bottom continues to stay dry and cooks like the top.
- When it’s complete, let the whole thing rest and cool slightly – on the rack.
It may sound like more work than it actually is – the process is simple – keep the bottom out of the sauce and surround it with as much air as you possibly can to get an even bake for the entire product.
I still make the occasional mistake – when I do, it’s always the same one: I pull it out before the middle piece is perfectly done.
I tend to serve my slices smothered in extra sauce – Dana prefers it without.
Do you like thin crust pizza? If so, you have to check out our ‘secret’ technique that will make the best thin-crust pizza you’ve ever made at home.
If you’re going to go through the trouble of making calzones by hand, you should consider preserving your own tomato sauce as well (if you don’t already). There’s nothing on the market that tastes as good as home-preserved sauce and it’s relatively simple (you can also preserve whole tomatoes if you don’t want to buy the equipment to preserve sauce). Here’s a partial guide to our ‘best of’ tomato preserving posts.