In search of the perfect calzone recipe

Another food post. Doh! Well, it’s more of a rant, so there’s that.

Let’s start at the beginning: I’ve hated tomatoes and tomato sauce from a young age. This frustrated my Italian grandparents no end. (Technically only my grandfather was Italian; my grandmother was Slovak.) But I always did like a good calzone. The Northern Lights Plaza used to be a mall, and in that mall was Paladino’s Pizza, whose plain cheese calzones I loved. Gino & Joe’s did one just like it, and they had locations all over: including the Fingerlakes Mall in Auburn, where I lived for a long time. Nowadays I live close to the Northern Lights Plaza, and Paladino’s is still there. I’ve come full circle.

To my mind there is one and only one right way to do a cheese calzone. It should have mozzarella and ricotta, maybe some Parmesan mixed in, and be baked inside a thin crust. That crust should have no coating of garlic, butter, herbs, or anything else. Simple cheese calzone. Anything else just dominates the palate, and you don’t get to truly appreciate that wonderful gooey saltiness of the mozzarella and the soft creamy goodness of the ricotta. (If you didn’t know I was picky, you must be new here.)

After I got married I was close to both Paladino’s and another branch of Gino & Joe’s, but the latter was easier to get to. One fateful evening G&J screwed me: I ordered two calzones (one to save for the next day), and got the kind that’s doughy and is coated in garlic and butter and dried Parmesan. I’d had that kind before from other places, and it just isn’t digestible. Darnit I love garlic, but it ruins the simple cheese flavor I want here, and so does the rest of the crud on the outside. And all that thick, heavy dough is just a waste. This was a betrayal, especially since I’d ordered two; it was like finding out your favorite bakery has been bought up by an inferior chain that destroyed all their recipes, or like all the local Perkins becoming Denny’s (grrr). From that day on, Gino & Joe’s was dead to me. I will not forgive.

Paladino’s still does it right. As for other places, I’m always extremely leery of their calzones and don’t order one without getting some reassurances up front. Some places put sauce inside. Others think either the mozzarella or the ricotta is optional. Sbarro’s sometimes has calzones, but they leave out the mozzarella and add enough oregano to choke a mule. It seems like practically no one can manage a simple cheese calzone!

I’ve always wanted to know how to make calzones myself, but I’ve never had any luck with the dough and neither has anyone in my family—not that any of us has tried much. I don’t know the secret. Regular pizza dough is too thick, but also any dough any of us has ever used doesn’t cook properly. This eludes me, and it’s something I want to know. It’d be nice if I could find a recipe that didn’t involve me having to make my own pizza dough; I have no stand mixer.

The last time I tried to make a calzone was with a tube of Pillsbury’s thin crust dough from the store. It was an epic fail. I won’t go into details, largely because I don’t remember them all. (I do remember I couldn’t get it rolled out properly and it was too thick anyway.) But there’s a part of me that wants to try again and get it right.

The only satisfying calzones I’ve managed to make at home, and this I’ll share as it’s a nice quick thing you can do, is what I call the poor man’s calzone. You just mix up some ricotta and shredded mozzarella, about equal parts, spoon it between a couple pieces of bread, then throw it into a sandwich press. Not paninis, I mean the kind of sandwich press you can use for quick grilled cheese, with a diagonal crimp. The crimping seals everything in for the most part and you end up with nice little pockets of calzone filling, but it’s still not like a proper calzone. It’s just tasty.

Oh, well. The search continues for a good recipe or technique. At least Paladino’s is still on the ball after all these years.

About Lummox JR

Aspiring to be a beloved supervillain
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