Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Ricotta and Italian Sausage Stuffed Calzones

It was the end of the Labor Day weekend, and most people were out getting the last savors of summer from swimming to barbecuing back home in Maryland. Randal had to work both restaurants Monday so I decided to catch up my blog entries with at least one of the recipes that I had previously written though I didn't get around to posting just yet. It's quite toasty down here in Florida with temperatures as high as 94 degrees almost daily. From what my neighbors tell me there will be no relief from those high temps until as late as November. So I take it there will plenty of time to continue barbecuing and swimming down here.

I had made a baked lasagna the week before this recipe came to fruition. I took a trip to Sam's to buy the ingredients because I intended to make a large batch of it so that I could freeze it for the week; to have for lunch or dinner again. My husband loves lasagna and will eat it until it's gone! I make a mean lasagna thanks to my mother showing how it was done when I was young. I learned yesterday while watching The Chew that often times if you cook with your children in the kitchen, involve them or allow them to watch you they will be more open to trying new foods. In my case not only will they be more open to having an adventurous palette but they will also develop an even more adventurous cooking repertoire of their own. Needless to say, some are just picky you could show them the culinary world and they just want their burger, chicken nuggets, or pizza slice. Calzones come very close to a pizza slice and will probably please any pizza lover just the same.

I had alot of ingredients leftover like ricotta cheese, mozzarella, and Italian sausage. Often that is what happens when you shop in bulk. It can be a dual edged sword but it's a necessity especially when you cook as often as we do and make things in large batches. Anyways, I had frozen everything that was unused along with the leftover lasagna except for the mozzarella. I will be honest and say that this recipe originated from a #Fail attempt at creating homemade ravioli pasta from scratch. I think the main source of my failure was that I just didn't get the dough flat enough, and as I cooked them they turned into dumplings. My husband tried to fry the raviolis and it was just a hot mess lol. It happens to us too. We have those moments in the kitchen. The best way to recover along with the best thing to do is to re-purpose what you already have before you start over. And that is just what I did! I had alot of the ricotta and sausage stuffing mixture leftover to re-purpose.

A Useful Method:
One of the methods used in this recipe really changed my life. I try to use as much fresh ingredients as I can when I can. I could remember when an old Facebook acquaintance had commented on my usage of canned stewed tomatoes. I was watching Disney Junior one night with the kids. The cooking segmnent that comes on in between commercials. Anyways, that's where I learned how to stew tomatoes! You take your two tomatoes and make an "x" at the top with a knife, you can even use a butter knife. Next, you boil them in hot water until they blister (3 mins). Then you remove the tomatoes from the water and place them in an ice bath. You peel the skin off and they are ready to use!


4 Italian sausages (meat removed from casings and cooked to crumbles)
2 stewed tomatoes (vine ripe or romas)
1 cup of "rich tomato puree" (2 tomatoes, 2 tblspns of olive oil, 2 cloves of garlic, 4 basil leaves, 3 sprigs of fresh oregano leaves---dry will also work. You can make this ahead of time and keep on reserve)
1/4 cup of Italian breadcrumbs
1 quart of ricotta cheese
2 cups of self rising all purpose flour
1-2 cups of shredded mozzarella

I started making a dough using all purpose flour and Italian breadcrumbs in a bowl, I added a tsp of canola oil and 1 large egg. Then, I slowly added ice water mixing until I had a nice sticky but moldable dough. I set the dough aside in a ziplock in the refrigerator to rest for at least half an hour. I made a homemade sauce from stewed tomatoes and a rich tomato puree`; you can make this ahead of time or allow it to cook down on a medium low heat for at least 30 mins. This allows all of the flavors to render (combine) together. Some will cook their sauces for longer like 45 mins to an hour. You want to becareful not to cook the sauce on a temperature that is too high because the sauce can burn and taste bitter.

My ricotta and Italian sausage mixture was already made ahead of time, however I will give a quick run through of how it was done. I removed four Italian sausages from the casings and cooked down to crumbles until browned. I mixed them in with the ricotta cheese and added a pinch of kosher salt and pepper (to taste).

Once the dough had enough time to rest, I rolled it out into 2 large discs. You may want to work on a surface dusted with flour. I allowed the sauce to remain somewhat chunky (the consistency of sauce will be a personal preference). I topped one half of the disc with a generous amount of the ricotta and sausage mixture, followed by tomato sauce and shredded mozzarella. I folded the other half over, and sealed the seam by pressing down on the edges of the dough. A fork can be used. When finished, you should have a nice crescent shape. I baked until each calzone was a golden brown. You can dust the outside of the calzone with butter and an Italian seasoning blend. You could also brush with egg if you like. However, I did not dust with egg. I baked until both calzones were a golden brown (at least 35 mins). Then allow to cool for 5 mins. Enjoy!

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