Easy Italian Sausage & Broccoli Calzones

Where did this past week go?!?

I haven’t a clue… if you know, let me know…

I’ve been busy working on a final Italian Sausage recipe while moving onto the “J” recipes!

Check out the CALZONE! Quick, easy, make ahead, cheap, and DELICIOUS!… Did I get everything in there…??

This recipe does it all. Except maybe the dishes… you’ll have to do those yourself… or enlist someone to help you.

Just tempt them with these calzones… they’ll have no choice but to grant you a night off from dish-duty!

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These are EASY because I don’t have you make your own dough… I experimented with two store-bought doughs and was happy with both of them. They yielded slightly different results but BOTH were tasty!

I tried two methods for a QUICK calzone dough….

1. Pizza Dough (Thin Crust) from Pillsbury

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AND…  2. Bread Dough (Crusty French Loaf) also from Pillsbury

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So which one is the “WINNER” that I would use in the future?…

They tied in their length of cooking time and in their price.

The Pizza Dough won out when it came to prep. The French Loaf requires pulling out your rolling pin while the pizza crust is ready to go.

In terms of flavor they were both delicious… but the pizza crust was a bit crispier and the bread dough was on the softer side. My husband prefers the crispy to the soft but I like both. When it came to leftovers, however, the pizza dough lost its crispiness and was not quite as good as the re-heated bread dough calzones. You can solve this problem by eating all the calzones and not having any leftovers. Haha. 😉 We made it through 6 of the 8 calzones that I made… pretty good for 2 adults and 2 kiddos under 2 years old I’d say!

Drumroll please…..!! The winner is… The thin crust Pizza Dough!!!

The ease of not having to roll out the dough circles made all the difference for me on a hectic night when I needed to get dinner on the table for some Hungry Hippos 🙂 If you made this recipe ahead it wouldn’t matter as much to have the task of rolling out dough included in your cooking process.

Pick one or try both!!… You may pick a different winner than we did.

LET’S MAKE THE FILLING:

The calzone shell is nothing without its filling so it’s time to dive in to that…. I could eat this with a spoon

Start with… what else… onion and garlic…

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While the onion and garlic is cooking, get a pot of water on the stove on HIGH heat to blanch your broccoli. You can also prep an ice bath to plunge the broccoli in after cooking (to stop the cooking process). Finally, use the time to cut the stems off the broccoli and cut the tops into chunks.

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You can’t create a much better smell in your kitchen than onion and garlic cooked in a little olive oil… add a little salt and pepper and get the onion mixture softened and slightly browned…

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Now it’s time for… the SAUSAGE! I used sweet for the sake of the girls but I added red pepper flakes to half of the filling to spice it up a bit for my husband and I…

If it were up to me I would just use spicy Italian sausage to start with… maybe when the kiddos are a bit older and can handle the heat a little more. 🙂

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My weapon of choice for breaking up the sausage is a potato masher. I think it makes it much easier than the back of a wooden spoon but you can choose your own weapon as desired.

Once the sausage is nice and browned… take a little taste… just don’t burn your mouth… YUM.

Resist the urge to eat the entire mixture before it has a chance to cool.

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Use a slotted spoon to transfer the crumbled sausage to a paper towel-lined plate to drain off some of the grease. This must cool COMPLETELY before you can move forward with the filling so that’s why I start with it!

That boiling water for your broccoli should be ready to go now. You just need to cook the broccoli for a few minutes to blanch them… Get them in the ice bath for a minute or so.

The “trees” will soak up a little water so I use a paper towel to squeeze out a little of that water.

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Transfer the broccoli to a cutting board and give them a chop to break them into bite-size pieces for the filling…

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When the sausage is cooled and the broccoli is ready to go you can start on the rest of the filling.

Start with some creamy ricotta in a large bowl….

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Add in shredded mozzarella for that ooey-gooey cheesy filling that we all love in a calzone…

Mine looks a little funky as I defrosted it from the freezer instead of freshly grating it… definitely preferred

But the defrosted choice was budget-friendly… so I stuck to my guns and saved instead of satisfying my desire for the fresh…

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Next comes a little finely shredded parmesan… now there’s enough cheese… but if you feel the need to add a fourth cheese then I say, “GO FOR IT!”

