Italian Sausage and Ricotta Calzone

This one has been on the list for awhile. Handmade Italian sausage and ricotta calzone is the personal pizza recipe to make ahead, freeze, make for dinner —on repeat. Stuffed with spicy Italian sausage, garlicky spinach and a smattering of ricotta cheese, this classic Italian meat calzone makes the perfect dinner. And so good reheated in the air fryer the next day for lunch!

Stacked sausage calzone with spinach on wooden cutting board.

I have a pizza theory: calzones are created for those of us who want the whole pizza to ourselves. A calzone gives you absolute permission to greedily (and if you’re me, proudly) consume a whole pizza pie yourself. And this Italian sausage and ricotta calzone is one I happily gobble up solo.

That being said, calzones also lend themselves quite nicely to a party. Assemble multiple toppings in bowls, have the dough premade on a floured baking sheet and let everyone roll, fill and bake their own.

And then they can decide if they want to share or not. Who knew calzone was really a front for a personality test?

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Best dough for calzone

A bread dough is great for being sturdy enough to hold the calzone ingredients while not collapsing under their weight.

I spent a few days testing and re-testing pizza doughs and bread doughs including my own homemade pizza dough. In the end, I wanted something with that crisped up a bit more outside while also producing a soft inside. I ended up with a calzone dough recipe comprised of “00” and AP flours, a small amount of yeast, and tich more salt.

The calzone dough is super easy but because of the small amount of yeast, it rises overnight (up to 18 hours) so be sure to plan for this when you’re craving calzones.

Is it a calzone or a stromboli?

And maybe the question really is: did you know there was a difference? I didn’t until I started really digging into this recipe. Here’s what sets a calzone apart from a stromboli:

  • A calzone always usually has ricotta cheese in it and usually no sauce inside (but served on the side).
  • A stromboli has sauce inside.

Re: the ricotta. People like my husband will tell you calzones don’t always have ricotta because in many Italian pizzerias, you can customize the inside of your calzone. I’m here to tell you that a classic calzone almost always ricotta inside.

What goes inside a calzone

Typically a little meat, some cheeses (provolone and ricotta) and in our case, veggies (sauteed spinach with garlic).

ingredients for sausage calzone on a brown background including ricotta, dough, parmesan, provolone and spinach.
  • Dough. Part “00” pizza flour and part all-purpose flour (you can use bread flour) plus some yeast and salt. You could also use your favorite homemade pizza dough or store-bought but the results might not be exactly the same.
  • Spicy Italian sausage. You’ll see I used links and removed the casing as the store I was shopping at didn’t have bulk Italian sausage. If you can find it in bulk, buy it!
  • Sauteed spinach. Lightly sauteed spinach in garlic adds extra flavor. You could also place the leaves in fresh if you like but make sure the leaves are clean and thoroughly dried.
  • Cheeses. First up: a generous smear of ricotta and some slices of provolone. Don’t forget the parm on top!

More filling ideas

Classic calzone fillings include roasted red pepper, pepperoni, cheese only, mushrooms and more. Don’t forget the ricotta and make sure that the ingredients you choose aren’t too wet or your calzone will end up a little juicier.


Equipment suggestion

I use a baking stone (my favorite one is the black pizza stone from Emil Henry) for consistent results.

-Lori

How to make homemade sausage calzone

ruler measuring calzone dough on parchment.
1. Divide dough into 6 sections. Roll out each section into about 7-8″ in diameter.
wooden cutting board with dough round spread with ricotta.
2. Spread a few big spoons of ricotta over one half leaving a rim for folding the calzone. Top with torn provolone.
calzone being filled with sausage, spinach and cheese with pan of spinach nearby.
3. Place a couple of forkfuls of sauteed spinach and some spoonfuls of cooked sausage over the cheese.
sealed and crimped sausage calzone on parchment.
4. Fold the unfilled side of dough over the filled side and crimp the edges closed.
unbaked sausage ricotta calzone on wooden cutting board.
5. Brush over some beaten egg followed by a sprinkling of parmesan cheese and flaky salt.
wooden cutting board with baked sausage ricotta calzone.
6. Bake on a baking stone for about 25 minutes until golden.

Pro tip

Brush the top with a little egg wash before sprinkling with parmesan for a crispy crust. I have tested with butter as well and the egg produced far better results!


Top tips for the perfect calzone

Sausage and ricotta calzones stacked on plate with red sauce coated black fork.
  • Make ahead. You can roll, stuff and seal the calzones and refrigerate on a sheet pan until you’re ready to bake them. Be sure to cover thoroughly with plastic wrap or a lightly dampened dish towel so the dough doesn’t dry out.
  • Fill halfway leaving around a 1/2″ rim on the edge so you have room for sealing and crimping.
  • Cut a hole so steam can escape at the top before baking with a sharp paring knife.
  • Dip sausage calzone in some quick marinara dipping sauce because every calzone needs good dipping buddy.

