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, 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“. Besides pizza, most people will also have heard of calzoni (recently featured in Parks and Recreation!) and many will even know about zeppole, both savory and sweet, and 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 pizzelle, a kind of fried mini-pizza, and then fritelle and paste cresciute, both more or less translatable as fritters, and on and on….
Another variation on the theme are calzoncini, little fried turnovers. 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. You then form the dough into thin rounds, fill them with a savory mixture, 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.) It’s a great way to use up some extra pizza dough that you may have leftover, but calzoncini are so good you may want to make a batch just for the purpose.The fillings, according to Ms. Francesconi, can include escarole sautéed in olive oil and flavored with capers, olives and anchovies, or a mixture of mozzarella, provola and ricotta, enriched with salami, parmigiano and egg. But my favorite is the old reliable combination of mozzarella, cut into small cubes, and an anchovy fillet 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.