Summer Meal Series #8: Chicken, Broccoli, and Mozzarella Calzones

What’s on the table this summer?

Homemade Calzones

Homemade pizza is a big hit at our house (here’s a picture-filled post about our homemade pizzas). We all love our every-other-week-or-so homemade pizzas where we often experiment with ingredients and enjoy from-scratch crusts.

The problem with pizza, though, is that it’s not very portable. It doesn’t make the best picnic food (unless, I suppose, you order from Pizza Hut and take it to the park with you, but then you lose control over the ingredients and the cost).

Our family’s solution is to sometimes make calzones instead of pizzas. For us, a calzone is essentially an inside-out pizza – we just take the ingredients of a pizza we want to make, wrap it in pizza dough, and bake it. It comes out much like a sandwich, which is very portable, indeed.

This time, we made enormous calzones! (You don’t have to make them this big, of course.)

Calzone and apples

My intent was to show us eating these at the park, but the weather unfortunately didn’t cooperate at the last minute. We served the calzones with apple slices.

We ended up making six calzones that were approximately that size (two of them were somewhat smaller, about 60-70% of that size). I was only able to eat roughly half of that calzone for dinner. My wife, who is currently breastfeeding and who hadn’t eaten since a very small lunch, ate about 3/4 of one and gave up. Our children split the smallest one and that was about all they could handle.

In other words, this batch of calzones I’m about to describe fed two adults and two children for dinner, two adults and two children for lunch, and two adults for lunch again. Ten meals, in other words. Calzones are great meals to make in larger batches because they’re very good when reheated.

So how did we make them? The first step, of course, is to make the dough.

If you wish, you can always buy pre-made dough at the store. However, making your own homemade pizza dough is so easy, you shouldn’t waste the money on it – homemade dough tastes better, costs a pittance, and is healthier, too, because you don’t have the oils and extra ingredients and preservatives that large food manufacturers toss into the dough.

Step 1: Making the Dough

Ingredients for dough

Four ingredients, plus some water.

4 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 to 2 cups water (depending on air moisture in your area)

Heat up the water until it feels warm to the touch, then mix in the yeast, stir, and let it sit for fifteen minutes. Meanwhile, mix the flour and salt together in a bowl. Add the liquid to the solid and mix them thoroughly with your hands (or with a mixer) until it’s all consistent. Then put the dough ball in a bowl, cover it, and put it in a warm place for two hours or so to let it rise (or, if you’re doing it in advance, freeze the dough ball or let it rise in the refrigerator for about 24 hours).

That’s it. Here’s my dough ball.

Dough ball

It hasn’t risen much – it will roughly double in size before I need to use it.

Step Two: Making The Stuffing

You really can use pretty much anything you can imagine as a calzone stuffing. Here, we’re using cooked broccoli (about a pound), 3 cups shredded mozzarella (we grated ours, you can see the cheese grater in the picture below on the right), 2 cups shredded chicken, and about 1/2 cup pesto.

broccoli, chicken, pesto, and cheese

We actually have much more shredded chicken than we’ll actually use – about two cups’ extra. If you want to get a good amount, you’ll just want to cook one large breast and shred it. We cooked three medium breasts and shredded it all. Why? The breasts were on sale and shredded chicken breast goes good with tons of different recipes and in salads, too.

What happens next is complicated. Take those four ingredients, put them in a bowl, and mix them together. Your mixture is done.

Broccoli, chicken, pesto, and a bit of cheese

Step 3. Assembling Your Calzone

I then took our big ball of freshly-risen dough and split it into six pieces, with two of them being a bit smaller than the others (for a variety of calzone sizes).

Six dough balls (the ones on the right are smaller)

After flouring down the table, I got to work. I took one of the dough balls and rolled it out on the table until it was pretty thin and wasn’t rolling well any more. The circle was about the diameter of a fork (or a bit more) and between 1/4″ and 1/8″ thick (half a centimeter or so).

Rolling out the dough

It does not have to be anywhere near a perfect circle. Just get it something that roughly approximates a circle and you’re good.

Next, just take a healthy spoonful of the mixture and put it on one half of the rolled-out dough, leaving a good lip around the edge of it. I also sprinkled a bit more cheese on top.

Broccoli, a bit of chicken, a bit of pesto, and cheese

I put just a bit of water around the entire lip of the calzone, then folded it over to create a pouch with the stuffing inside of it. I then pressed down on the edges of the calzone so that the wet dough would stick together (and spread out a bit), then I rolled up that edge. This keeps the contents from spilling out in the oven.

