Take pizza night to a whole new level — and get your kids to eat their veggies — with this easy, flavor-packed vegetarian calzone recipe.
What is a Calzone?
Like pizza, the calzone was born in Naples, Italy, sometime in the 1700s. Unlike pizza, however, calzoni (the plural of calzone) were designed for on-the-go eating. (In Italian, calzone means "trousers" or "pants legs"; Italians gave these pizza turnovers that name because people typically ate them while walking.)
To make calzoni, you roll out small pieces of pizza dough into rounds, top them with mounds of meat, cheese, and/or veggies, and then fold over the dough to make half-moon shapes. True Italian calzoni are single-serving pockets, but some American pizzerias make family-style versions by folding a large uncooked pizza in half. (In fact, next time you mangle your pizza when trying to maneuver it from the peel to your baking stone or steel, simply fold it over and call it a jumbo calzone!)
Though my vegetarian calzone recipe is delicious, I won't pretend that its fillings are authentically Italian. More commonly, these pizza dough turnovers are filled with a simple mixture of ricotta, other cheeses, spinach, and/or cured meats. Here, I bake them, but they can also be fried . . . if you're feeling dangerous.
Can You Freeze Homemade Calzoni?
Yes! (And by the way, you can also make the filling for the following vegetarian calzone recipe ahead of time: Cook the veggies, mix them with the cheese, and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.)
To freeze unbaked calzoni:
- Form the calzoni but do not brush them with egg wash or cut slits in the tops (follow recipe steps 1 through 6.) If you have room, transfer the parchment-lined baking sheet with the formed calzoni to the freezer. If your freezer isn't big enough to accommodate the whole baking sheet, place the formed calzoni on plates or whatever will work and freeze them, unwrapped, for 1 hour. Take the partially frozen calzoni out of the freezer, wrap them tightly in plastic wrap, then an outer layer of aluminum foil, and freeze for up to 3 months.
- To bake the calzoni, preheat your oven to 400°F. Unwrap the frozen calzoni and place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush the tops with egg wash and cut a few slits in the top of each calzone. Bake for about 40 to 50 minutes, until the crust is deep golden brown.
To freeze fully baked calzoni:
- Take the calzoni out of the oven and let them cool completely to room temperature. Wrap them tightly in plastic wrap, then an outer layer of aluminum foil; freeze for up to 3 months.
- Reheat the frozen calzoni in the microwave or oven until warmed through.
A Few Tips for the Perfect Vegetarian Calzone
- Cut the mushrooms and bell peppers into small dice, and make your broccoli florets the same size. That way, all the veggies will cook in the same amount of time.
- Resist the urge to add marinara sauce to the fillings. Though some calzone recipes include marinara sauce on the inside, I find that the liquidy sauce just seeps out during baking. It's much more satisfying to dip the oozy, hot calzones in cold, fresh-made marinara sauce.
- Play around with the cheeses! Ricotta is a natural for calzoni because it doesn't melt and makes for a satisfying, almost fluffy filler. However, feel free to swap in any shredded hard or semi-hard cheese for the mozzarella and/or parm. Cheddar, gruyère, Colby, Gouda, Swiss, and Monterey jack cheeses are all great options. Stay away from fresh mozzarella, though, because it will become too watery as it melts and will probably seep out during baking.
Vegetarian Calzoni with Broccoli, Red Bell Pepper, and Mushrooms
- Cutting board and knife
- Large skillet
- Rolling Pin
- parchment paper
- large rimmed baking sheet
- pastry brush
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 large garlic cloves, minced or pressed
- 1 small head broccoli, cut into small florets
- 4 to 6 cremini (baby bella) mushrooms, stemmed and chopped
- 1 small (or ½ large) red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and chopped
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 8 ounces low-moisture mozzarella cheese, shredded (2 cups)
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- ¼ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 1½ teaspoons dried Italian herb blend (or 1 to 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil and/or parsley)
- 1 (14- to 16-ounce) ball pizza dough (1-Hour Dough, Overnight Dough, Sourdough Pizza Dough, Neapolitan Dough, and Whole Wheat Dough will all work great), at room temperature
- 1 egg
- Super-easy marinara sauce or your favorite store-bought pizza sauce, for dipping
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the garlic and let it sizzle for 30 seconds, then add the broccoli, mushrooms, red bell pepper, a big pinch of salt, and a grind or two of black pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and let it cool slightly; if the mixture looks wet, blot it with paper towels to get rid of the extra liquid.
- In a medium bowl, combine the mozzarella, ricotta, parmesan, herbs, and cooked vegetables. Season with a pinch or two of salt and a grind or two of black pepper, and mix well.
- Place the dough on a lightly floured surface. Use a bench scraper or knife to cut the dough into four equal-size pieces, then roll out each piece into an 8-inch round.
- Crack the egg into a small bowl or ramekin, add 1 tablespoon of cool water, and beat it with a fork until frothy. Using a pastry brush, coat the edges of each dough circle with the egg wash. (Do not dump the egg wash when you're done—you'll also need it for brushing the filled dough before baking.)
- Spoon one-fourth of the veggie-cheese filling onto each dough round, nudging the filling to one side (you don't want it in the middle). Fold the naked dough over the filling to make a half circle; press down on the edges to seal. Transfer the filled dough pouches to the parchment-lined baking sheet.
- To make sure your filling doesn't ooze out during baking, press/crimp the edges of the calzoni one more time (check out the video below to see how I do this). Brush the tops of the dough with egg wash, and use a sharp paring knife to cut 2 to 3 slits in the top of each calzone so steam can escape during baking.
- Transfer the baking sheet to the oven. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the calzoni are deep golden brown on top and evenly browned on the bottom.
- Remove the calzoni from the oven. Let them cool for 5 minutes or so, then cut them in half and serve with marinara sauce for dipping.