Calzones: BBQ Chicken & Sausage and Peppers

I go through this whole process to decide on what to make for dinner. Sometimes when I feel uninspired, I go to the market and let the store decide for me. “Hey store, what should I cook for dinner?” I’ll scream out loud as I walk in. Sure, I’ll get some stares but it’s mostly because they’re jealous they didn’t think to ask the store themselves. They understand. We’re in the same boat. I’ll take a stroll around and see what looks good on that particular day and I’ll usually get ideas just on that. However let me give you one piece of advice, I’m sure you already know this, but you should never go to the market on an empty stomach. It’s bad news. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve taken a trip to the grocery store starving and I end up having chips and a baguette for dinner. Maybe even a few string cheeses on the car ride. I’ll get home and be like “Hey guys, guess what! We’re having pretzels and ice cream cones for dinner.” That never goes over well, which is a shocker to me. I mean, who wouldn’t want plain ice cream cones for dinner? Sometimes I base meals solely on what I feel like eating on that day. I go through cravings like a pregnant woman—I’m assuming. I’ll get something in my head and won’t be able to rest until I eat it. It’s a blessing really. The same thing goes for the posts and newsletters I photograph. Most of the time—okay, maybe always—I end up making, shooting and sharing a recipe that I felt like eating at the time. Purely selfish of me I apologize (but not really because it’s a delicious way to work).

My family will always know when I really don’t feel like cooking because I end up making something super simple like tuna sandwiches, or turkey sandwiches, or grilled cheese sandwiches. There’s a theme here, sandwiches are easy to make. Take note. At the same time, whenever I whip up a batch of buttermilk pancakes and scramble a few eggs and call it dinner, they’ll know how lazy I’m feeling that day. Although breakfast for dinner is the best thing on this planet, so no one’s complaining. Certainly not me. I could eat breakfast for dinner all day every day. I digress though. This post came through a conversation with a friend. I hadn’t eaten a calzone since like elementary school, and then she made me one and I was like “Whoa that looks amazing! I haven’t eaten a calzone since elementary school!” She then told me, “You should make calzones for your blog!” I responded with, “Oh yeah, like BBQ chicken. Oh Oh and sausage and peppers!” We both stared at each other and laughed like if something was funny and these calzones were unattainable, but then we both stopped laughing immediately and just stared at each other knowing we just said something serious and genius. And that’s how these calzones came to life. I had the BBQ chicken idea in my head immediately and the sausage and peppers came to me a little later only because I thought in my head I would have to make a second kind because one of my sister’s hates BBQ sauce (total weirdo). This whole long story just to show you how I usually decide on what to make and shoot. That’s how my brain operates when it comes to food. The more you know.

So to prevent this post from being 100 pages long (although it is already super long) I decided not to show the making of the pizza dough. One, because you’d be here forever reading the post—not that it would be a bad thing necessarily—two, because I was too lazy to show the entire process of making pizza dough. It would have taken me longer to photograph. But really it’s because I already made a post on Basic Pizza Dough. If you don’t remember it, it’s because it was one of the very early posts. I’m even embarrassed to link it on here because it’s not the best image wise or writing wise. I don’t even want to check it out myself. I’m sure if I did, there would be a lot of “What was I thinking?” moments. But with each post I grow and get better so I guess I have that basic pizza dough to thank for where I am today. Anyhow I’m rambling, so if you want to learn how to make the pizza dough pictured here, you can find the post here. If you don’t have the time to make your own pizza dough (“Screw you Jonathan! I don’t have the time to make my own pizza dough!”) then you can definitely use store bought pizza dough. Super markets nowadays have a great selection of premade pizza doughs. Take advantage!

While the pizza dough is rising, let’s start getting our fillings and sauces together.

We’re going to start with the red pizza sauce that goes into the sausage and peppers calzone. This is a really easy and simple red sauce. Much like a marinara. We start with a yellow onion.

 

Cut the ends off of the onion, then cut in half. After, you can dice it into small pieces. Remember that this is going into a sauce so you don’t want large chunks of onion going through it.

You’re also going to need a few garlic cloves; peeled and minced (that’s fancy for finely chopped).

 

Sauté the onions and garlic in a medium sauce pot over medium-high heat with a bit of olive oil. Cook, stirring constantly for a few minutes and then season.

We’re seasoning this sauce with all the usual suspects.

Salt.

 

Black pepper (freshly cracked is preferred).

 

Crushed red pepper flakes (just a tad, you don’t want it to be too spicy or do you?).

 

And last, but certainly not least, is dried Italian seasoning. What is Italian seasoning you might ask? Well it’s just a blend of dried herbs like rosemary, thyme, oregano, marjoram and basil. That’s it.

 

Stir the seasonings into the onions and garlic and continue to cook for another 5 minutes or until the onions are translucent and just beginning to caramelize.

 

Once the onions and garlic are cooked through, add the tomato paste and stir.

 

Add in the crushed tomatoes. Stir it in slowly and carefully because that stuff splashes everywhere and the last thing you’ll want is to have crushed tomatoes all up on your clothes. Or maybe you do, I don’t know. I’m not judging.

