This summer, I’m going to be posting a series of fifteen low-cost, tasty, and easy-to-prepare meals that are literally straight from my own kitchen.
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.)
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.
Here’s how I make the 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.
It hasn’t risen much – it will roughly double in size before I need to use it.
Next, we mix 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.
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.
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).
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).
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.
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.
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…
… 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!
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.