Folding up a calzone

Like I said, the ingredients above made six of these. Once they were done, I took two baking sheets, put about a teaspoon of olive oil on each one, and spread the oil all over the sheets (to prevent the calzones from sticking). I put the calzones on the sheets…

Calzones about to go in the oven

… made a few diagonal slices on top of each one, brushed the tops with a bit of olive oil, then stuck them in the oven at 450 F (230 C) for 18 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through.

And you have calzones!

Calzone and apples

Our total cost for materials for this recipe was $9.30, with roughly a third coming from the chicken alone and most of the rest from the pesto and the cheese. The broccoli cost about $1 and everything else was fractions of a dollar.

This recipe made ten delicious meals for my family, which averaged out to $0.93 per meal. That’s a great price for a delicious calzone!

Not only that, this meal is really, really flexible. You can pretty much put in any ingredients that you wish. You can put in all of the traditional pizza ingredients. You can put in nothing but vegetables. You can put in whatever produce is on sale at the grocery store. It almost all works.

Unsurprisingly, this is another big hit at our house, since it’s essentially an inside-out pizza. Everyone loved it and all leftovers were happily consumed.

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  1. This is a really fantastic calzone Trent! And you’re right. They can feed a crowd!

    You can go crazy with fillings also once you get the hang of it. I made one last summer with chicken, cheese, and apricots that was really tasty.

    Great meal.

  2. Meg says:

    We love calzone here too! I actually made some last night using leftover spaghetti sauce, leftover hot dogs and sausage, and some cheddar cheese. Great way to use leftover meat. I also spike my dough with garlic powder and basil or Italian seasoning.

    Your filling looks DELICIOUS. I’ll have to try that one sometime. I have an addiction to pesto. :)

  3. Josh says:

    Honestly – you only ate 1/2? I love your “Summer Meal Series”, but often look at the portions and think “Where is the rest?” What is your height/weight, if you don’t mind me asking? I know one of your goals for 2010 was to lose weight – after you finished this meal, were you satisfied? Keep the recipes coming! Thanks!

  4. Kevin says:

    Trent – looks good; thanks for posting. Curious – what type of yeast do you use? Active dry yeast?

    Also, sorry,- but the “inside out” description seems backwards. If a pizza was inside-out, wouldn’t the toppings be on the outside? ;-)

  5. Kevin says:

    Trent – looks good; thanks for posting. Curious – what type of yeast do you use? Active dry yeast?

    Also, sorry,- but the “inside out” description seems backwards. If a pizza was inside-out, wouldn’t the toppings be on the outside? ;-)

  6. brad says:

    a pizza is an inside out calzone :)

  7. brad says:

    i do like reading your food posts though, they are some of my favorites! your portions are always too small for me (so the meals per batch are always skewed), and i think the bit about the dough having the diameter of a fork isn’t worded correctly, but i heart calzones fiercely, so i liked this post.

  8. Vicky says:

    That looks amazing!

  9. Kevin says:

    Sorry for the double post – using my BlackBerry and hit the button twice. An Edit Comment feature would be helpful!

  10. Johanna says:

    You could vary the ingredients in each calzone, so that each person assembles one with exactly what he or she wants. My family used to do this all the time – and if my brother hadn’t developed a gluten allergy, we’d be doing it still.

  11. Kara W says:

    I have a question. Why don’t you knead the pizza dough? I would think that step should read “mix well and knead until smooth (about 5 minutes). Does it work as well without kneading?

  12. Malisa says:

    Sounds and looks great.

    I’d love to hear more about freezing the dough.

  13. Kevin says:

    @ brad: exactly. Thank you.

  14. Jennifer says:

    Looks really good! I have a question though. When you say to add the liquid to the solid, are you including the olive oil in that, because it isn’t totally clear to me. I’d really like to try this!

  15. Leah W. says:

    You probably don’t need to knead. It’s incredibly hard to screw up pizza dough. The only thing you can do to screw it up is to kill the yeast with water that’s too hot…which is what always happens to me. The ideal temp, so they say, is 110F to 115F. I like to use a thermometer; otherwise, my dough never rises.

    If you have a food processor, there’s a great recipe for pizza dough on foodnetwork [dot] com. It’s called Basic Pizza Dough – Processor Method by Emeril Lagasse. Very easy, very fast, and very tasty.

    Speaking of food processors, Trent, I always see pictures of your manual grater. What gives? Do you guys not have a food processor? Given how much you cook, it’d be worthy investment. And, bonus, it grates cheese, too.

  16. Courtney says:

    If it makes 10 servings, why not just make 10 calzones? You can also freeze them individually (wrapped in foil) and bake them as you need them that way.

