I’d like to shake the hand of whoever the first person was who had the incredible idea to fold a piece of pizza dough over itself, stuff and bake it, and create something new and different.
It reminds me of, well, everything on the menu at (insert the name of your favorite Mexi-American chain).
If you take a moment to study the descriptions of the various items, you’ll realize that they’re essentially the same combination of ingredients thrown together in different ways.
Essentially, a taco is a quesadilla that doesn’t lay docile on your plate.
A burrito is a taco that just never stopped being wrapped.
I’m exaggerating, but you get my point.
I’m fully aware that a calzone is simply a pizza derivative, but these two items sure have a lot in common.
Although this is one scenario where I don’t have a charming childhood tale about the very first time I ever wrapped my hands around one, I do have these two things to share with you:
The first is an episode of Seinfeld entitled The Calzone.
After sharing a mouthwatering bite of his crispy eggplant calzone with his boss, George is then responsible for providing this very lunch every day thereafter.
After he gets caught retrieving his own money from the pizzeria’s tip jar because no one witnessed his benevolence, he’s then banned from the eatery.
The takeaway from the show should be to partake in good deeds no matter who’s looking, but instead it just leaves you craving eggplant calzones.
The second is a packaged product I’ve loved since I was a kid. I’m not comparing it directly to a calzone as this would undoubtedly offend many an Italian. But if I were to reminisce about my earliest memory of an “enclosed” form of pizza, it would be this.
For non-sponsored purposes, let’s call it a Shmot Shmocket.
When I was growing up, my parents were – and still are – eager fresh food enthusiasts. But occasionally, they would entertain (spoil) my seven-year-old self with the frozen, processed crap I requested.
My eyes would widen when I spotted the red box in our freezer, and I couldn’t wait to snuggle that sealed pepperoni-filled creation into its crisping sleeve.
Also, I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t occasionally still indulge in these as an adult, even though I am fully capable of making a homemade pepperoni bread…
Okay, there’s a box in my freezer right now. What? It was a long weekend.
A major differentiation between pizza and calzones is that the latter don’t contain sauce. Hence, this is why my beloved boxed product described above is not, in fact, an authentic calzone.
It’s also meant for seven-year-olds.
In the case of calzones, the red sauce comes alongside the main dish. And I’m okay with that.
I adore the acidic tang of marinara – and having a cupful available as my own personal sidecar means I can double-dip as many times as I want.
The other perk of this folded food is that it’s almost always stuffed with a mixture of mozzarella and ricotta – whose light, airy texture provides the perfect contrast to something rich and dense, like fatty sausage.
Speaking of, these homemade calzones with sausage and peppers couldn’t be easier to put together. With a helping hand from store-bought dough, your only jobs are whipping up the filling, stuffing, folding, and baking.
You could cut the dough into halves instead of quarters, but when they’re made a bit smaller, each calzone is like a personal pizza that you can keep all to yourself.
A single serving of sausage, peppers, and ricotta wrapped in dough?
Duh. I’m in!Print
Got a hankering for a handheld pizza pocket? Savory sausage, crunchy bell peppers, and fluffy ricotta unite inside this crave-worthy calzone.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 pound ground Italian sausage (sweet or mild)
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder, divided
- 1 cup diced green bell pepper
- 1/2 cup diced sweet onion
- 3/4 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
- 3/4 cup grated mozzarella cheese
- Flour, for dusting
- 1 package refrigerated pizza dough (about 8–10 ounces), proofed at room temperature
- 1 large egg, beaten with a splash of water
- 1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt
- 2 cups homemade or store-bought marinara, for dipping
- In a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, add the olive oil and swirl to coat the pan.
- Add the sausage, oregano, and 1/2 teaspoon of the garlic powder. Cook for 1 minute, and then add the peppers, onions, and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sausage is no longer pink and the veggies are crisp-tender, about 3-5 minutes.
- Using a slotted spoon, remove the sausage mixture and set it aside in a bowl. Fold in the ricotta and mozzarella cheese, and season to taste with additional salt if necessary.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Dust a clean work surface with flour and lay the pizza dough on top. Cut the dough into quarters. Using additional flour if necessary, roll and stretch one piece of the dough into a circular shape about 1 1/2 times its original size. Repeat with the remaining dough.
