If you've only eaten calzone at a pizzeria, you may think that ricotta and mozzarella are the only fillings used in this "inside out" pizza-like treat. In fact, I never order calzones at the local pizzeria because I find this filling bland and unimaginative. Whether you love to make your pizza dough from scratch, as I do, or you buy it from your local pizza joint--almost all of them will sell it to you--or the supermarket, you have to try different meats and vegetables and condiments for this wonderful treat. About the only caveat is to keep your filling somewhat dry so that you don't end up with a soggy crust.
Thanks to my usual habit of making too much food for company, I had quite a lot of grilled Italian sweet sausage that I had frozen from our Fourth of July BBQ. I decided that calzones and a large green salad were just what the weather called for, so I whipped up a batch of pizza dough before I went grocery shopping. I had the sausage defrosting in the refrigerator and all that was left was to pick up a few red peppers at the supermarket.
The calzones went together very quickly; baked in under 15 minutes; and, were delicious as is or with a side of sauce (just like Jack Spratt and his wife, Larry likes his calzone with sauce; I like mine dry). The wonderful crusty dough was the perfect housing for the chopped Italian sausage; the salty pecorino romano cheese contrasted wonderfully with the sweetness of the fried peppers. I can't wait to try a few more combinations in the future--I'm thinking broccoli rabe and shredded pork with a balsamic reduction or chopped chicken with pesto and gorgonzola. What combinations can you suggest for my next calzone session?
For the dough:
2 pkg. active dry yeast
4 - 4 1/2 cups all purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 tsp sea salt
For the filling:
2 tbs olive oil
2 red bell peppers, seeded and thinly sliced
1 lb sweet Italian sausage, casing removed and meat crumbled
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
1/2 cup pecorino romano cheese, grated
1 egg beaten with 1 tbs water
To make the dough:
Pour 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water into the bowl of a stand mixer. Sprinkle the yeast over the top and let stand until slightly foamy, about 5 minutes. Place the bowl on the mixer fitted with the dough hook. Add 1/2 cup of the flour and the salt, mix until combined. Add the remaining flour, about 1/2 cup at a time, continuing to mix until all of the flour is incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl if necessary. Knead the dough with the hook until the dough is soft and smooth but not sticky, about 10 minutes. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface, divide into 6 portions, then shape each into a ball. Rub each ball with oil and lightly oil a rimmed baking sheet. Place the balls on the baking sheet and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours.
OR, shape the dough into a large round, coat with olive oil, place in a large zippered bag, and place in the refrigerator overnight. When ready to bake the pizzas, remove the dough from the bag and divide into 6 balls. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet and allow to come to room temperature, about 1 hour.
To make the filling:
In a frying pan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the pepper slices and a teaspoon of salt and cook until they begin to brown, about 10 minutes. Add the sausage meat, red pepper flakes, and cook until the meat is browned. Set aside to cool.
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F about 30 minutes before baking. Lightly oil a rimmed baking sheet. Lightly flour your work surface.
To make the calzone:
Place 1 of the dough balls on the work surface. Flatten into a disk. Turn the disk over and sprinkle with additional flour, and, using your hands, stretch and work the dough into an 8-inch round.
Place one-sixth of the filling in the center of the dough round and sprinkle with one-sixth of the cheese.Lightly brush the edges of the circle with the egg mixture, then fold the dough in half over the filling. Crimp the edges with a fork.
Bake on the bottom rack of the oven until the crust is crisp and golen, about 12 minutes. Serve at once. I don't know how these would freeze since the leftovers were designated for the next day's lunch.