It probably won’t come as a surprise that Neapolitan cooks have come up with a vast variety of ways to fry and bake dough. Pizza is, by far, the most famous internationally and most people will have heard of calzones, and zeppoles, but there is much more to the Neapolitan repertoire. In fact, in her masterwork, La cucina napoletana, Jeanne Caròla Francesconi devotes a whole 30 page chapter to the subject of “Pizze e tortani“. The real cognoscenti—including readers of this blog—will know about casatiello, the classic Neapolitan Easter bread we featured earlier this year. Then there are the savory pies that also go by the name of pizze, the most well known being the Eastertime pizza rustica. And then there are the pizzette, a kind of fried mini-pizza, and then fritelle and paste cresciute, both more or less translatable as fritters, and on and on….
Today we look at an appealing variation on the classic calzone: calzoncini, or miniature calzones, little fried turnovers made from pizza dough, stuffed and deep fried. They make for a savory appetizer or snack.
- 1 batch of standard pizza dough, plus
- 2-3 Tbs olive oil
- Escarole aglio e olio
- Mozzarella, provola and ricotta cheeses, mixed with salami, Parmesan cheese and egg
- Mozzarella, cut into cubes, with anchovy fillets
- Olive oil for frying
There are various doughs that can be used, but a standard pizza dough, enriched with a few additional spoonfuls of olive oil, does very well.
Form the dough into thin rounds, fill them with one of the savory mixtures indicated above—or anything else that you fancy, really—and fold them over, making sure their edges are tightly sealed. You fry the resulting turnovers in abundant, hot olive oil—not too hot, though, or the filling will not cook through—then serve right away, sprinkled with a bit of salt. (If you want to eat them with your hands, of course, let them cool for a minute or two.)
By the way, believe it or not, the easiest way I find to stretch the dough into thin rounds is to use a tortilla press. Just make sure to line both sides with wax paper or plastic, which you carefully strip away, as pizza dough can be quite sticky. Very similar to the calzoncini are panzarotti, which distinguish themselves from calzoncini by their dough, which is made without yeast, and are cut out a bit like ravioli. But that’s the subject of a future post.
Making these mini calzones is a great way to use up some extra pizza dough that you may have leftover, but they are so good you may want to make a batch just for the purpose. The first two suggested fillings come from Ms. Francesconi, but my favorite is the old reliable combination of mozzarella, cut into small cubes, and an anchovy fillet or two.