- Spoon 1/4 of the sausage and cheese mixture onto one side of the dough and then fold the other half over the top, creating a half-moon shape. Using your fingers, press and tuck the edges to seal the dough.
- Repeat with the remaining dough and filling. Brush each one evenly with egg wash, and sprinkle with the remaining garlic powder and flaky salt. Using a sharp knife, make several small slits in the top of each calzone.
- Place the on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, with a little space in between each. Bake until golden brown, about 18-20 minutes. Serve warm, with marinara sauce for dipping.
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 25 minutes
- Category: Calzone
- Method: Stovetop/Baking
- Cuisine: Italian
Keywords: calzone, pizza, sausage, peppers, cheese
Cooking By the Numbers…
Step 1 – Chop the Peppers and Onions and Cook the Sausage
Dice the peppers and onions with a sharp knife.
Add the olive oil to a large nonstick skillet and place it over medium heat. Swirl to coat the pan.
Add the sausage, oregano, and 1/2 teaspoon of the garlic powder. Cook for 1 minute, stirring occasionally.
Add the peppers, onions, and salt. If you’re using sweet sausage but want it to be a little spicy, you could add 1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes.
Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sausage is no longer pink and the veggies are crisp-tender, about 3-5 minutes.
Using a slotted spoon, remove the sausage mixture from the pan and set it aside in a bowl.
Step 2 – Fold the Cheese into the Sausage Mixture
Fold in the ricotta and mozzarella cheeses, and season to taste with additional salt if necessary.
Step 3 – Divide and Stretch the Dough
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Dust a clean work surface with flour and lay the pizza dough on top. The dough should be at room temperature and easy to work with.
If you’re taking it out of the refrigerator to start with, keep in mind that it will need at least 1 hour to proof and come to room temperature.
Cut the dough into quarters. Using additional flour if necessary, roll and stretch one piece of the dough into a circular shape with your hands, being careful not to tear it. Stretched out, it should be about 1 1/2 times its original size.
Repeat with the rest of the dough.
Step 4 – Fill the Dough
Spoon 1/4 of the sausage and cheese mixture onto one side of a shaped piece of dough, and then fold the other half over the top to make a half-moon shape. Using your fingers, press and tuck the edges together to seal the dough.
Repeat with the remaining dough and filling.
Step 5 – Brush with Egg Wash and Season
Whisk the egg with about a tablespoon of water to make an egg wash.
Repeat filling and folding the remaining dough, and then brush each calzone evenly with egg wash.
Sprinkle with the remaining garlic powder and flaky salt. The egg wash will help the crust to become golden brown and shiny, and the flaky salt will add texture.
Using a sharp knife, make several small slits in the top of each calzone. This lets some of the steam escape while they bake.
Step 6 – Bake
Place the calzones on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake until golden brown, about 18-20 minutes. Serve warm with marinara sauce.
Portable Pizza Perfection
Okay, technically, all pizza is portable – but calzones are enclosed to prevent sausage stains on your shorts.
Not a meat eater? The filling possibilities are infinite.
Get creative with your calzones. Give them a Thai twist and stuff your dough with ginger chicken and crunchy cabbage. (Psst, don’t forget the peanut sauce on the side for dipping.)
Want even more ideas for homemade options that you can try when that pizza (or calzone) craving hits? Each of these recipes is a snap to put together:
What other dippers do you dig for your calzones? Vodka sauce? Alfredo? A pile of Parm? Share your sensational sidecars in the comments below! And don’t forget to give this recipe a five-star rating if you loved it.
Photos by Fanny Slater, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on February 21, 2011. Last updated September 17, 2020.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Fanny Slater
Fanny Slater is a home-taught food enthusiast based in Wilmington, North Carolina who won the “Rachael Ray Show” Great American Cookbook Competition in 2014, and published her cookbook “Orange, Lavender & Figs” in 2016. Fanny is a food and beverage writer, recipe developer, and social media influencer. She was a co-host on the Food Network series “Kitchen Sink,” was featured on Cooking Channel’s longtime popular series “The Best Thing I Ever Ate,” and continues to appear regularly on the “Rachael Ray Show.”