I’m not 100% opposed to board game nights, but… I’d rather be the one making ricotta spinach calzones in the kitchen while everyone else plays.
Surely you understand. Take pity on me.
It’s more fun for me to play with dough than play the game. And someone needs to host and make all the delicious party food, right?!
It’s the perfect excuse to hide out in the kitchen. And not play the latest 3-hour strategy board game my husband and friends are obsessing over.
I really don’t feel like keeping track of dozens of tiny pieces. Or struggling to read the giant, multi-page instruction manual filled with teeny-tiny text. Or dealing with the heartbreak of empty promises that the game would only last for under an hour.
This isn’t my first rodeo – I’ve been here before. Don’t tell me this is fun.
I’d rather make the calzones.
So, as soon as the doorbell rings, into the kitchen I go. And I stay there for a while.
You can play with them, and get trapped in a confusing world of intricate rules, building settlements that are doomed from the beginning, collecting/trading/fighting over/losing your wood/trains/wheat/territory/coins… or you can join me, and just play with some dough.
Nothing complicated about that. And we all end up carb-happy winners, in the end!
Let’s escape to the kitchen before they notice, shall we?
This spinach and ricotta version starts with spreading flat pizza dough mounds with a garlicky 3-cheese mixture, a combination of creamy ricotta, melty mozzarella, and salty parmesan.
You then top that layer with a small mound of lightly sauteed fresh spinach.
After the calzones are baked, there is still one more round of building flavors. Hot from the oven, you get to brush the golden-brown crust of every steamy calzone with generous splashes of melted garlic parmesan butter.
Who’s the real winner here?
And don’t be too worried about the impending nightmare of all of the newly released expansion packs for each game your buddies have been playing.
That just means you’ll have more opportunities to make these calzones.Print
Want to play with pizza dough? Make our calzones filled with creamy ricotta and spinach, and brushed with garlic parmesan butter.
For the Calzones:
- 2 balls prepared pizza dough (about 1 pound each)
- All-purpose flour, as needed
- 10 ounces (2 bags) fresh spinach
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 2 cups whole milk ricotta cheese
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
- 1 egg, lightly beaten with a splash of water
For the Parmesan Garlic Butter:
- 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon grated parmesan cheese
- Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line two baking sheets with silicone mats or aluminum foil.
- On a lightly floured surface, divide each ball of pizza dough into four even pieces. Lightly roll each piece into a ball, and flatten with the palm of your hand to create a disc. Dust the tops of the discs with flour, cover with a clean kitchen towel, and let them rest at room temperature while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
- Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large saute pan over low heat. Add about half of the spinach and saute for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the spinach starts to wilt. Transfer to a plate, and repeat with the remaining oil and spinach. Let cool for about 5 minutes.
- Once the spinach has cooled, place in a clean kitchen towel and wring out any excess liquid. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the ricotta, mozzarella, and parmesan with the minced garlic, oregano, basil, salt, and pepper. Set aside.
- Working with one disc at a time, roll and stretch the dough into a circular shape about 6 inches in diameter with a rolling pin, using additional flour if necessary to prevent sticking.
- Spread about 1/4 cup filling on the top half of one portion of dough, leaving about 1/4 inch of an edge around the perimeter. Spread about 1/8 cup of the cooked spinach on top of the cheese.
- Using the egg wash, lightly brush half the border that has the filling, and fold the other half of the dough over the filling to create a half-moon shape. Seal by pinching the dough with your fingers, creating a defined crust. Repeat the filling and shaping process with the remaining dough and filling.
- Place 4 calzones on each baking sheet, spaced evenly. Lightly brush the calzones with egg wash. Cut three to four slits on the top of each calzone with a sharp paring knife.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the tops and bottoms are golden brown.
- As the calzones are baking, make the parmesan garlic butter. Place all of the ingredients in a small saucepan. Gently warm on low heat until the butter is completely melted, stirring occasionally so the garlic does not burn..
