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?
I love a sausage and pepper filling for our usual calzones, but it’s smart to have a meatless option at the ready, and to incorporate (just a few handfuls) of healthy greens.
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
Spinach Ricotta Calzones
- Total Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes
- Yield: 8 small calzones 1x
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
Line two baking sheets with silicone mats or aluminum foil. Parchment paper is not my top choice here. Due to the high temperature, any exposed parchment paper may start to burn.
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 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.
Chop the oregano and basil using a sharp knife and sturdy cutting board.
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 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!
Our oven-roasted tomato sauce or simple marinara will do the deed well.
If you’re dreaming of something fresh, summery, and herbaceous, you might want to ponder over pesto as your main dipping sauce.
You have many choices: try our easy Italian pesto, or this kale almond pesto for a nutrient-rich variation.
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 a full-time cheesemonger and specialty foods buyer 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.
19 thoughts on “Spinach Ricotta Calzones”
Calzones are a great and less messy way to eat pizza. I like them for leftovers they are easier to reheat and as you say are great for picnics and barbecues. They are also easier to slice up and people can have portion sizes rather than slices. I personally like garlic and mushrooms in mine too as it adds more flavor.
These look really good and I love how it’s a spinach calzone instead of a type of meat as it is a healthier choice. This is also a great alternative for pizza as it is less messy! I would really love to try this soon at home and see if my family likes it as well. Awesome recipe!
Spinach calzones sound delicious. I love anything using ricotta and spinach, and this looks very doable for anytime, even a weeknight. I’m having to cut back on acid in my diet, which unfortunately means less pizza, so this might be a great alternative. The dipping sauce should be minimal enough to appease my ulcer, and I’ll still get my ‘pizza’ fix.
Calzones! They’re some of my favorite things. I discovered them at a restaurant I love, and this recipe looks really similar to some of the ones I order frequently. Awesome to know I can make them in the comfort of my own home, thank you for the idea!
I like calzones because of how portable they are. I don’t really like spinach but it has been growing on me. Especially on pizza. I hated in when I was little but now I am starting to like it. As long as it is not really mushy I am OK. I also need to buy a new pizza stone. I used to love cooking with one that I had. It worked great.
Most veggies or meats work in this recipe if you don’t like spinach. Try broccoli or even sausage and peppers.
The spinach works for me. It’s one of the few veggies that my pickiest eater will eat. Go figure.
My question is if I can use (thawed) frozen bread dough for this, since it is usually what I use a base for my pizza. Would they still turn out or no?
Either way, I still want to make these. I think my kiddo will eat them up.
This recipe is so much simpler than I imagined. Especially for being such a delicious dish. This is a great way to get the kids to eat, and enjoy, the green veggies. The cheese and dough make it irresistible. I just want to make this dish, and for it to taste as good as the picture looks!
This seems like a really easy recipe!
One question I do have is whether the combination of cheeses should be exactly riccotta, mozzarella and parmesan? Would other cheeses work fine with the recipe as well?
Aside from that (and with a little mushroom) this sounds like a perfect recipe for a cozy night at home in front of the TV as well 🙂
You can use whatever combination of cheeses are your favorite (or that you happen to have on hand.) You can’t go wrong with cheese!
This recipe looks refreshing. When I saw the word calzone I instantly thought of Pizza Hut commercials. But that calzone in the photo looks great for a lunch
Calzones are great! Especially for kids. This looks like a relatively easy recipe and is on my must try list even though ricotta cheese is not my favorite I still love calzones. Maybe I could try making it without the ricotta? I just recently started really liking spinach so I’m always on the look out for more recipes.
You could omit the ricotta and simply increase the amount of mozzarella cheese.
Thanks Jennifer for such a great recipe. I’ve never had the courage to make Calzones. I guess I was just scared of messing it up, but this recipe seems simple enough for me to finally try making them. My husband and I are huge spinach lovers so it will be a huge hit in my household. Thanks again!
Amazing! My mouth is watering! I’m going to add some chopped up grilled chicken breast and a little more garlic to the recipe. Call me crazy, but I’m also going to have some homemade mustard on the side as a dipping sauce. I read an awesome article about how to make your own mustard here on the website. I would also like to make some homemade marinara sauce for dipping.
Spinach calzones are one of my favorite things to get from pizzerias. I find they are much lighter on my stomach then meat based versions. This recipe looks amazing! I find that the key with pizza and pizza-like food items other then the sauce is the dough. A good dough will make or break the meal.
I absolutely love making dough with yeast, speaking about pizza or something sweet like cinnamon buns I enjoy working with them. Calzones are too, a good idea because they are transportable, so good for picnics or for school lunch, or even just for a meal on the go.
I didn’t realize calzones can be easy to make just by using pizza dough! As someone who’s not very adept at the kitchen yet, this recipe sounds simple enough for me to follow. The steps enumerated were quite true to its title. If I were to try this, I might skip the ricotta cheese though. I’m a bit of a cheapskate and the ricotta cheese that I found in our grocery stores are a bit pricey.
I love the idea of the mini calzone, but I would probably go with a different filling as all that cheese is a bit too rich for me. I’d probably put some cottage cheese in there to go with the spinach, and maybe even some pepperoni.