When you’re a pizza, you know no insecurities. Your recipe is so good, it lasts for centuries. There’s no question of self-improvement, no wondering, are these ingredients right for me? You’re pizza—your recipe just is. And we’re so glad that it is. Pizza, thanks for being you.
But, even with a recipe so grand, there is still room for self-transformation. Pizza, we accept you as you are, as you’ve been, and as whatever you may be. ‘Til death do us part. Everybody changes, rearranges themselves in new ways. Yet, at our core, our ingredients are still the same. When you’re made of the good stuff—no matter how life shapes us—your delicious essence remains.
So, pizza, when you want to spread your curved wings into a beautiful cheesy pie, we’ll be there to eat you. And when you want to just close your eyes and curl up into a calzone, we’ll be there to eat you. We’ve gotta say, you’re irresistible either way. To all the fellow Weirdoughs and Pizza Freaks out there, come closer. Take a peek and a whiff. Step into the Calzone Zone, where we’ve got recipes for HUGE Custom Calzones! We think you’ll like it here.
What The Heck is a Calzone?
If pizza is a wide-winged butterfly, a calzone is like a cocoon. Both have got the same basic ingredients—a salted bread dough that’s oven baked, mozzarella cheese, and any number of other cheeses, meats, or veggies. But, a calzone is more like a pizza turnover or an Italian dumpling, rather than a pizza pie. To make a calzone, the pizza dough is rolled out into a thin, round crust, filled up with those yummy cheeses and meats, then folded over on itself into a half-moon shape. Once that pizza-dough purse is loaded and sealed up, into the oven it goes!
Much like a pizza, there’s really no wrong way to make a calzone. Since it’s a turnover rather than a flat pie, a calzone is often served with a side of marinara sauce for dipping. But, calzones may also use a thin layer of sauce or include tomatoes as part of the filling. In Italy, calzones aren’t quite as popular as pizza, but that’s a tough comparison to make…they’re still pretty darn popular! Pizza tends to be a dish enjoyed out at a restaurant in Italy, in part because the pizzas can be so gooey and soft in the middle. On the other hand, Italians have long considered calzones to be the most efficient type of pizza for delivery! The folded-over crust ends up trapping the heat inside, so the calzone doesn’t arrive at your doorstep cold.
Granted, in modern times most pizza delivery services have a system for keeping their goods warm…but I digress. The calzones-for-delivery trend seems to be an unspoken tradition in Italy. You can find calzones in pizza’s homeland, Naples, where they’re commonly made with sausage and mozzarella cheese. But, calzones are actually most popular in areas of Southern Italy. Each town has its own variation and, famously, some of the calzones are even deep-fried! (Ours, unfortunately, was not, but there’s always next time.) And, of course, the calzone exists far and wide outside of Italy—in the many New York style pizzerias, all across Philadelphia, in Chicago where it’s known as the deep-fried pizza puff, and beyond. But, where’d the calzone come from? (HINT: It’s not actually a cocooned pizza waiting to turn into a butterfly…)
A Topsy-Turnover History
To understand how the calzone came into the world, we’ve got to go back to pizza’s earliest origins: flatbreads. As long ago as Ancient Egyptian times—around 5,000 years ago—humans were already baking round, flat breads that looked like prehistoric pizzas. They were often covered with oil and herbs, and archaeologists have even found evidence that those flatbreads were served at birthday celebrations for Egyptian Pharaohs! The genius and delicious flatbread spread to other civilizations, paving the way for pizza’s glory.
A quality dough was crucial for the evolution of pizza AND calzone, but the calzone has its own unique history. Some claim that calzones were first mentioned in the 1400s in Apulia, or Puglia in Italian, a region in Southern Italy. Puglia is well-known for its history of delicious foods and Pugliese cuisine, and many people think the calzone was first an Apulian specialty dish during the Middle Ages. Others believe the calzone’s origins can be traced back to Muslim cultures in medieval Arab times. As far back as the early 9th century, over 1,000 years ago, there was a fried, stuffed pastry known as the sansubak in Arabic. If this theory is true, we have the sansubak to thank for inspiring the calzone and other deliciously-stuffed foods, like the samosa and the empanada!
The name “calzone” is actually a Southern-Italian dialect pronunciation of the Italian word calzoni, meaning “pants leg,” “trousers,” or “stocking.” It comes from calza, the Latin word for stocking, and several hundred years ago in Italy, calzoni referred to a type of baggy pants. Why name a pizza turnover after a style of pants? Some people suggest it’s because the calzone is a “walk-around” kind of meal that could be carried out from a restaurant and eaten without utensils. Others say it’s because the calzone is filled, like a stocking tends to be filled with a foot. So put on your calzoni and grab a calzoni as you stroll about town! (Although, we do not recommend this with our calzones, due to their hugeness.)
Calzoni or Stromboli?
Now we come to a subject of much debate and confusion: the calzone vs. stromboli. Are they one and the same? NO—but sometimes the line gets blurry. Let’s look at the facts.
We know that a calzone is a crescent-shaped turnover, that’s stuffed with pizza ingredients and then baked. Much like the early pizzas in Italy, the calzone was (and generally still is) a single-serving dish meant for one person. A stromboli, on the other hand, is more like a pizza sandwich. It’s very long, almost like a hoagie sandwich, and is cut into slices for several people to eat. Rather than being stuffed, the pizza dough is layered with ingredients like Italian cold cuts, cheese, and sometimes veggies. It’s then rolled up into a cylindrical loaf shape before it’s baked, and it’s often topped with pizza ingredients like marinara sauce. But, there are many stromboli variations from pizza place to pizza place, so they can be hard to distinguish from calzones in some cases.
