It is so easy to get caught up in the stress of the day, the distractions of the week. I’ve talked before about putting those anxieties aside and sequestering myself in the kitchen, throwing 100% of my time and attention into the meal I am creating. I need this time. It sustains me for the moments in between. The only other time I feel as if I can take the opportunity to look inward and think about where I am and how I want things to ‘end up’, is in the early morning hours on Louisville’s waterfront park. It is there that I meet a group of strong, beautiful women and we are led in a hour of rigorous exercise by two inspiring instructors, Sarah and Amy of Inner Strength Louisville. Anyone who knows me even a little knows that I am not a natural athlete. Unlike my triathlete sister or my brother who found success on the football field, I was not born with the predisposition to get up and workout. If you haven’t gathered by now, I really enjoy eating and drinking. This indulgence, coupled with turning 30 in three weeks and a slowing metabolism, have made exercise more necessary than ever. Getting it out of the way first thing in the morning, while exhausting at times, has proven to be the ideal scenario. I even find myself looking forward to it! I realized that, in this hour of dawn, I am filled with optimism and hope. My time is spent looking inward, watching the sun rise over the Ohio River. And I am offered so much support. My friends at bootcamp ask about my blog, tell me they’ve tried recipes, encourage me. It is just the affirmation I need to keep working on foodie-girl, to get through my list of recipes to work on for the week, posts to write. It was my fellow-camper Ashley who came up with the idea of using my pizza dough recipe for a calzone! I could hardly wait to take this on myself and the results were absolutely delicious! The options for the filling are endless – just look at it as your favorite pizza in one handy, incredibly tasty package. I am so happy I found the ladies of Inner Strength. They provide me with a daily dose of confidence and empowerment. And, of course, the inspiration for this calzone – a pretty fantastic start to the day for this foodie-girl!
The first test run of the calzone came with a colorful mix of veggies for the filling. We took a few notes, but were really pleased with the overall results. At the top of Z’s list for our second go-round? Spicy sausage, one of his favorite pizza toppings. I agreed to this, as long as we could include my favorite pizza topping – mushrooms. When it came time for the calzone’s photo shoot, we had a filling rich with flavor. A slow stew of mushrooms, tomatoes, onions, plenty of garlic and Italian sausage provided a great base for the trio of cheeses that rounded out the filling. Preheat a pizza stone or baking sheet in the oven at 450 degrees. Begin by sauteing one half of an onion in two tbs of olive oil. Let the onion soften for three minutes and then add the mushrooms, tomatoes and garlic along with one tsp kosher salt and one quarter tsp freshly grated black pepper. Stir to combine and add one half of a tsp red pepper flakes. Keep the heat on medium low and stir for five additional minutes, letting the tomatoes break down and begin to release their juices. Turn the heat up to medium and add one pound of sausage, breaking it apart in the pan. Allow the entire mixture to cook and blend together for ten minutes, turning the heat to medium low half way.
While the filling is simmering, turn to the pizza dough. I love making double batches of this dough, freezing for future use. It takes a short four hours to defrost on the countertop and the recipe couldn’t be easier to make.
Flour the counter-top and roll the dough into a thin rectangle, about a quarter of an inch thick. Before adding the filling, make sure there is an even coating of flour under one side of the rectangle, the side where you will layer the filling and which will then become the bottom of the calzone. You want it to be as easy to transfer to the pizza stone as possible and this should prevent the raw dough from sticking to the counter.
Cheesy-goodness! You can have some fun with the cheese you use in the filling, but ricotta is the classic base that brings it all together. Combine one cup whole-milk ricotta cheese, one cup of fresh mozzarella cut into quarter-inch cubes and one quarter of a cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese in a large bowl.
The addition of one quarter cup freshly chopped basil adds freshness to this otherwise wonderfully rich mixture.
Remove the sausage and mushroom filling from the heat. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the filling into the bowl with the cheese, making sure to drain as much liquid from the filling as possible. Mix well.
Layer the filling onto one side of the dough, the same side with the extra flour, making sure to leave a one-inch boarder.
Mmmmm…. garlic butter. Doesn’t get much better! Melt two tbs unsalted butter with one tsp garlic salt in a small saute pan. Using a pastry brush, run the butter around the boarder of the calzone. It will act as a glue, sealing the edges together. Pull the opposite end of the dough up and over the filling, pressing the dough into itself and crimping the edge upward securing the filling in this perfect pastry pocket!
Remove the pizza stone/baking sheet from the oven and CAREFULLY transfer the calzone to the pan. This part is a little tricky, as the dough isn’t firm and the filling has added a lot of weight. I used three spatulas, sneaking them under the sides. Z assisted with the transfer and everything made it there in one piece! Brush the top with the garlic butter and bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes, watching the top brown and bubble.
Remove to a cutting board and allow to rest for three minutes. This helps the filling sit-up a bit, keeping it from running everywhere when you cut in to the dough. Slice the calzone into wedges and serve with warm marinara sauce. The garlic crust is slightly crunchy, with the base of the calzone soft and a little gooey from soaking up all of the delicious filling. The mozzarella is oozing out of the sides and the earthy flavor of the mushrooms is a great counter-point to the spicy sausage. Thank you Ashley for the inspiration and thank you Inner Strength for helping me find just that – my own inner strength.
Makes One Large Calzone, Serves Four
- one ball pizza dough
- two tbs olive oil
- two cups baby portabella mushrooms, thinly sliced
- half of an onion, diced
- three cloves garlic, minced
- two cups roma tomatoes, chopped
- one half tsp red pepper flakes
- one tsp kosher salt
- one quarter tsp black pepper
- one pound hot Italian sausage
- one cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
- one cup fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into quarter-inch cubes
- one quarter cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- one quarter cup fresh basil, chopped
- two tbs butter
- one tsp garlic salt