Three cheeses combine to flavor and melt over fresh pesto and ham, in a tender calzone crust. A simple but absolutely delicious dish that goes together in about an hour.
This was a good year for basil in my garden. The last harvest of the season yielded a basket full of sprigs to make into pesto. Rather than freeze all of it, I decided to save out a bit and use it as the base for this calzone.
When you make this calzone, take the same approach I recommended for the torta rustica: feel very free to make substitutions on the filling ingredients (although I would keep the pesto base). That is the best way to build your personal cuisine, and to adapt it to your daily life.
Three-Cheese Pesto Calzone
Place pizza stone in oven, then heat oven to 375F.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 T + 1 tsp instant yeast
1 T sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1 T olive oil
1 T unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup milk, lukewarm
1/4 cup thick sourdough starter (optional but recommended for dough flavor and texture)
4 cups basil leaves (not packed), large stems removed
2 cloves pickled garlic, or 1/2 large clove mild elephant garlic
1/2 to 2/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup pine nuts
3/4 cup shredded parmesan or pecorino romano cheese
fresh ground pepper
3/4 cup pesto
1 cup lean ham, large dice
6 oz fresh mozzarella, regular or smoked, in large cubes
1 cup shredded hard cheese, such as romano
2/3 cup crumbled gorgonzola
2 T pine nuts, whole
- Make the crust: In an electric mixer bowl with dough hook attached, combine flour, yeast, sugar, salt, and mix briefly. Add the oil and butter, mix to combine. Finally, add the milk and sourdough starter, mix initially for 1 minute to combine, then mix (knead) on medium speed for an additional 4 minutes. Dough should be smooth and elastic.
- Place the dough in a warm place to proof for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, make the pesto: in a food processor bowl with blade attached, first chop the garlic, then add the basil and pine nuts and pulse until fine. Add almost all of the olive oil and pulse to combine. Finally, add the shredded cheese and pulse several more times. Should be finely chopped but not liquefied. If necessary, add enough olive oil to make a spreadable mixture. Adjust seasoning with sea salt and a few grinds of pepper.
- Assemble the calzone: Turn the risen dough out onto a floured countertop; it should be very light. Without totally deflating the dough, pat the dough gently into a rounded rectangle about 18 inches long and 12 inches wide. Spread the pesto gently on one long half of the dough.
Next, sprinkle the ham and extra pine nuts around on top of the pesto. Follow this with the three cheeses.
- Flip the top half of dough over the filled half, quickly, then crimp the edges. Wait ten minutes to permit dough to lighten. With a floured knife cut several slits in the top to permit steam to escape. Slide a floured peel under the calzone and transfer to the heated pizza stone.
- Bake for 25 minutes at 375F, or until golden and bubbly.
- Cool for 10 minutes on rack, then slice and serve.