- Once the calzones are fully baked, remove from the oven, and generously brush the tops and sides of each calzone with the garlic parmesan butter. Let the calzones cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes. Serve while warm!
- Prep Time: 40 minutes
- Cook Time: 20 minutes
- Category: Calzone
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: Pizza
Keywords: spinach, ricotta, calzone
Cooking by the Numbers…
Step 1 – Prep and Measure Ingredients
If you have store-bought pizza dough, leave it out at room temperature while you measure the remaining ingredients.
Choosing to make your own pizza dough? Plan ahead! Make sure that you give yourself enough time for the proofing steps. You’ll need a few hours before actually making the calzones!
Set out some all-purpose flour to use as needed for dusting your work surface while rolling and shaping the dough.
For the filling, measure out the spinach, olive oil, ricotta cheese, and mozzarella cheese.
Measure out and divide the parmesan cheese for both the filling and the butter mix.
You can choose to use pre-grated parmesan cheese, or you can grate your own cheese. For true Italian flavor, go for the Parmigiano Reggiano at the store!
Oh, and definitely go for whole milk ricotta cheese – you want allllllll the fat you can get from this fresh cheese variety to make a creamier filling.
Pre-shredded low-moisture/part-skim (also refereed to LMPS) mozzarella will be best for this. Fresh mozzarella will contain too much liquid, and may cause the dough to become soggy as it bakes.
Measure out the unsalted butter and red pepper flakes.
Freshly grind salt and pepper for both the filling and the butter mix.
Mince 4 total cloves of garlic, and divide it in half for both the filling and the butter mix.
Lightly beat the egg with a splash of water in a small bowl, using a whisk. Cover and store in the refrigerator for now, until you need to use it for brushing the dough.
Step 2 – Portion and Rest Dough
Lightly flour a clean work surface. Using a sharp knife or a metal bench scraper, divide each ball of pizza dough into four even pieces.
For a more accurate measurement that will help you achieve similarly shaped calzones, you can use a kitchen scale to weigh each dough ball so they are close to the same weight.
Roll each piece to make a loose ball, then flatten each one with the palm of your hand to form a disc. Place the discs in two rows on a lightly floured surface, dust the tops with flour, and cover loosely with a clean kitchen towel.
Let them rest here at room temperature as you move forward with the following steps.
Because of the heavy dough manipulation, the pizza dough needs to rest again to loosen the tight gluten strength you just built. Resting will help the dough soften slightly, making it easier for you to roll and flatten into the shape you need for the calzones.
Step 3 – Saute Spinach
It’s best to work in batches for this step! You’ll often find 5-ounce bags of spinach at the grocery store, so make sure you buy two of these for 10 ounces total. Cook one bag at a time.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large saute pan or skillet over low heat. Add 5 ounces of spinach to the pan, and gently cook until it’s slightly wilted but not cooked all the way through, for about 1 or 2 minutes.
You don’t want to completely cook the spinach, as the delicate leaves will continue to steam inside the calzones as they bake.
Remove the spinach to a plate, and repeat with the remaining oil and spinach.
Cool the spinach for about 5 minutes before placing in a clean kitchen towel. Over your sink, tightly wring out any excess liquid. You don’t want any of this nonsense! The liquid will cause the dough to become soggy.
Set aside the spinach on a plate as you move onto the next few steps.
Step 4 – Make the Cheese Filling
Combine all of the cheese filling ingredients in a large mixing bowl: the ricotta, mozzarella, 1/2 cup parmesan, 2 minced garlic cloves, oregano, basil, salt, and pepper. Mix together with a sturdy spoon or spatula.
Taste to determine if you would like to add more salt and pepper. For a spicier zing, you can add about 1/8 teaspoon or so of crushed red pepper flakes.
Step 5 – Roll Out Dough
Work with one disc of dough at a time. Using a rolling pin and flour for dusting, roll and stretch the disc into a flat and even circular shape that is about 6 inches in diameter.
