My friend Kathy and I used to eat sausage mushroom pizza at The Front Room on Clement Street in San Francisco. We were twelve, just old enough to eat unaccompanied at establishments other than Doggie Diner. Sure, there were other pizzas in my life—Giorgio’s, also on Clement. Shakey’s and Round Table, Toto’s and Uno’s. But The Front Room was my favorite.
When I went to college at sixteen, my RA handed me a beer on my second day of orientation. It was just before my first college football game. I decided I didn’t like beer, but I loved football games. And I still liked pizza. Late night pizza runs to Frankie, Johnnie, & Luigi Too! in Mountain View were legendary.
But it was at Ramona’s restaurant in downtown Palo Alto that I found true love.
Big, inside out pizzas filled with yummy, stretchy, cheesy goodness. It was enough food for two, maybe three people—and I’d eat the whole thing myself. One might think I so enjoyed that calzone because my dorm–Stern Dining—reputedly had the worst food on campus. But really, Ramona’s calzone was just that good. And secretly, I loved the dorm food (and usually went back for seconds).
It’s football season, so here is my attempt at homemade calzone.
This dough is adapted from James Peterson’s pizza dough recipe from his book Baking.
3 cups flour
¾ cup barely warm water
½ tsp active dry yeast proofed in 1 tablespoon barely warm water
¾ tsp salt
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Mix the flour, water, and yeast in a bowl. Add the salt and mix, then add the oil. Knead the dough with a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook for 7 minutes until very smooth and elastic. Let rise at room temperature until doubled in volume.
Marinara sauce—I’m not ashamed to say I used a jar of spaghetti sauce for this. Oh wait. Yes I am. Ashamed.
Italian sausage links—cooked and sliced
Sweet multicolored baby peppers
2 large or 4 small onions, peeled and thinly sliced
2 pounds white button mushrooms, sliced thick
2 pounds Mozzarella cheese
1 Egg, beaten, for glaze
kosher salt and cracked pepper
Toss the whole baby peppers in 2 tbsp olive oil to coat. Place in a single layer on a baking sheet, making sure not to crowd the peppers. Sprinkle with salt. Roast at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes until soft. Remove from oven and let cool. Once cooled, pull off the stem, slide your finger inside the pepper to open it, and remove the seeds. No need to peel the peppers.
In a large heavy pot, sauté the onions on high heat in a little oil till they start to brown. Turn the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, for a half hour till very soft, caramelized, and brown with an almost creamy texture. Season with salt and pepper.
In a large heavy pot, sauté the mushrooms in a little oil on medium high heat, so that the mushrooms release all their water. Continue cooking until all the water released from the mushrooms evaporates, and the mushrooms are dry and start to brown. Continue cooking until all the mushrooms have nice brown edges. Wet squishy mushrooms are unpleasant in texture and flavor, so make sure you get them nice and brown. Season with salt.
yes, that’s vegan sausage in the small dish.
Preheat oven to 475 degrees
If you have a pizza stone, place it on the bottom shelf of your oven and preheat it for at least 30 minutes.
Divide the dough into 6 equal parts.
Roll one portion into a 8 inch circle
On one half of the dough, layer sausage, mushrooms, onions, peppers, fresh basil, sauce, and cheese. Fold the dough over into a half circle and seal. This seemingly simple task ended up being quite difficult. I think I had too much filling and had trouble getting it to seal well, and they certainly did not look pretty.
Continue until you have formed all 6 calzone.
Brush tops of calzone with egg glaze, then sprinkle with kosher salt and cracked pepper.
Place calzone on parchment lined baking sheet.
Bake for 18 minutes, testing to see that the dough is cooked through. I like to put the baking sheet right on the baking stone; the heat is conducted right through the metal, and there’s no messy and slightly dangerous task of putting the food directly onto the stone.
All the components of the filling were perfect, but they did not come together to make the whole greater than the sum of its parts. Next time I recommend:
Crumble the sausage and fry, rather than simmer and slice. The pieces of sausage were too big and not seared.
In attempting to showcase all the filling ingredients, I layered the filling. This layering of cheese and sauce did not allow adequate melding with the other ingredients, so the flavor and texture was not well balanced. Next time I would dump everything in a bowl, mix it up, and place the all-mixed-together filling on the dough.
This dough was not what I expected—the olive oil resulted in a soft bread rather than the chewy, toothsome texture that I wanted for my calzone. Next time I’ll try a different recipe for the dough.
All in all, a good effort, but not a winner this time around.
Today is Big Game
And we are headed for a winning touchdown
in the Cal Zone