If you like pizza, you probably like calzones as well. They both contain a lot of the same ingredients and both originate in Naples, Italy. But if you’ve ever seen a calzone, you might wonder if it’s just a pizza folded in half. Is it true?
No, a calzone is much more than a pizza folded in half – in fact it’s more like a stuffed crust pizza turnover than anything else. To make a calzone, a pizza dough is stretched out and loaded with toppings on one side only, with the empty side pulled over top of it to make a pocket. This pocket is then topped with tomato sauce and basil and baked just like a pizza.
That being said, I can see why many people think of calzones as a folded pizza – it kind of is one. But this is mostly just during the preparation process, while the finished and baked calzone is very different from a regular pizza.
Let’s talk about what a calzone is, where they come from and what makes one different from a pizza. I’ll also give you a mini-tutorial so you can make one yourself at home.
A Calzone Is A Kind Of Pizza Turnover
A calzone is actually a kind of pizza itself. At one point in Italy, the calzone was considered the best kind of pizza to take on the go or to get delivered to your house because of its pocket-like nature.
In some ways, you can consider the calzone as a kind of Neapolitan pizza-pocket, but not exactly like the gross ones found in American frozen food aisles.
Calzones, like pizza, originate in 18th century Naples and roughly translates to “pant legs”. It was designed as a working-person’s food because of it’s ultra-portable design. Unlike a regular Neapolitan pizza that needs to be eaten with a knife and fork, a calzones toppings are all on the inside so it can be eaten like a sandwich.
Calzones Are Made Similarly To Pizza
A calzone is made in a very similar way to a regular pizza – but also very different. That is, it starts off the same way but then veers off towards the middle of the preparation to become its own kind of food.
To make a calzone, you first need pizza dough – the same kind of pizza dough you’d make a pizza with. The pizza dough is stretched, or slapped in the traditional Neapolitan fashion into a disc shape. But here’s where things get a little different.
Instead of covering the entire dough with toppings like a pizza, a calzone is only half covered leaving the other side totally plain. These toppings traditionally include a hearty helping of ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese and perhaps a light helping of salami or some other kind of cured meat.
When the toppings are placed, the plain side of the dough is stretched over the topped side and sealed to create a pocket of fillings. This is very similar to the way a traditionally turnover is made because it’s essentially the same thing.
With the toppings now completely encapsulated by the pizza dough, a small helping of tomato sauce is spread over the middle of the top of the calzone. Not enough tomato sauce to make it sloppy, just enough to crisp in the oven to give it a bit of texture and extra flavor. Finally, the calzone is garnished with a basil leaf and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
Why A Calzone Is Not Like A Pizza
I started off this article by saying calzones are not just a folded pizza but then went on to describe how to make a pizza, fold it in half and call it a calzone. Isn’t that contradictory?
No, although you’d be forgiven for thinking so just by listening to me describe it. A calzone is very much like a folded in half pizza in theory, but the end result is actually quite different.
When the calzone is fully prepared and baked into a nice and crispy finished product, you’ll see that the calzone is not simply a slice of pizza folded in half. A calzone is much more like a slice of stuff crust pizza – but not like the kind Pizza Hut sells with melted cheese in the outer crust.
With an authentic calzone, the entire “crust” is stuffed with “toppings”. If you can imagine two slices or pizza placed on top of each other like a sandwich – this is a bit what a calzone is like, but with a much softer and gooier center since the inside is never exposed directly to the oven’s heat.
But remember – a calzone isn’t like a pizza, it is a kind of pizza. Just not simply a regular pizza folded in half.
How To Make A Calzone
This isn’t so much a formal recipe, rather it’s a mini-tutorial so you can get a visual idea of how a calzone is made by an expert. For this, I’m going to use the work of Salvatore Salvo, a master calzone maker in San Giorgio a Cremano, Italy via the amazing Italia Squisita Youtube channel.
1. Start off with a good quality Neapolitan style pizza dough. You can even use my recipe here, but make sure you’ve balled it and let it proof before working with it.
2. Stretch the dough just as you would for a normal Neapolitan pizza using your hands to preserve as much of the air pockets and gas in the dough as possible.
3. Spread whatever toppings you choose on roughly half of the calzone dough. You can choose any toppings you like, but for this example it’s ricotta cheese, fresh fior di late cheese, sliced salami and fresh black pepper.
4. Pull the empty side of the dough and stretch it over the toppings to create a pocket, just like you would making a turnover dessert.
5. Spread tomato sauce sparingly over the top of the pocket and garnish it with a basil leaf and olive oil.
6. Bake the calzone until the crust is crispy and golden. It won’t come out looking like this one in a normal home oven, but you get the idea.
And there you have it – a brief introduction to the calzone, as well as some simple instructions to follow to make your own at home.
I love a good calzone, but I don’t make them nearly often enough. And if you’re ever in Naples, I definitely recommend picking one up and eating it on the go like it’s design to be.
And as a side note, calzones are not the same thing as stromboli, the well-known Italian-American food commonly found in NYC, even though they both share some similarities. But that’s a story for another time.
What’s your opinion on calzones? Is it just a glorified pizza folded in half? Let me know in the comments below.