Black Olive and Spinach Calzones with Homemade Ricotta Cheese + Jalapeno Basil Walnut Pesto

blog_111913 018It’s sort of difficult, the first time you make homemade ricotta cheese, not to simply devour it all before you’ve actually had a chance to use it in any sort of productive way. (And that’s ok! Have at it. It’s lovely with a bit of honey, smeared over a bagel with some homemade jam… you really can’t go wrong however you want to enjoy it.)

If you’ve got any left from that initial batch – or if you don’t and you want an excuse to make it again – perhaps you’d like to launch another DIY project and make your own calzones.

Homemade calzones are one of those things nearly everyone will eat happily. Versatile, satisfying, and warm… they are the stuff of homey, gooey goodness on a cold, grey day.

This recipe utilizes not only ricotta from scratch, but also homemade savory whole wheat pizza dough and a DIY pesto that is out of this world. Of course, you can serve it with tomato sauce instead – or leave both on the table and experiment with identifying your favorite topping of choice!

*    *    *

The nice thing about this recipe is that nearly everything could be made ahead if you wanted  to cut your prep time. The ricotta will store nicely in the fridge for 2-3 days, the pesto can be refrigerated or frozen and thawed in the fridge the day before you plan to use it, and even the pizza dough can be frozen and stored for later.

If you plan to prep it all at once, I’d recommend the order below, though as always nothing is hard and fast and you can put it all together in any order you please.

Savory Whole Wheat Pizza Dough
2 packages active dry yeast
1 1/4 cups warm water
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried rosemary
1/4 cup oil

  • Combine the yeast and warm water in a measuring cup and stir gently. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt, and spices; mix well.
  • Make a little well in the center of your dry ingredients and carefully pour in both the yeast/water mixture and the oil.
  • Stir with a spoon to combine the wet and dry ingredients. Get everything mixed to the point of being sort of crumbly-pasty, and then switch to mixing the dough by hand.
  • Knead the dough in the bowl until it’s well combined, and spongy but not too wet. It should be firm, but not stiff. Shape it into a ball and cover with a clean towel.
  • Allow the dough to rise anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour (an hour if you’ve got the time to spare… 30 min if you’re in more of a rush). While the dough is rising, you can start prepping your ricotta, if needed.
  • Once the dough has finished rising, punch it with your hand (give it a nice, hard smack – very therapeutic), and remove from the bowl. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface, knead it perhaps 5 more times, and then and divide into equal pieces.
  • See Assembly, below.

Homemade Ricotta instructions can be found here.

  • Once ready, set aside if using immediately (say within the hour), or refrigerate if using later.
  • While the ricotta is working its way to 170° F, you can prep the pesto, if needed.

Jalapeno Basil Walnut Pesto
2-3 cups basil,  loosely packed
1 large or 2 small jalapenos, seeded
1 large or 2 small cloves garlic
1/2 cup walnuts
2 tsp Parmesan cheese
salt + pepper, to taste
approx. 1/4 cup olive oil

  • Throw all the ingredients, save the oil, into a food processor.
  • Pulse to blend ingredients, stopping every now and then to scrape down the sides. Once the mixture is wet but crumbly and well-combined, it’s ready for the oil.
  • As you pulse, slowly add your oil. There is no right or wrong amount. Pesto texture is all about what you like and what looks appetizing to you. Add oil until it looks like you want it to look (somewhere between a thick, pasty, spackle-like consistency and an oily, loose, sand-in-water sort of thing. Not that either of those sounds appetizing – but the main message is choose your oil level based on your own preference!)
  • Set the pesto aside if using within the next hour. You can refrigerate for up to a week or freeze for up to a year.
  • Assuming your dough and cheese are also ready, skip ahead to Assembly!

2 balls pizza dough
approx. 2 cups ricotta
2 cups mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 cups black olives (kalamata are also insanely good)
2 cups spinach leaves
salt + pepper, to taste
pesto, for serving

  • Prior to putting everything together, wilt your spinach in a saucepan or frying pan so that it is moist and dark green.
  • In a large bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, and Parmesan cheese. Stir to mix well.
  • Add in the olives and spinach, and stir gently to combine.
  • Taste your filling and decide if you want to add any salt and/or pepper.
  • Take 1 of your pizza dough balls and stretch it out by hand, working it into a rectangular shape. Use a lightly floured surface to expand your dough, pressing evenly and shaping as you go, so that it ends up approximately 10 inches x 12 inches. (Shorter side facing you.)
  • blog_111913 014Place half your filling on the end closest to you, leaving about 1 inch of space all around. Spread it out so that it covers the full width of your rectangle (minus the 1 inch border).
  • Fold the dough toward you so that it blankets your filling, and crimp the edges all around by rolling or pinching the dough toward the center of the calzone (away from you).
  • Repeat with the other half of your pizza dough and filling.
  • Place on a large baking sheet and cook, at 425° F, for approximately 20 minutes.
  • Serve with pesto (or topping of your choice).

blog_111913 016A little side note: When I make calzones, I usually like to separate the cheeses equally into two bowls so that I can fiddle with my filling extras. If you choose to divide your ricotta, mozarella, and Parmesan, you can mix things up with sausage (I have a great homemade vegan sausage recipe I’ll share at some point!), all manner of veg, or any combination thereof. It’s fun to have more flavors to enjoy in one sitting!


2 responses to “Black Olive and Spinach Calzones with Homemade Ricotta Cheese + Jalapeno Basil Walnut Pesto

  1. Pingback: Delicious Homemade Sausage Recipe (that just happens to be vegan!) | Do It Now + Green

  2. Pingback: The tale of “A Pizza and Calzone night” | Chocolate Spoon & The Camera

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