To prevent sticking, continue dusting with additional flour.
Make sure you keep the remaining dough discs under the towel so they don’t dry out and develop a skin.
Step 6 – Fill
Spread about 1/4 cup of the cheese filling in an even layer on the top half of one portion of dough, making sure to leave about 1/4 inch of an edge for sealing. You don’t want any cheese to melt out of the dough as it cooks!
An offset spatula is the best tool for spreading, but you could use a small metal spoon instead.
Top the cheese filling with about 1/8 cup of the cooked spinach.
Step 7 – Shape
Remove the egg wash from the fridge – its time has arrived!
Lightly brush half of the border (the half with the filling) with egg wash using a pastry brush (or your finger, if you don’t mind the extra mess), and fold the other half of the dough over the filling to create a half-moon shape.
Seal the edges by pinching the dough with your fingers, making a defined crust around the entire edge. Try to stay around 1/2 inch for the crust thickness.
If you’re like me, the crust is the best part! I tend to go a little on the thick side. Use your best judgement for how thick or thin you would like the crust to be.
You can add some aesthetic flair by repeatedly crimping the dough.
Place the calzone on the prepared baking sheets, and repeat Steps 5 to 7 with the remaining dough and filling.
The calzones should be arranged with 4 on each baking sheet, with enough room between each one for even baking.
Step 8 – Egg Wash, Make Slits, and Bake
Use the egg wash to lightly brush the top sand sides of the calzones. With a sharp paring knife, cut three or four slits on the top of each calzone.
Creating the slits is an important step that allows them to release steam as they are baking – which is very necessary with wet filings like spinach and ricotta cheese!
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the tops and bottoms are golden brown. For more even baking (you know your oven best!), rotate the pans halfway through the baking process.
Step 9 – Make the Garlic Parmesan Butter
As the calzones bake, this is the perfect time to make a quick garlic parmesan wash.
Combine the unsalted butter, two remaining cloves of minced garlic, salt, red pepper flakes, and one tablespoon of grated parmesan cheese in a small saucepot.
Heat the saucepot on low heat until the butter melts, stirring constantly.
Turn off the heat – my tip is to keep the pot on the stove so it stays warm from the heat of the oven! – and let those flavors and aromatics mingle until the calzones come out of the oven.
Step 10 – Brush with Butter and Serve
Once the calzones are fully baked, remove the baking sheets from the oven.
Immediately and generously brush the tops and sides of each calzone with the melted garlic parmesan butter, using a clean pastry brush.
Let the calzones cool on the baking sheets for about 5 minutes. Serve and enjoy while still warm and gooey on the inside!
Choose Your Weapon: A Homemade Dipping Sauce!
Much like what you have to do with every step of playing a board game, you’ll want to develop a smart strategy with your dipping sauce, so you can have the ultimate pleasurable tasting experience.
Want a tangy and acidic contrast to your cheesy calzone? Go the tomato sauce route. It’s a classic choice!
If you’re dreaming of something fresh, summery, and herbaceous, you might want to ponder over pesto as your main dipping sauce.
You could also double the amount of the garlic parmesan butter baste, and use the extra for your dipping sauce.
Everything’s better with butter!
What do you prefer: veggie-packed or meat-filled calzones? Leave a comment below!
It never hurts to eat more leafy greens! Try some of our favorite recipes with a hefty serving of green spinach next:
Photos by Nikki Cervone, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published by Jennifer Swartvagher on June 2, 2015. Last updated on May 19, 2022.
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 Nikki Cervone
Nikki Cervone is an ACS Certified Cheese Professional and cheesemonger living in Pittsburgh. Nikki holds an AAS in baking/pastry from Westmoreland County Community College, a BA in Communications from Duquesne University, and an MLA in Gastronomy from Boston University. When she's not nibbling on her favorite cheeses or testing a batch of cupcakes, Nikki enjoys a healthy dose of yoga, wine, hiking, singing in the shower, and chocolate. Lots of chocolate.