I say ri-caw-tuh, some say ri-coata, which is stuffed in a Cal-zoan -- unless it's calt-zonay…(and then there's a ri-gut stuffed ca'zone but that's a whole other level of Brooklynese that brings me back to Junior High School...).
I'm digressing before I even start.
However you say it, a ricotta-stuffed calzone is a delicious thing, basically a big, beautiful grilled cheese sandwich oozing sweet milky ricotta and gooey mozzarella, sparked with plenty of pecorino or parmesan. I've loved them ever since I was a kid, and lately I've been eating a lot of them as "research" for an upcoming column and video I'm working on for the Times.
Of course I'd be remiss if my research didn't include a trip to Lucali’s in Carroll Gardens. So I headed over there this week to pick up some tips and techniques from a calzone master, chef/owner Mark Iacono.
Some mighty gorgeous pies come out of Mark’s brick oven, but the calzones are equally special. Tender and soft, the dough retains a lovely chew even with a touch of char from the super-hot oven, and just the right amount of cheese gets all melt-ey and ooze-ey. I took the remains of our practice home, and the calzones were even delicious cold.
(That's Lucali's oven, it can reach about 1000 degrees F.)
One thing I learned for sure—you want to use drier ingredients for a calzone than you might for a pizza. Since a calzone locks in moisture (unlike a pizza where much of the moisture evaporates and condenses), you want to keep wetness to a minimum so you get a properly and thoroughly baked shell with any dreaded sogginess. If you’re using ricotta, give it a really good squeeze (or better yet, strain it in the fridge overnight). And as much as I love runny, fresh, buffalo mozzarella, the denser, cow's milk kind works much better in calzones (look for the stuff wrapped in cellophane rather than balls bobbing in water). Whatever cheeses you’re using, be sure to season them aggressively (lots of black pepper) before sealing up your cheesy, doughy package.
Mark also makes an irresistible dessert calzone, with sweetend ricotta on the inside and swirls of melty nutella (the kind imported from Italy, of course) on the outside, seasoned with sea salt. I came home and made something similar with honeyed ricotta mixed with orange zest and cinnamon on the inside, and powdered sugar and honey on top. Heavenly (there it is, below).
Anyway look for more about calzones in a few weeks in the Times. In the meantime, I'll be trying out different filling combinations (broccoli rabe, olives and parmesan sounds like a good to me), and generally brushing up on my calzone technique -- and pronounciation.