For Christmas this past year, I gave my husband the book, Lidia's Italian American Kitchen, which is a collection of recipes by beloved restaurateur and PBS TV chef, Lidia Bastianich. I gave him 12 post-its and the promise that I'd make the recipes he marked, one for each month. These calzones were his Father's Day dinner along with stuffed zucchini, which I'll post later. My notes are in italics.
I think filled foods are extremely festive. I love making potstickers, pupusas, samosas, and now these. I make recipes like these only for special occasions -- probably because of the time commitment -- because I think they say "I love you" in their own little pocket of delicious surprises way. I'll post the pupusa and samosa recipes soon too.
Makes about 15 4” calzones (at LEAST!)
1 lb fresh ricotta or one 15 oz. container of whole-mild ricotta
Pizza Dough (see below)
2 medium leeks, white and light-green parts only, trimmed and cleaned
3 T extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing the calzones
Freshly ground black pepper
1 lb fresh bunch spinach, stems removed, leaves washed and drained or one 10 oz bag of spinach
12 oz. fresh mozzarella, cut into ½” cubes (I used 8 oz.)
Line a sieve with a double thickness of cheesecloth or a basket-type coffee filter. Dump the ricotta in and set the sieve over a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or up to one day. Discard the drained liquid.
Prepare the pizza dough. It isn’t necessary to divide the dough before the second rising. (your favorite - I used my bread machine with the hillbilly housewife recipe)
Slice the leeks crosswise, ½” thick. In a large, deep skillet or braising pan, heat 3 T olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the leeks, season lightly with salt and pepper and cook until softened, about 4 minutes. Stir in the spinach a large handful at a time, waiting for each handful to wilt (I employed a lid between each handful) before adding the next. Continue cooking until the spinach is completely wilted and all the liquid is evaporated, about 4 minutes. Drain in a colander, pressing lightly to remove excess liquid. Stir the drained ricotta and mozz. together in a bowl until blended. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Place one oven rack in the lowest position and the second rack in the upper third of the oven. Center a baking stone, if using, over the lower rack. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. If not using a baking stone, sprinkle two large baking sheets generously with coarse cornmeal. (silpat on baking sheets worked for me)
Divide the dough in half. Working with one half at a time, roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to about ¼” thick. Cut the dough into 4” circles and reserve the unused dough. Spread 3 T of the cheese mixture in an even layer over half of each circle, leaving a ½” border around the edge. Top the cheese with about 1 T of the spinach and leeks. Brush the edges of the circles with water and fold the uncovered dough over the spinach-cheese filling. Seal the edges by pressing firmly with the tips of a fork’s tines or by plaiting the edges. Poke holes into the top of each calzone several times with a fork. Brush the tops of the calzones with olive oil. Let stand until slightly puffed, about 15 minutes. (Many of mine oozed a bit because I overfilled them, but I just stuffed everything back together once they were out of the oven)
To bake the calzones on a baking stone: Sprinkle a pizza peel or perfectly flat baking sheet generously with cornmeal. Place three or four of the calzones on the prepared peel and slide them onto one side of the stone, leaving some space between them. Repeat with a second round of three or four calzones. Bake the calzones until lightly browned on the underside, about 8 minutes. Transfer the calzones directly to the upper rack and continue baking until deep golden brown, about 20 minutes. Start baking a second batch on the stone once you have removed the first.
To bake the calzones on baking sheets: Transfer the calzones to lightly oiled baking sheets. Bake, rotating the pans side to side and shelf to shelf halfway through the cooking until the calzones are golden brown, about 25 minutes (mine took 20ish).
Baked either way, let stand at least 10 minutes before serving. They are also delicious at room temperature.
¼ C extra-virgin olive oil (about 4 T)
8 cloves garlic, peeled (5 or 6)
3 lb ripe fresh plum tomatoes, peeled and seeded or one 35 oz can of peeled Italian plum tomatoes (preferably San Marzano), seeded and lightly crushed, with their liquid. (28 oz can of Giant brand crushed tomatoes)
Crushed hot red pepper
10 fresh basil leaves (Mary gave me a basil plant that has teeny leaves, so about 1 T of the little leaves)
Heat the oil in a 2-3 quart, non-reactive saucepan over medium heat.
Whack the garlic with the flat side of a knife, add it to the oil and cook until lightly browned (use your nose so can grab it out of there when it smelled sweet and mellow – before the garlic burns and turns the oil bitter!)
Carefully slide the tomatoes and their liquid into the oil (carefully!).
Bring to a boil and season lightly with salt and crushed red pepper. Lower the heat so the sauce is a t a lively simmer and cook, breaking up the tomatoes with a whisk or spoon, until sauce is chunky and thick, about 20 minutes. Stir in the basil about 5 minutes before the sauce is finished. Taste the sauce and season with salt and red pepper if necessary.