Mushrooms can be very fancy. It’s the closest you can get to eating dirt.Tom Colicchio
Realizing we are almost at the halfway point in our pizza journey (and in this crazy year!) we wanted to try something new. There’s a vegan restaurant we love a few hours from our home that serves an amazing mushroom and vegan cheese calzone.
Because of Covid-19 we haven’t been to a restaurant in 3 months. Today is our 3rd anniversary, so to celebrate, we wanted to try and recreate the calzone we love in our own kitchen.
I did a little research about the origins of this yummy food. Like its sister the pizza, calzone was invented in Naples in the 18th century. Pizza was considered a food you sat down to eat at a table with a knife and fork, like a civilized European. Italians are not big fans of eating on the run. But workers needed a meal they could grab and eat on the go.
Calzoni (plural for calzone) were known as “walking around pizza.” The name calzone is related to the Italian words for “trouser” and “pant leg.” Eighteenth century Italian calzoni were much smaller than the American versions we are familiar with today. The small half-moon shaped pockets were easy to eat with one hand.
Like many food items that Americans have embraced from abroad, we super size it and add our own twist. It’s customary in America to top calzoni with a brush of olive oil, a dash of salt, some crushed garlic, a sprinkle of parsley, and to serve it alongside marinara sauce for dipping. I think these are excellent additions to this culinary marvel.
From my research it seems that most people use the same dough for pizza and calzoni. We used our favorite recipe and added a teaspoon of dried oregano that made the crust smell delicious as it was baking in the oven.
A few tips about this dough recipe… I’ve made it with both active dry and instant yeast and have not noticed a difference. I’ve run out of sugar (I usually buy organic brown coconut sugar) and substituted honey, which gave the crust a nice flavor. I’ve run out of EVOO and used avocado oil or walnut oil instead. All three of these oils work great. I wouldn’t use coconut oil for this recipe. If you don’t have pizza flour, all purpose or bread flour work too. Traditional pizza in Naples is made with 00 flour, which has a lower gluten content than either all purpose or bread flour.
- 2 teaspoons active dry or instant yeast
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 cup hot water (about 110°)
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 2-2.5 cups pizza flour, plus extra for dusting
- Mix yeast, sugar, and hot water in a large bowl. Set timer for 3 minutes. Yeast should foam/ bloom.
- Add oil, salt, and oregano.
- Stir in 2 cups of flour. Use your hands (they will get sticky, but it’s nice to work directly with your dough) or the end of a wooden spoon or spatula.
- Take a look at your dough. If it is too wet to handle, add additional flour. Add a bit at a time and don’t overdo it. The dough should be sticky to the touch. I fill a 1/4 cup measuring cup, sprinkle in half that amount of flour, mix, see if that’s enough. If not, I add more, slowly. You may need to add up to 1/2 cup total to get the right consistency.
- Cover your dough with a damp tea towel and let it rest for 15 minutes, longer if you have time.
For the inside of your calzone, you can use any vegetables you like. If you are ambitious, you can make your own vegan cheese. Calzoni are frequently made with a blend of ricotta and mozzarella cheese. My partner and I are not big fans of ricotta, so we went with mozzarella only. The melted cheese really brings the dish together.
- 1/2 small yellow onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, smashed
- large handful crimini mushrooms, sliced
- 3 small sweet peppers, sliced
- 1/3 English cucumber, sliced and quartered
- 1 cup vegan mozzarella cheese
- olive oil for frying veggies or vegetable stock
- salt, pepper, cumin
- Let frying pan heat up for 5 minutes while you finish chopping your veggies.
- Add a glug of oil. Add the onions. Stir occasionally for 3 minutes while the onions cook.
- Add garlic and stir.
- Add mushrooms and, if using, a few tablespoons of vegetable stock or coconut aminos.
- Add your veggies and stir in your spices.
- Let the veggies cook in the frying pan for about 5 minutes on low-medium heat while you roll out your dough.
It’s up to you how big you want your calzoni. You can make a big family sized one or portion your dough into individual serving sizes. Using the dough recipe above, we made 3 calzoni (since it’s our 3rd anniversary) and saved one piece for the next day. As you can see in the photos below, ours were about the size of my hand.
I used about 1/3 cup of mozzarella and 2/3 cup of veggies to fill each calzone. Place the ingredients on one side of the dough, leave 1/2 inch of naked dough around the edge.
Fold the untopped side over the mound of veggies. Tuck the top edge of the dough into and around the bottom edge of the dough. Press down the edges with a fork.
Brush the top with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt. Cut two or more thin slits into the top of your pocket to let steam out while cooking. This is an important step, so don’t skip it.
As always, make sure your oven is super hot before baking. We preheat ours to 450° for 40 minutes, then turn it down to 425° once we put the calzoni into the oven. Ours took 14 minutes to bake to golden brown perfection. We could smell that they were done!
We really liked the calzoni and had fun making them. We used an extra piece of dough to make the same veggie medley as a flat pizza the next day. We liked the novelty of making calzoni but in general prefer pizza.
If you are a fan of Parks & Recreation, you may disagree. Calzones are, afterall, “a portable, delicious meal that is its own container.”
Whether you prefer pizza or calzone, we wish you buon appetito. Until next week…