  17. Cheryl says:

    I do as Courtney suggested. Make them smaller so each one is a serving, freeze on a tray and put in a bag to bake as needed. I also put some Parmesan cheese in the dough, 1-2 tablespoons.

  18. Meredith says:

    Good idea for a dinner that beats paying for takeout! A couple comments though. First, one of your readers mentioned trouble with their dough not rising. Make sure you don’t ever mix salt directly into the yeast mixture. Salt kills yeast and so adding it with the flour, or even after adding some of the flour makes a big difference.

    Also, I noticed you used all-purpose flour. Using bread flour when making bread (or, even cheaper, making your own by adding gluten to all-purpose flour) will make any bread dough taste much better! Bread flour has added gluten to make it chewier.

    My only other comment is about your math. I agree this is a cheap meal but saying that it was ten meals sounds misleading…four of those (nearly half) are children’s meals and so you ought to compare “apples to apples” if you are going to do a cost analysis like that.

  19. Camille says:

    That is such a great idea Cheryl! I’m definitely going to try doing that for hubby’s lunch! Thanks for the recipe Trent. I love finding new recipes to try.

  20. Mary Margaret says:

    I usually substitute 1 cup of cottage cheese + 1 egg (mixed together) for most of the grated cheese – reduces the fat and cost, tastes fine. I do this in lasagna and calzones….and we like spinach sometimes, instead of broccoli…. ;)

  21. AnnJo says:

    I’m guessing you put the 1/4 cup oil in the dough mix at some point, and not just use it to brush the pan and the calzones before baking, but that’s only because I use oil in my pizza dough. Trent, I know you’ve talked about dong a food/cooking blog in the past, and I hope if you do, you will avoid the habit of listing an ingredient and then not being crystal clear about what is to be done with it. Even as an experienced cook, I sometimes find myself stumped when people do that.

  22. Nate Poodel says:

    Love the post! Love Calazones. Unfortunately my husband doesn’t really like them. Early in our marriage I spent the entire afternoon making spinach and mushroom calazones. Using fresh mushrooms and fresh spinach, making the dough took awhile. When I served dinner my husband took one look and said “What’s this? Pies for dinner?????” Never again have I made Calazones. :(

  23. Another Elizabeth says:

    A few questions and suggestions:

    For those who tend to overheat the water – your fingertips aren’t as sensitive to temperature, so if you dip your finger in the water and it feels warm, it’s probably too hot. Instead, sprinkle a drop or two on your wrist or inside of your forearm (between wrist and elbow) – if it feels lukewarm to warm when sprinkled there, it’s just right.

    I also use a recipe that’s unclear about adding the oil. I’ve found it works best to either mix my yeast with the flour and salt and then add the water and oil together, OR to dissolve yeast in water, let sit a couple minutes and then add oil and salt, and then add the flour last. I use 2-3 Tbsp. oil.

    Questions: Do the completed calzones freeze well? Should they be frozen before or after baking? If frozen after baking, do you know whether they reheat well in the microwave?

    Thanks for the great post! I love your pictures!

  24. Kaz says:

    That sounds like a fantastic recipe. I shy away from pizza, etc generally as I don’t like / don’t eat tomato – but this particular combination sounds delicious. As far as gluten-free goes I don’t think it would be that hard to substitute for a gluten-free flour? Any comments on that?

  25. Pat says:

    These look great….BUT since we are all trying to save some money, is this a good time to be using the oven? Not sure how hot it is where you live, but I am in the south……its so hot out here that perhaps I could just cook meals like this outside on the cement [heat index of 115 yesterday]? lol This time of year I dont use my oven….and try not to even turn the stove on if possible [use my micro or grill]. Maybe you could post recipies that dont require turning the oven on?….save the oven recipies for winter months!

  26. marta says:

    “What happens next is complicated.”

    Seriously? What is complicated cooking-wise in what comes after that line?

    I have to agree with Ann Jo on the lack of clarity re: using a specific ingredient. Also, I tend to prefer recipes written out in a more traditional format instead of mixed with ramblings about this and that. The cooking blogs I enjoy tend to write those ramblings *before* and/or *after* the ingredients list and instructions section. Makes it easier to copy and paste the relevant part.

  27. Brenda Cook says:

    Thanks for the great idea!! I’ve been making pizza dough in my bread maker. I’ve found that it is much cheaper and tastes great(a lot less greasy, too) than take-out pizza.

  28. Kim says:

    Marta, I think “What happens next is complicated” is Trent’s attempt at humor, since it is really quite the opposite.

