Great Grandma Gamba’s Calzones (March 17, 2011)

By Jeanne Scarpato

As a little girl I always was excited when my family and I went to visit my Great Aunt Jean on 43rd St. in North Bergen. It meant that my mother, sisters and I were going to help her make spinach and potato calzones.

Making these calzones has always been something we would do during Lent, but back then, I thought we were just having fun. Little did I know that my sisters and I were getting schooling on a traditional family recipe that I could one day pass down to my children and grandchildren.

Back then we didn’t do much in the creation of the calzones. We just watched as my Great Aunt showed us the steps involved in making my Great Grandmother’s calzones. I can remember my Great Aunt handing us each an egg to crack into the mixing bowl while she kneaded the dough.

Then she would let my sisters and me roll some of the smaller pieces of dough so we wouldn’t distract her from preparing the next selection of ingredients. There was no recipe book or use of measuring cup or spoons. It was all done by generations of experience.

The folding of the calzones was the most challenging because if you rolled the dough out too thin, the fillings would break through. But the best part was to come.

As the calzones baked in the oven, I remember my sisters and I would watch the old, discolored, food-stained egg-timer, wishing it would hurry-up and ring because the aromas of the melting cheeses and spinach, roasting mushrooms and potatoes, filled the air with delicious anticipation and were making us very hungry.

We would sometimes turn the egg-timer slightly forward when my Great Aunt Jean wasn’t looking so the calzones would be done faster, but unfortunately, she would always catch us. When you’re a child you’re only concerned with eating the calzones, not making them.

Today, as a young woman, my mother and I take care of my Great Aunt because she has Alzheimer’s disease. Many of these simple memories of making these calzones are lost for her, but they will never be lost for my family and me because we believe in passing down family traditions.

Spinach Calzone

— 1 lb. store-bought pizza dough — 10½ ounces frozen chopped spinach — 1 tsp chopped garlic — 2 tbsp olive oil — 1 cup grated provolone cheese — 1 cup grated mozzarella cheese — 1 egg for egg-wash

Sauté thawed spinach in olive oil and garlic until all water has evaporated (squeeze out excess liquid first). Mix cheeses into spinach. You may substitute frozen chopped broccoli for spinach.

Roll dough out into two circles of approximately 8 inches in diameter. Spread filling on one half of the circle leaving a border around it for closing. Close the calzone by folding the unfilled side on top of the filled side and crimping the edges closed with your fingers or a fork.

Place calzones on a lightly greased baking pan. Let rise approximately 30 minutes. Brush lightly with an egg-wash and sprinkle some of the remaining cheese over the calzone. Bake at 375ºF for 15-30 minutes or until puffed and golden. Serves 4.

Potato-mushroom Calzone

  • 1 lb store-bought pizza dough
  • 1½ lbs russet potatoes, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3/4 lb mushrooms, sliced
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 egg for egg-wash

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Place the potatoes in a baking dish, drizzle with water, and place in the oven for about 30 minutes. Clean mushrooms by dusting the dirt off of them with a soft brush or towel. You never want to run mushrooms under water because they have high water content and it will make them mushy.

After the mushrooms are cleaned, in a skillet over medium heat, warm the olive oil, and add the garlic and mushrooms. Sauté for 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, and stir in the parsley. Remove from the heat, and set aside.

Remove the potatoes from the oven, pass through a ricer into a bowl, and season with salt and pepper. Roll dough out into circles of approximately 8 inches. Spread filling on one half of the circle leaving a border around it for closing. Close the calzone by folding the unfilled side on top of the filled side and crimping the edges closed with your fingers or a fork.

Place on a lightly greased baking pan. Let rise approximately 30 minutes. Brush lightly with an egg-wash and bake at 375ºF for 15-30 minutes or until puffed and golden. Serves 4.

Let us pray:

Lord Jesus Christ, may our Lenten fasting turn us toward all our brothers and sisters who are in need. Bless this table, our good food, and us. Send us through Lent with good cheer, and bring us to the fullness of your Passover. Amen

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