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Stacked sausage calzone with spinach on wooden cutting board.
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Italian Sausage and Ricotta Calzone

Prep Time:5 minutes
Cook Time:35 minutes
Dough rising time – max:18 hours
Total Time:18 hours 40 minutes
Servings 6 calzones

Equipment

Ingredients
 

For the calzone dough

  • 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting; can use bread flour
  • 2 ¼ cups "00" flour, or pizza flour;
  • ½ teaspoon instant yeast, generous
  • 4 teaspoons kosher salt, I used Diamond Kosher; otherwise use 2 teaspoons if using Morton's Kosher salt
  • 2 cups warm water, about 105° or so
  • cornmeal for sprinkling, for sprinkling pizza peel

For the filling

Finishing

Instructions

For the dough

  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour and yeast together. Next, stir in the salt.
    Pour in the water and mix with either a wooden spoon or a stand mixer (fitted with the paddle attachment) on low until combined. The dough will be shaggy.
    Cover the bowl with plastic wrap first and then cover with a clean dish towel to rise overnight for 12-18 hours.
    2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour, 2 ¼ cups "00" flour, ½ teaspoon instant yeast, 4 teaspoons kosher salt, 2 cups warm water
  • The next day, sprinkle a generous tablespoon of flour or so on a clean counter. Remove the dough to the counter. (It might be pretty loose)
    Gently pull the far side edge of the dough towards you over top of the dough. Next, pull the closest side over top the opposite way and repeat from side to side. Add flour as needed in 1 Tablespoon increments so that the dough isn't sticking to the board.
  • Cut into 6 even pieces and shape into rounds. Place on a floured sheet pan and cover lightly with plastic wrap to rise for another hour.
    If you don't plan on using all the dough, I recommend place each in its own ziploc bag and let rise in the bag for another hour (at least). Freeze or refrigerate the dough you don't plan to use.

For the filling

  • Heat a medium skillet over medium high heat until warm. Crumble in the sausage and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the sausage is browned about 8 minutes or so.
    Remove the sausage to a paper-towel lined plate to drain. Set aside to cool.
    3 links Italian sausage
  • To the same skillet, heat over medium low and drizzle in about 2 T of olive oil. When heated, add in the thinly sliced garlic and allow to sizzle for about two minutes. Lower the heat if the garlic is browning too quickly. You only want it to flavor the oil and the spinach.
    Fill the skillet with the spinach by the handful, tossing as you incorporate it into the hot oil and garlic. Season with a good sprinkle of salt and pepper. The spinach will start to wilt within 30 seconds. Keep tossing until it's as you like but remove it a few seconds before you think you should as it'll continue to cook.
    2 Tablespoons olive oil, 2-3 cloves garlic, 10 oz baby spinach leaves, kosher salt, ground black pepper

Form the calzone

  • Preheat oven to 425°. I recommend using a baking stone or pizza steel. Place in the oven as it preheats and as you make the calzones.
    If you don't have a baking stone or pizza steel, then preheat a cast iron skillet in the oven.
  • Remove one calzone dough round from the bag. It will be pretty soft. Flour the counter or a cutting board. Depending on the humidity, if the dough is sticking pretty well to the bag, it's a sign it might need a little more flour so sprinkle over some and work it in until it feels smooth but still very stretchy. It shouldn't stick to the board.
    Start at the center use your fingers to shape the calzone into a flat circle about 7-8" in diameter and ¼" thick.
  • Draw an imaginary line across the circle of dough. On one half spread 1/4 cup of ricotta cheese leaving about ¼" rim on the edge of the dough. Tear up a piece (or 2) of provolone and place on the ricotta.
    Sprinkle over ⅙ of the spinach followed by ⅙ of each of the sausage and parmesan cheese.
    1 ½ cup ricotta, 12 slices provolone cheese, 6 Tablespoons parmesan
  • Stretch the unfilled side of dough over the filled side. Pinch or roll the edge seam closed. You can also use a fork to crimp the edges.
  • Cut slits in the top near the center so steam can escape. Make sure the calzone slides on the board and if needed because it's now heavier, sprinkle a little more flour between the calzone and the board.
  • Brush any excess flour off the top with a pastry brush.
    Use the brush to paint on some beaten egg all over the calzone. Sprinkle with parmesan and some flaky sea salt.
    Place unbaked finished calzone on a pizza peel sprinkled with cornmeal and carefully slide the calzone onto the preheated baking stone.
    Bake until golden on top about 25 minutes and the edges are crisp. Serve with some homemade marinara dipping sauce on the side.
    cornmeal for sprinkling, 1 egg

Notes

  • I highly recommend using a baking stone to make/bake pizzas and calzones. 
  • If you can’t find/don’t have “00” flour, you can use all AP or bread flour.
  • Unused dough can be frozen up to 3 months.
  • Store leftovers in the refrigerator wrapped in plastic wrap and then a sealed bag for up to 3 days.
  • Reheat in a 350° oven for about 10 minutes until warmed through. 
Airfryer tips. Air fry for 8-10 minutes at 365°.
Course: Main Course, Pizza
Cuisine: Italian
Author: Lori Murphy
Did you make this recipe? Tag @josieandnina or tag #josieandnina!

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