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"Calzone are pointless. They're just pizza that's harder to eat. No-one likes them." Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope in Parks and Recreation

Of late we have been engaging with Parks and Recreation again on our Amazon Prime streaming service. We had watched a few episodes from here and there in the past, and when it became available decided to begin again. It'a an amusing way to end the evening and dispel any gloom from any of the other programs we had been watching earlier in the evening.

Anyway last night, virtually the last words of the episode, were those in my heading quote, and it struck such a chord with me, because I feel a bit the same about calzone. Overly large and such an effort to eat it seems to me. Even stodgier than the supposedly stodgy English suet puddings. So I vowed to write about calzone today.

First of all I searched my vast collection of Italian cookbooks and found just three which had a recipe, the first one being The Silver Spoon, which actually had this photograph too. Now The Silver Spoon is a huge volume and, some say, the definitive source for all Italian recipes. However there are not many pictures scattered throught its 1262 pages, so it's a bit of an honour for a recipe to have one. It's a lovely photo although it doesn't really show you what a calzone is. After all there could be anything enclosed in that very thick pastry.

These days of course, you can have just about anything stuffed into a calzone - and I will come to a few examples - but originally it seems to be just cheese and ham and that's what The Silver Spoon calzone has within - ham, salami and cheese - mozzarella and ricotta. No tomatoes or tomato sauce, which is sort of interesting because Naples is the home of the Italian tomato and Pizza Margherita.

Elizabeth David, in her Italian Food says of them:

"Another dish of the pizza family is the Neapolitan calzone, an enormous envelope of leavened dough with a slice of ham and wonderfully sticky cheese in the centre, the whole thing fried in smoking oil."

Note the use of the word 'enormous'. She is one of the three with a recipe however and probably a classic one, which probably ended up looking like this one from Sally's Baking Addiction:

"Make the same dough as for Pizza Napoletana, and when it has risen then roll it out very thin. Cut it into rounds about the diameter of a teacup; to one side of each lay a slice of ham and a slize of mozzarella (or Bel Paese) cheese; sprinkle with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Fold over into a half-moon shape, press down the edges so that the ham and cheese are well enclosed. Cook in an oiled baking dish in the oven for about 20 minutes, or fry in deep, very hot olive oil." Elizabeth David

The last cookbook on my shelves to have a recipe - and this time, a picture, was the similarly old-fashioned Women's Weekly Italian Cookbook 2, with an equally dated photograph. It's not quite as dated as Elizabeth David or The Silver Spoon however, and so by now we have tomatoes in the mix. Of course the Women's Weekly has a few other fillings these days which include the more trendy peperoni and vegetarian versions.

Still pretty stodgy looking however, which is why my original quote really gets to the heart of the matter. They are indeed difficult to eat, although "Nobody likes them" was perhaps an overstatement, particularly as she was responding to an invitation to go out and grab a calzone. Obviously Ben - who was inviting her liked them. And you do find them on most Italian restaurant menus so presumably people order them. Do they order them again though?

They supposedly came into being in Naples in the eighteenth century and:

"You can imagine that the classic filled pizza, the calzone, came about by simply folding the round pizza dough in half, enclosing the ingredients and then sealing its edges before placing it in a wood-fired oven to cook like normal pizza." Stefano Manfredi

Which is rather like the portafoglio method of eating a pizza shown here and beautifully derided by Tony Naylor:

"You want to get hands-on with your pizza. You want to feel that hot, springy crust yielding between your fingers. You want to get up close and personal with each slice – its aroma, its vivid colours – rather than eating it at one prim remove with cutlery or wolfing it down as a fat, folded wodge of indistinguishable ballast." Tony Naylor

Ottolenghi also asks the question but also proposes an answer:

"Why do Italians, who already have the world's most popular savoury pastry, bother with calzone? After all, it's essentially just a pizza folded around its centre. As someone with a certain fetishistic love for all things doughy and stuffed, I believe I have the answer: it is all about surprise, contrast and delayed gratification." Yotam Ottolenghi

I'm not sure I'm on his side with the answer though. Just too much pastry and too heavy a pastry too.

Mind you, as we have seen, some calzone are deep fried, and these tend to be smaller and therefore easier to eat. delicious. has a recipe for these - Fried calzone with mozzarella and mortadella which do indeed look delicious although I suspect the pastry is not bread dough - it looks a little too thin. Good snack food however and you can buy them as snacks/street food in Italy. Are they really calzone however, or do they have other names. There are certainly a whole range of similar things, both large and small, fried and baked, bread or other dough to be found around Italy, often with different names.

So a few examples. The first is from one of those random websites - this one is called Natasha's Kitchen and she calls her recipe Easy calzones. It's a pretty classic recipe, mostly just cheese, ham and salami but with with a smear of passata.

Natasha - well actually Natalya is an American of Ukrainian immigrant parents, married to another Ukrainian American and living in Idaho. She looks like so many of these bloggers, although it is a joint venture with her husband and has been going since 2009 and includes cookbook success. The site is annoyingly loaded with heaps of ads that interrupt the text, also like so many others, but she does show you how and it'a all quite clearly explained. Very American religious however in her About section, which shows my prejudices I suppose. Apologies. I vaguely remember seeing her site occasionally but not that often.

Back to my other examples. Sylvia Colloca has a few recipes here and there, including one made with puff pastry - so not really a calzone. So two examples from Sylvia: Home-made calzone with ricotta, cherry tomatoes and other lovelies and Calzone with ricotta and 'nduja

Jamie Oliver has no recipes in his two Italian cookbooks but he does have a few recipes and videos online. The one I have chosen to feature here is a sweet one, because there are also quite a few sweet versions out there - mostly from Sicily I think. To accompany Jamie's Chocolate calzone there is also Sydney chef Gianluca Donzelli's Banana and macadamia sweet calzone

That last one doesn't look like pizza dough but it is. It must be rolled very thin - and it also looks as if it has been shaped as a roll rather than a pasty. So not really a calzone?

Who knows and who cares? Well to be honest, as you have probably guessed I don't really care for calzone, however, Parks and Recreation made me smile in its subversivenes. I mean maybe she's right and nobody likes calzone.

If you can have a beautiful looking pizza like this, then why would you bother with calzone? The fact that so many Italian cookbooks don't have a recipe for it says something surely?

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May 21
Rated 3 out of 5 stars.

Well there you go - Rolled Over pizza, who would have believed it. Turning something very nice (as a treat) into an "enormous", might I say glutonous over reach!

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