Crunchy Calzones with Italian Sausage and Broccoli

Nicole and I ate at a local Italian restaurant last week. This place is expensive and shi shi. The menu reads well and the decor was upscale and modern. I had my doubts about the food when I noticed the salt and pepper (pre-ground) shakers on the table. We ordered an appetizer with “roasted bell pepper” as one of the components. It was very obvious to me the peppers came from a jar and I lost all respect for the place. I ordered a calzone for my entree thinking “how bad could it be?” Needless to say I was inspired to make my homemade calzones for Nicole.

I would like to commend you if this is your first time making a calzone.  It’s a little laborious and evolved but very rewarding. The filling is versatile as you are limited only by your imagination. Here are the ingredients for the dough. I prefer using yeast from a jar. It stays fresh in your refrigerator for quite a while. 

You want your water to be warm. If it’s too hot you risk killing the yeast. About 90°F is good. Add the salt after the flour to protect the yeast. 

Mix the ingredients with a dough hook until thoroughly combined and “stretchy” looking. About five minutes on low speed. (If you don’t have a mixing bowl, you can do this on a floured surface)

Pour a tablespoon of olive oil into the bowl to coat dough (make sure dough can slide around bowl). This will make it easy to come out later.

Cover with plastic wrap and a dish towel.

Place in a warm spot to rise. I live in Florida, so for me that’s outside on the patio. If it’s cold outside you can place the bowl on the back half of your stove top and turn the front two burners on low for about ten minutes or so to create a warm environment.  

While your dough is rising, gather your ingredients for the filling.

I like to caramelize my sausage on high heat to get it well caramelized. Color = Flavor. I slice open the sausage links and discard the casing.  

I like to caramelize the garlic, onion, and chili flakes as well. 

Place all ingredients in a bowl and mix well.

Here is how the dough should look after about 25-30 minutes. Hit the side of the bowl to deflate the dough and scrape out onto your counter. 

Cut the dough into 12 equal pieces. It does not have to be exact. I have a digital scale that I use for accuracy. Flour your surface and roll each piece into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and let the balls rest for about 10 minutes. This will help the gluten relax so you can roll them out easier. 

Roll the ball to 1/4 inch thick. Don’t worry about the shape too much. Spoon about 1/2 cup of filling just off center leaving room on all sides.

Fold the top over the filling and pinch the two sides together from the bottom to the top.

Place on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.  If you do not have parchment you can oil the pan to keep from sticking. Coat each calzone with XVOO and cut two slits across top. This will allow steam to escape. 

Bake at 425° F for about 20-25 minutes or until well browned and crunchy.

I like to brush the calzone again with XVOO as soon as they come out. The oil soaks in and gives it a nice “fruity” olive oil taste.

And that’s it for Crunchy Calzones with Italian Sausage and Broccoli! Happy eating!

Crunchy Calzones w/ Italian Sausage and Broccoli
Serves 12
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2 cups warm water
2 pkg yeast or 1/2 oz.
5 cups of all purpose flour
4 tablespoons of XVOO (plus extra for coating and brushing)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 pound sweet Italian sausage
4 cloves garlic minced
1/2 medium onion sliced thin
1 teaspoon chili flakes
1/4 head of broccoli (cooked)
2 eggs
2 pounds whole milk ricotta
1 teaspoon nutmeg
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
For the dough
Mix all ingredients in the bowl of a mixer and mix on low for approximately five minutes until dough has a "stretchy" appearance. Pour a tablespoon of oil over dough and swirl around dough to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and a dish towel and place in a warm spot for about 20-25 minutes until dough rises to the top of bowl.
Cook sausage, onion, and garlic. Allow to cool. Combine with the rest of ingredients and season to taste with salt and fresh ground black pepper.
For the Calzone
Punch down dough and turn out onto counter. Cut into 12 equal portions and roll each into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 10 minutes. Roll out dough into a 1/4 inch circle. Spoon 1/2 cup of filling just off center in a line leaving room on each side. Pull dough over filling to close. Pinch both sides closed from the bottom to the top. Coat with XVOO and cut two slits in the top. Bake at 425 F for 20-25 minutes until well browned and crunchy. Serve with marinara.
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