Thursday, May 17, 2012

Calzones with Arugula Pesto

Well, I suppose I can’t really say I know all the secrets to making perfect calzones, ones that don’t leak as they bake or don’t get mushy. I can say, however, that just a little while ago, I made some that turned out as well or better than any I’ve made before. Putting aside whether or not that makes me someone who knows what I’m talking about when it comes to folded pizza pockets, I thought I’d tell you what I did this time and why I think it worked.

First of all, my basic method involved starting with Whole Wheat Pizza Crust (all-whitecrust works, too). The crust recipe makes four calzones, each of which makes a meal for one, a meal that is actually a biggish meal for me. I stuffed these with ricotta cheese mixed with a simple pesto made with arugula, parsley and pistachios, which I topped with kalamata olives before folding the crust over it all to tuck it in.

I gave up a long time ago on putting anything too saucy, like, well, sauce, inside my calzones. I make a relatively dry stuffing, usually heavily cheese-based and tuck in a few “toppings”, trying not to fill the dough to bursting. I think keeping things relatively dry keeps the calzones from getting too soggy, but also keeps the potential level of interior steam down so that there is less chance of bursting crust and filling leakage. Similarly, I try not to make my stuffing ingredients greasy. Let’s face it. Once the grease is folded into the crust, it has nowhere else to go.

Another problem I’ve had with recipes involving stuffed yeasted dough is having the dough rise too much and too quickly as it bakes so that it puffs so much it unfolds itself. This is another source of bursting and filling leakage. Clearly, the dough needed a longer rising/relaxing time before hitting the heat. This time I let the calzones sit on the baking tray for 20 minutes before baking. Not a single one of them popped open or leaked in the slightest! I’m sure this is the first time that has ever happened.

I made a batch of Pizza Sauce that we dipped these in to eat them and not only were they sturdy and easy to eat without a knife and fork, but they also happened to be delicious. The arugula pesto I threw together was simple but nutty and just slightly sharp from the arugula when mixed with the ricotta. The olives made it briny and salty, but not mushy and the crust was slightly crisp on the outside and chewy in the interior.

So, there’s my mini treatise on calzones. I’m sure some expert could prove me wrong, but I think most of the above guidelines are good starting points, and I stand by them…and I hope they continue to stand after I make another batch of calzones!

Here are some dough and crust recipes from The Messy Apron archives that I think might work for making calzones, at least with some modifications in size and baking time. (I haven’t tried most of them myself.)

Pizza Crust (all-white flour)
Yeasted Tart Dough with Whole Wheat Flour
Pastry for Empanadas (not yeasted)
Easy Cream Cheese Pastry (not yeasted)

I also think these other pesto recipes would work in the stuffing mixture:

Basic Basil Pesto
Spinach-Chive Pesto

Other cheeses and “toppings” you might add or use:

Homemade Cottage Cheese
other kinds of olives
well-drained pre-cooked Italian sausage
sun-dried tomatoes
cooked or frozen chopped spinach (well-drained)

You get the picture…

Arugula-Pistachio Pesto
This sauce doesn’t have to be used in a calzone. Use it anywhere you might use pesto.

I used salted pistachios. If you use unsalted, you may want to adjust the added salt to taste.

Since this is a relatively small batch of pesto, this might be a good place to use a smaller food processor. It takes a little effort to get all of the ingredients well-processed in a standard sized processor.

¼ cup chopped shelled pistachios (I used salted)
1 cup (loosely-packed) arugula leaves, any tough stems trimmed
½ cup (loosely-packed) parsley leaves and tender stems
pinch coarse salt, or to taste
a few grinds black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil, preferably extra-virgin

1. Place the pistachios in a food processor and process until finely chopped. Add the arugula, parsley, salt and pepper and process to achieve a coarse paste.

2. Through the opening in the top of the processor lid, pour the olive oil in a thin stream while the machine is running, and process until the pesto is smooth. Stop and scrape down the sides of the container as needed. Adjust seasonings if desired.

Makes about ¾ cup.

Calzones with Ricotta and Arugula Pesto
You could use whatever pesto you like in these calzones.

My ricotta cheese was very dry. Be sure to drain it of any excess moisture if yours is moist to avoid a soggy interior.

1 recipe Whole Wheat Pizza Dough or plain Pizza Dough (I used whole wheat), preferably risen overnight and punched down
1 medium clove garlic
¼ teaspoon coarse salt
1 cup ricotta cheese, drained of any excess moisture
1 egg, beaten
1 recipe Arugula Pistachio Pesto (see above) or other pesto you like, about ¾ cup
½ cup chopped kalamata olives
1 recipe Pizza Sauce for serving (or other sauce you like)

1. Divide the dough into 4 equal portions. Roll the portions into balls. Cover and let stand while preparing the filling mixture.

2. Chop the garlic. Sprinkle the salt on the chopped garlic and prepare a garlic-salt paste. Scrape up the garlic-salt paste and place it in a medium-size bowl.

3. Add the ricotta and egg and beat together well to combine. Mix in the Arugula Pistachio Pesto and set aside.

4. Roll each ball of dough into an oval about 1/8 inch thick. Place the dough ovals onto a lined or greased baking sheet.

5. Divide the ricotta filling mixture evenly between the four ovals, spreading it on one half of the oval and leaving at least half an inch around the edges to seal the dough. Evenly divide the olives among the four calzones and place them on top of the ricotta filling.

6. Fold over the empty side of the dough ovals. Try to do more folding than stretching. If the filling doesn’t fit without stretching the dough over it, you may have too much filling. Crimp to seal. Let the calzones stand about 20 minutes.

7. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Bake the calzones at 400 F for about 30 minutes or until the crust is nicely browned and crisp (it will likely soften as they cool). Cool on a wire rack. Serve with your favorite pizza sauce.

Makes 4 calzones, about one large serving each.

No comments:

Post a Comment