 

Lower the heat, place a lid on the pot, and allow to simmer for about 10 minutes.

In the meantime, let’s turn our attention to the other parts of these calzones. This red sauce is going to paired up with the sausage and peppers. Cook the italian sausage links in a skillet with a light drizzle of olive oil. Place the links on a single layer in a skillet heated over medium-high heat.

Cook for about 5 minutes on the first side, flip over and continue to cook until fully cooked through, about 2 to 4  minutes.

The links should be brown and crispy on both sides.

Once the sausages are cooked, you can transfer them to a plate lined with paper towels (to catch up any excess oil) and allow to cool down.

Now let’s cut some peppers. I like using red and yellow bell peppers for this recipe, but if you prefer the green, orange, or purple ones, then you can definitely use those instead.

Either way, you can thinly slice them.

In the same skillet where you cooked the sausage (why dirty more equipment?), add the peppers and cook until caramelized and soft and tender. It should take about 10 minutes. Make sure you stir constantly so as to prevent them from sticking to the skillet or burning.

At this point we can finish off the red sauce. It needs a bit of freshness, so I like to add a bunch of fresh basil (which if you didn’t know happens to be my favorite herb).

Stack up the basil leaves on top of each other, roll them into a log of some sort, and then run your knife through it, cutting the basil into thin ribbons. Thin ribbons of deliciousness.

We’re basil-cally (sorry) just thinly slicing the basil but in the cooking world this technique has a fancy name and it’s called chiffonade. “What?! That’s crazy Jonathan!!” Or “You’re a dummy! We already knew that! Gosh!” Just take your pick, both can be applied here.

Add the basil to the sauce and stir. Stir like you’ve never stirred before. But not really because it’s not like life or death or anything. Unless you really love red sauce and you take stirring-in basil super seriously. That’s okay too.

   

Allow the sauce to simmer for a few minutes longer and then it’s ready. Done. Finished. You can sit back and relax now. Syke! Just kidding, you have to finish making the calzones silly.

**Tip: You can use this red sauce for all your pasta needs as well. Toss it will some cooked noodles and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. You can have a simple and delicious meal in no time.**

When the sauce is done, allow it to cool down before proceeding to the calzone making steps. We’re pretty much done preparing the sausage and peppers calzone. So let’s turn our attention to the BBQ chicken calzone.

This one is super simple because we’re taking tons of shortcuts.

We need chicken of course, so grab a few boneless chicken breasts and season them with salt, pepper, and paprika. Sear in a skillet until both sides are brown and crispy, and the chicken is cooked through. About 5 to 7 minutes per side, depending on how thick the breasts are.

**Tip: Allow the chicken to cool down and rest before slicing. This will ensure that it remains moist and gives the juices a chance to settle in. Because if you’ve ever been impatient like me and just sliced into chicken still super hot, you would’ve noticed all the juices coming out and then you’re left with dry chicken. DRY. CHICKEN. That’s not good. Be patient and let it rest.**

Once the chicken has cooled and rested, thinly slice it.

Then dice a red onion.

Both types of calzones are going to get a copious amount of cheese. Cheese for days. Cheese for life. Mozzarella cheese. The BBQ chicken however, is also going to get a sprinkling of cheddar cheese because I like cheddar cheese on my BBQ chicken pizza. So that’s why.

Grate some cheddar cheese.

**Tip: Always grate your own cheese as this will ensure you get the freshest cheese possible. That already grated stuff in the market is convenient, sure, but it’s been sitting there grated for a while. Not so fresh. Plus I often find that the ungrated stuff is cheaper. Save some money and grate your own cheese.**

Let’s start making some calzones shall we? Our pizza dough should be ready to go by now.

Divide the pizza dough into 4 even pieces.

**Note: Each pizza dough recipe, will give you 4 calzones. I made two batches, one for each type.**

Then grab each piece, working one at a time, and roll it out into a thin circle.

**Tip: If you don’t have a rolling pin—you should really get one because they come in handy and are great for a lot of things like making pies but also crushing things like nuts and stuff for other kitchen related things—you can use your hands and just free form the circle.**

Spread the dough with BBQ sauce.

I just used a store-bought BBQ sauce because homemade BBQ sauce has a lot of ingredients and I was just too lazy to go through all that hassle for it when there are perfectly great options at the market. Plus I did make the other sauce so I should get credit for that at least. I mean I’m trying here. DON’T JUDGE ME! Homemade BBQ sauce really, really? Ain’t no one got time for that. Who am I, Martha Stewart?!?!

Sprinkle a boatload of mozzarella and cheddar cheese. Lots and lots of cheese because cheese is the best.

Add all the sliced chicken (I’m kidding. Don’t add all of it, you still need to save some for the other calzones).

Sprinkle a few red onions on top of the chicken.

**Tip: You can also use sliced scallions (green onions) instead. Perhaps you don’t like red onions, perhaps you don’t have a red onion on hand? Whatever the case might be, I’m here for you. I got your back. I’m looking out for you.**

Add a few leaves of cilantro. This is optional if you don’t want to add the cilantro you don’t have to, but I’m from California and in California we put cilantro on our BBQ chicken pizza like no one’s business. So I’m adding it to my BBQ chicken calzone.