  29. Cheap Texan says:

    @Marta,

    I think he was being sarcastic. Obviously, it’s not complicated at all.

    Also, this is a frugal living blog, NOT a cooking blog. So take everything with a grain of salt (pardon the pun). This is more of an idea bank instead of straight up recipes.

  30. Sonya says:

    If you are short on time, Papa Murphy’s will sell you their biggest size pizza dough on a baking tray for $2. Take it home, cut it up, roll it out, fill it up, and you are done!

  31. marta says:

    @Kim, Cheap Texan: Yup. My sarcasm detector was waaay off; shouldn’t even attempt to read before my morning coffee.

    It’s true that this is a PF blog. However, Trent has been teasing us with a cooking blog for the past 2 or 3 years. If he follows up on that, I surely hope he will be more careful with his instructions. I recall a few recipes with wrong measurements or bad advice (boil the oil?!) and, while more experienced cooks will notice the errors, the recipes seem to be mostly targeted at beginners, who may not have a clue.

  32. Sandy says:

    This is great, Trent…I think I’ll try this in the next few weeks!
    As far as the dough goes, I follow a similar recipe, but have never let it rise that much. Usually, I make up the dough, let it sit as long as it takes for me to shred 8 oz of mozzerella, then roll it out. Betty Crocker and I are old friends, and she told me to do that in her 1984 cookbook. (I add dried oregano to the dough).

  33. EvSav says:

    Please lmk about the ‘pesto’ you used. Assuming you made it, then include recipe. If it’s jared, then what’s label and cost ?

  34. haha, I’m always surprised by the lame haters who comment on here. What’s with them?

    Love the post and the recipe! Great idea for a cost effective meal. Make it waaaay cheaper by skipping on meat! I know most people love meat but I’m into veggies so I could make this really cheaply.

    Thanks!

  35. Dean says:

    active dry yeast works fine.

    Also I let it rise for about 45 minutes

  36. Adam says:

    Hi Trent,

    Long time reader, first time I tried one of your recipes. It was a hit! We used Crotti cheese (similar to ricotta). You’re right — it does fill you up and we had a few calzones leftover and some of the filling. The filling would be great tossed in pasta.

    Thanks for sharing!

  37. Courtney says:

    @ Johanna – has your brother ever tried Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free pizza crust mix? It is so good! My husband eats gluten-free so we use it all the time and I actually prefer it to any “regular” pizza crust. You can buy it pretty inexpensively at Amazon.

  38. JB says:

    Trent, you are making me hungry! This looks great, will definitely be making these with my family, I love to cook but run out of ideas often, thank you!

  39. Johanna says:

    @Courtney: I’m sure he has – he uses a lot of Bob’s Red Mill things. Does it work for calzones too? (This is not a stupid question: Pizza crust just has to lie flat, while calzone crust has to stretch around the fillings, and gluten is what makes it stretchy. But I guess he could make a pizza instead.)

  40. michael bash says:

    “Consistent” is not the word you want. Technically correct, in the foodie business better to use “combined”. Your readers will understand better. As I’ve said before, I wish you all the best in your quest to learn to cook. Check back in 25 – 30 years. In the process familiarize yourself with Elizabeth David, Olney, Julia, Marcella and the other pioneers.

  41. Brittany says:

    Yeah, that’s a long rise for calzone/pizza dough–most recipes call for 30-45 minutes. If thelong rise time is turning you off, find a faster dough recipe!

    This looks delicious! I think I might try our barbecue chicken pizza as calzones next time.

  42. David says:

    Trent,

    I made this over the weekend and the family loved it. The dough was a lot more sticky than I imagined. Thanks for the great recipe, look forward to the next one in the series.

  43. Mark says:

    Anyone ever try freezing the final calzones? Either baked or unbaked?

  44. Liz says:

    I was wondering about freezing them also, has anyone ever tried cooking them in the microwave after freezing? Works great with breakfast burritos, regular burritos, cooked french toast, pancakes, and waffles. Was just wondering if there is a quicker way than baking. Let me know. Will def make this recipe as my husband loves pizza and has the potential to make extra meals.

  45. Slobo says:

    I love the summer meal series. This is a great recipe! I reminded me of my pizza dough recipe which is healthy and tasty. For details check out: http://www.food.com/recipe/pizza-dough-in-bread-maker-433333

  46. Amy says:

    when do you put in the olive oil??

  47. Ash says:

    I made these calzones earlier this week (with help form the comments). DELICIOUS. They were great fresh out of the oven and were wonderful for school lunch/dinners as left overs.

    I have more dough rising right now for an extended family dinner tonight. Thanks for sharing, Trent!

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