Calzones with Pesto, Zucchini, and Spinach

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Lauren Zembron
Lauren Zembronhttps://www.healthyfoodforliving.com/
I am a 34 year old living outside of Boston with my wonderful husband, energetic daughter, sweet son, and playful dog. I have degrees in both psychology and guidance counseling, and have worked in a variety of school settings. I strive to find a balance between the two basic food philosophies of “eat to live” and “live to eat“. I believe that food should be (and is!) one of the great pleasures of leading a healthy lifestyle.
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I’m just going to throw this out there: I love pizza… but I might love calzones even more. Basically pizza in pocket form, calzones can be stuffed with just about anything your little heart desires. On this particular occasion, my heart was pitter-pattering over vibrant homemade pesto, creamy ricotta cheese (part-skim, of course), tender zucchini, and fresh spinach.

Calzones with Pesto

One might even call these “green” calzones, what with the trifecta of verdant vegetables.

Calzones with Pesto

A bit of fresh mozzarella probably would have put these calzones over the top, but alas we had none on hand. That being said, the rich ricotta did a splendid job of satisfying my craving for something cheesy.

Calzones with Pesto

For some reason I find it immensely gratifying to eat an entire meal with my hands.  The pockets of crisp pizza dough encapsulating the piping hot cheese-and-veggie filling negate the need for any utensils, and the hands-only eating experience is only heightened when you have a bowl of steaming marinara sauce on the side for dipping.

If you’re a fan of pizza (and really, who isn’t?) then you will love these calzones!

Calzones with Pesto

Calzones with Pesto, Zucchini, and Spinach

yields 4 calzones

Ingredients:

  • homemade or store-bought dough for 1 pizza, at room temperature
  • flour, for rolling out pizza dough
  • 1 batch homemade oil-less vegan pesto* (commercial pesto tends to be super oily, which makes for a soggy calzone)
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup coarsely grated zucchini squash, preferably organic
  • 1 cup tightly packed baby spinach, preferably organic
  • 1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • homemade or store-bought marinara sauce, warmed, for dipping

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
  2. Divide pizza dough into 4 equal pieces. On a clean, lightly floured surface, roll each piece of dough into a 1/4 inch thick circle of about 7 inches in diameter. Place all dough circles onto a non-stick (or lined) baking sheet.
  3. Evenly divide the pesto amongst the 4 dough circles, spreading it across half of each and leaving a 1/2 inch border. Set aside.
  4. Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add shredded zucchini to skillet and cook for 3 minutes, stirring often. Add spinach to skillet and toss until wilted. Let cool for 5 minutes.
  5. In a medium bowl, stir together the ricotta and the zucchini/spinach mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  6. Evenly divide the ricotta and vegetable mixture between the 4 dough circles, spreading it on top of the pesto. Each dough circle should still have a clean half.
  7. Fold the clean half of each dough circle up and over the filled half. Pinch/crimp dough edges together to form half circles. Gently pierce the top of each calzone a few times with a fork.
  8. Place baking sheet into the preheated oven and cook for 15-20 minutes, until the calzones are golden brown.
  9. Let calzones rest at room temperature for about 5 minutes before serving with the warmed marinara sauce.

*Oil-less Vegan Pesto

adapted from Ashley of The Edible Perspective

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup raw walnut pieces
  • 2 cups tightly packed fresh basil leaves
  • 2 small garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup water (or more, depending on desired consistency)
  • Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Direction:

  1. Combine walnuts, basil, and garlic in a food processor or high speed blender and process/blend until well-mixed.
  2. With the motor running, stream water through feed tube until pesto comes together in a smooth and thick sauce, adding more water if desired.
  3. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
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