Then top with a bit more sauce, and a sprinkling more of cheese.

It might appear to be overly stuffed, but don’t you worry about that. It’ll all work out just fine.

Fold over the top part of the dough to create a calzone shape. A half circle. Just bring over that dough onto the tasty filling.

Crimp or fold over or squish with a fork, the edges to ensure you create a seal. You don’t want the sauce or cheese to ooze out during baking.

Place the calzone on a baking sheet lined with either parchment paper or foil and greased with a bit of olive oil.

Repeat this BBQ chicken calzone making process, three more times so you end up with four BBQ chicken calzones.

The remaining four will be the sausage and peppers.

**Note: You don’t have to make both kinds of calzones, you can definitely choose one or the other. Just double the recipe for the desired filling of choice. But why only choose one when you can have both? I ask you that important question my friends.**

Let’s make the sausage and peppers calzone.

Spread the rolled out pizza dough circle with our homemade red sauce.

Sprinkle with a ridiculous amount of mozzarella cheese.

I accidentally added cheddar cheese to this one when I wasn’t supposed to. I knew what I was doing while I was doing it but it was too late, I added the cheddar cheese. Then I tried removing the cheddar cheese but it was taking too long so I just left some of it. Oh well, cheese is cheese, it’ll be just as tasty. But you don’t add the cheddar cheese. You should do it right okay?!

Top with the sautéed red and yellow peppers.

Add the sliced sausage from earlier. (I forgot to tell you to slice the sausage so I’m telling you now. Slice the sausage).

Add a bit more sauce and of course more cheese. Just mozzarella, no cheddar.

Fold over and crimp just like before. Then place the calzone onto the prepared baking sheet with the rest.

You’ll most definitely need two baking sheets because they all wont fit onto one. Believe me, I tried.

Then make tiny slits on top to allow steam to escape. This will also prevent the dough from puffing up.

Brush the calzones with an egg wash (beaten egg with a splash of water). This will make sure the calzones get golden brown in the oven while they bake.

  

You’re almost done. The calzones are just about ready to go into the oven. First, we need to sprinkle them with a grating of fresh parmesan cheese and a crackling of black pepper. Flavor people, flavor. We’re building flavor.

Bake in a preheated 400°F oven for about 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown and crispy all around. I like to rotate the pans, halfway through cooking, to allow for even browning.

Once finished, you can remove them from the oven. Allow to cool slightly and serve with a salad. I say salad because I eat about 4 of these in one sitting so a salad makes me feel better about myself. I say salad because I added lots of cheese and sauce to mine so the healthy greens make me feel less guilty.

These always remind me of being a child and hoping against hope that it was calzone day at school. I’d get really excited to see calzones on the menu, I’d forget to breathe. Okay, that might be just a bit of an exaggeration. Just a tad. I’d probably forget to blink or something. I really did love calzones though, and I don’t think there was anything else that made me go crazy as far as school food goes. Perhaps chalupas. Those were good too. But that’s another story, for another time.

 

The great thing about calzones is that they are super easy to make and put together. And you can fill them with all kinds of things. If you’re not feeling the BBQ sauce or the red pizza sauce, then you could go wild and use pesto or a sun-dried tomato paste of some sort. If you want to make this vegetarian, you can omit the sausage and chicken and just jam pack it with all kinds of vegetables. Whatever your heart desires. Go wild.

They’re also great because they are compact and super to eat on the go. You can store them in your purse or pockets and just whip one out whenever you’re feeling faint and need to eat something. That’s totally normal.

 

If I had to choose between these two. Like if someone put a gun against my head and made my choose. Said person would be holding the gun and they’d say “Pick one or you die!” I would probably, kinda, sorta, choose the BBQ chicken calzone. Yeah, that’s my final answer. I’m locking it in, no lifelines. Thank you very much.

 

Comments

  1. avatar says

    I AM A HUGE FAN!! I love your posts. I don’t always try the recipes but the blog is just beautiful. I did the poptarts one and another one I can’t remember right now. Keep them coming – I love all of what you post.

  2. avatarGeni says

    I’m going to try talking to the grocery store and see if it answers me. You had me laughing, I was visualizing your story :)

  3. avatarTiffany says

    I think I’ll be making calzones for dinner tomorrow , yum! I read your blog even if I don’t make or like the featured recipe , it’s entertaining to say the least :)

  4. avatar says

    I love that this is inspired by what you used to eat as a kid. Plus calzones are totally the bomb because they’re like pizza, only better because they’re sealed up into cute little portable packets. And they’re double the crust, which everyone knows is the best part. So it’s calzones for the win, every time.

  5. avatar says

    It’s kind of different to read about calzones at 6 am on my way to work. But I want them now because of you. I could totally eat one of these for breakfast! Maybe even cold! Yum!

  6. avatarRushi says

    J, I’ve probably said this before but I’m going to say it again – you are a lifesaver. This would be the perfect weekday lunch, just need a bit of planning & I know hubby will be super happy to dig into one of these.

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