When Jeanne from Cook Sister! announced that pies would be the topic for this month’s Waiter, there’s something in my… food blog event, I knew exactly what I was going to make.
Where I grew up, every neighborhood was dotted with family-run bakeries and pizzerias. Just walking along the famed Federal Hill, the wafting aromas of freshly baked wood-fired pizzas and warm yeasty breads could make even the most carb-averse person swoon. And if the smell wasn't enough to entice you, then the sight was: crispy, steaming-hot breads, calzones, and pizzas proudly propped in the store windows beckoning you to come in and have one. And considering how many times I have been lured inside (especially at Buono’s and Crugnale’s Bakeries), I can assure you that they are impossible to resist.
Calzones are true comfort food. They quell your worst hunger and leave you feeling content. Their versatility of fillings ensures that there’s something for everyone to love. And best of all, for me, they do what comfort food should do: remind me of home.
My mom and I have made hundreds of calzones over the years; what’s funny is that we always called calzones filled with eggplant or sausage or meatballs "calzones," but calzones filled with spinach or broccoli were called "pies." Which got me thinking, what’s the difference? Nothing. Turns out a spinach or broccoli pie is just another name for a calzone.
The calzone, originated in Naples, Italy, is often referred to as a “turn-over” or "half-moon" and is made of pizza dough that is filled with cheeses, vegetables, and meats. Though mozzarella cheese is most commonly featured here in the US, many other types of cheese such as fresh ricotta, Provolone, and Parmesan are used as well. Calzones can be deep-fried, but I’ve always had baked. No matter the name, they all share one common trait: they are oh so satisfying.
I’m putting a little California twist on this recipe. Broccolini just debuted at the farmer’s market and is one of my favorite vegetables. As I learned last week, it is not merely young or baby broccoli; rather, it’s a hybrid of broccoli and Chinese kale. Broccolini are delicate, a svelte version of regular broccoli, and they have a beautiful grassy green color. Their flavor is reminiscent of broccoli but is distinctly sweeter, with a pleasing peppery aftertaste. In this recipe, its sweetness contrasts nicely with the rich sun-dried tomatoes, salty olives and cheese, and toasty pinenuts. Of course, you can substitute regular broccoli or the bolder broccoli rabe (rapini).
Broccolini and Sun-Dried Tomato Pie (or Calzone)
Print recipe only here.
2 tsp olive oil, plus 2 tsp for brushing on top of pies
1 pound pizza dough (brought to room temperature)
1/8 cup sun-dried tomatoes, thinly sliced (dry-packed or oil-soaked)
1/8 cup pine nuts, toasted
1 cup broccolini, chopped
¼ cup black olives, such as Cerignola and Kalamata
½ cup grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese
A few shakes of crushed red pepper
A few dashes of salt
Note: If you’re using dry-packed sun-dried tomatoes, then allow them to rest in warm water for 5 minutes before slicing.
To toast the pinenuts, place in a dry skillet over medium heat for about 1 minute or until golden brown. Shake the pan handle gently to ensure even toasting. Remove from heat.
In a large skillet, heat 2 tsp. olive oil; sauté broccolini for about 1-2 minutes until it turns bright green yet remains firm. Add remaining ingredients and gently mix. Heat for 1 minute more, then remove from heat. Taste the filling to adjust seasonings.
To form the pies:
Working on a lightly floured surface, divide the dough in half, and roll into two 8-10-inch ovals. For each piece of dough, put half of the broccolini mixture a bit above the center of the oval. Fold the dough to form a half-moon; seal the edges together by pressing down lightly. Then using your fingertips, fold the edge of the dough up, and pinch around the edge to create a seal. Brush them with the remaining 2 tsp of extra-virgin olive oil.
Baking pies on a baking sheet:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Bake on a rack in the lower third of the oven for about 20 minutes or until the bottom is browned. Then bump up the heat to 425, and move the pan to the upper third of the oven; bake an additional 15 minutes or until the top of the pie is golden brown and crispy.
Baking pies on a pizza stone:
Preheat the oven to 475-500 degrees, and heat the stone for at least 30 minutes. Cook pies directly on the heated stone for about 15 minutes or until both the bottoms and tops are golden brown and crispy.
1 pound of dough will make 2 large pies.
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