Calzones and stromboli have lots of similar ingredients and flavors, somewhat different shapes, but the biggest difference is the country each dish calls home. The calzone is generally accepted as an Italian dish—whether it originated in Puglia, or the sansubak traveled to Europe and was pizza-fied in Italy. But, although stromboli is served in Italian restaurants across the U.S., it’s not a traditional Italian dish! Stromboli is actually considered an Italian-American creation, with its roots in Philadelphia as recently as the 1950s. And, even though Stromboli is the name of an island in Southern Italy, the guys who came up with the dish actually just named it after a movie: Stromboli.
Welcome to the Calzone Zone, We've Got Fun & Games
Now that you’ve got your brain in the Calzone Zone, why don’t you try making one? Granted, these aren’t quite ‘traditional’—we overestimated the size of our dough a bit, resulting in huge calzones that are best shared with friends. And, even though we pizza-fied one of these behemoths, the other is a BBQ calzone. But, in the Calzone Zone (just like the Pizza Zone), there are no rules! Make ‘em as huge as you want, stuff it however you like, and just Eat the Calzone why don’t ya.
Pizza Calzone Filling (Alyssia’s Calzone):
- chopped red onion
- garlic paste
- sliced mushrooms
- fresh basil, chopped
- tomato sauce
- garlic powder
- dried oregano
- blue cheese
- shredded mozzarella cheese
- parmesan cheese
- shredded cheddar cheese
BBQ Calzone Filling (Christian’s Calzone):
- shredded chicken (we used pre-cooked pre-shredded chicken)
- BBQ sauce
- garlic paste
- baked beans
- Worcestershire sauce
- chipotle seasoning
- shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- 1 ¾ to 2 ¼ cups all purpose flour
- 1 packet yeast (we used a pizza crust yeast!)
- 1 ½ tsp sugar
- ¾ tsp salt
- ⅔ cup very warm water (120°F-130°F)
- 3 Tbsp oil
*NOTE: These dough ingredients come directly from the procedure provided on our package of Fleishmann’s pizza crust yeast!
To make sauce for Pizza Calzone filling:
- In a pan over medium heat, sauté chopped red onion and garlic paste in oil, until fragrant.
- Add sliced mushrooms and continue to cook (about 3-5 minutes).
- Stir in chopped basil and tomato sauce and season to taste. (We used garlic powder & dried oregano!) Allow sauce to heat through (about 2-3 minutes).
- Remove from heat and set aside.
To make BBQ Calzone filling:
- In a large mixing bowl, combine shredded chicken, BBQ sauce, garlic paste, corn, and baked beans. Stir to integrate.
- Add a drizzle of honey, some Worcestershire sauce, and some chipotle seasoning, if desired. Mix to combine.
- Stir in shredded sharp cheddar cheese. Set aside.
To make your dough:
*NOTE: Most of this dough procedure is directly from our package of Fleishmann’s pizza crust yeast!
- Preheat oven 425°F (220°C).
- Combine 1 cup flour, undissolved yeast, sugar and salt in large bowl. Add water and oil. Mix well until blended (about 1 minute).
- Gradually add enough remaining flour until a soft dough ball forms. (Dough will be slightly sticky.)
- Knead dough on a floured surface, adding additional flour if needed, until smooth and elastic (about 4 minutes).
- Slice your dough ball into desired pieces. (We cut our dough in half into 2 pieces, which is perfect for mega calzones bigger than you head. But splitting the dough into fourths—using ¼ of the dough each for our calzones and saving the rest of the dough—would have worked fine for more moderate sized calzones…)
- Roll dough out flat until it’s very thin (about ¼ of an inch), and shape it into a circle, about 12 to 14 inches across.
To assemble your Custom Calzone:
- Leave dough on floured surface. Load filling onto one half of your flattened, circular pizza dough, leaving about 1 inch of room along the edge of your dough. (You’ll be folding the other half of the dough over the top of your filling and sealing the two rounded edges together!)
- For a pizza calzone, first pile on sauce, then layer on cheeses and pepperoni. Feel free to spread a thin layer of sauce on the half of the dough that will be folded over. For a BBQ calzone, pile on your BBQ mixture, sprinkle cheddar cheese on top, and spread on a bit of BBQ sauce. (Really, you can make your calzones however and with whichever fillings you like!)
- Once you’ve loaded on your fillings, fold half of dough over the top of your fillings and match up the rounded edges. Press edges of dough together. You can either fold dough over on itself slightly with your hands to make a seal, or use a fork to crimp the edges shut. (It may look like a big empanada, which is okay.)
- CAREFULLY transfer your sealed calzone(s) onto a baking sheet lined with parchment. We recommend using a large spatula (or a few) and a friend (especially if you don’t have a pizza peel…).
- Slice a few slits into the top of each calzone. (Don’t cut so deep you slice THROUGH the calzone, just slice through the top layer of dough. This way, the heat can circulate and your calzone won’t explode in the oven!)
- Before placing in oven, whisk up one egg and brush it on the top of your calzone. (This will help the dough become crispy and golden-brown!)
- Bake for 10-30 minutes, depending on the size of your calzone. You’ll know it’s done when it’s nice and browned on top and the dough is fully cooked! (Since your filling should already be pre-cooked, you just need to worry about the dough cooking through.)
- Allow to cool slightly but then go ahead and EAT THE CALZONE.
Yields 2 MEGA HUGE Custom Calzones.
(Or 4 More-Reasonably-Sized Custom Calzones.)