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Chop up some fresh parsley…

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This add really nice freshness and color to the filling…. mmmm… LOVE parsley

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Finally, an egg to bind it all together…

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Give that a good stir until it’s WELL mixed. You can’t OVER-mix… really go for it!

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Add in all that lovely cooled sausage and broccoli to the cheese mixture…

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Give this a more gentle stir or you’ll break the broccoli to smithereens! You’re going for bite-size… not bits…

Now, here is the part where you can add in some red-pepper flakes if you think it’s needed as I did…

Don’t go too crazy but you can add a good amount to balance the sweetness of the sausage (about 1/2 tsp to 1 tsp for half of the filling I would say). You can add none if you used spicy sausage and want to stop there… You’re the chef and you know your tastes and your family’s tastes… hold back or GO FOR IT as you will! 🙂

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I think the flakes make the filling prettier too… I love those specks of red/yellow…

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Time for the DETAILS on the DOUGH!

Let’s start with the French Bread Dough…

Take the dough out of the fridge and out of the tube. Lightly flour a CLEAN surface so the dough doesn’t stick!

Cut the dough in half and then cut each of those halves in half so you end up with four fairly equal pieces.

Roll each 1/4 of the dough into a 6-inch circle (roughly). Don’t worry if the circle isn’t perfect. Just do your best here and dust the counter/rolling pin with just a bit more flour to keep the dough from sticking.

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When the dough circles are rolled out, add a slightly heaping 1/2 cup of filling to each round.

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Fold the dough in half CAREFULLY over the filling and press the edges of the circle together to form a half circle and seal it slightly.

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Use the tines of a fork to seal the edges so you can be sure the filling will stay safely inside of the dough…

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MAKE AHEAD At this point you could place each of the calzones on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet that you’ve sprayed with cooking spray. Then you’d cover the whole sheet with plastic wrap and store it in the fridge until you’re ready to bake. I would just take them out when you start pre-heating your oven to take the chill off slightly before baking.

From there, you want to brush the tops, sides, and edges of all the calzones with egg wash… 1 egg + 1 TBSP water…

DO NOT do this before storing them in the fridge if you’re making them ahead!!

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Cut a slit or a few slits in the top of the dough so they can vent while cooking… do this carefully so you don’t rip the dough open too much!

Sprinkle the top of each calzone with a little coarse salt (this makes all the difference by the way!) and…

They’re ready for the oven!!

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Now, for the pizza dough…

Take out the crust from the fridge and unroll the whole piece of dough on a slightly floured CLEAN surface.

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Now, you’re going to love how easy this is… or at least I did…

Cut the dough into four equal squares and it’s ready for the filling…

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I told you… I LOVE LOVE LOVE how easy this was in comparison to the bread dough!!

Add a slightly heaping 1/2 cup of filling just as you would with the bread dough…

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Fold them over and seal with the tines of a fork, brush with egg wash, make a few slits on top to vent, and sprinkle some coarse salt on top of each. DONE!

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For both the bread and pizza doughs you bake the calzone for about 14-17 minutes in a 400°F oven until they are nice and browned…

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YUM!!! Have I said that already??

Now, this super-long post may lead you to believe that these are super-hard to make, but once you’ve got your filling together and especially if you use the pizza dough method, they are really quite simple!

The make-ahead option lowers the stress factor even more. You can just brush them with egg wash, sprinkle them with salt, and heat up some marinara while they’re baking!

DINNER… DONE! Awesome.

I’ve made these a few times to get the recipe just right!… I’ll let you know if I make any tweaks to my recipe in the future.

THE COST? Just $1.99 per serving. WOOHOO! It serves 8 but you will likely have some extra filling leftover. Buy an extra tube of pizza or bread dough to be safe and you might get another serving or two out of the filling… making it an even MORE budget-friendly meal!

Here is your trusty Recipe and Shopping List!

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Happy Economical Eating!

Love, Jenna

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