Grandma’s Famous Calzones

Growing up, anytime our family got together for a holiday or celebration my grandmother would make these calzones as an appetizer. They were everyone’s favorite, and if you didn’t take 2 pieces when they first came around, there wouldn’t be any left for you if you wanted second helpings. They were always a treat when she made these, but sometimes she couldn’t get the correct dough, or didn’t have enough time to let the dough rise. That’s why I was pleasantly surprised when I found a way to get the same great taste of her calzones, but cheat with the dough. By using Pillsbury pizza dough, I’m able to make these calzones within 30 minutes, and don’t have to worry about planning hours ahead to make this simple appetizer. Serve these at your next event as an appetizer or even cut into large pieces and take into work with you as a sandwich!

These calzones are so tasty, but really don’t require too many ingredients. Pillsbury pizza dough, parsley, pepperoni, mozzarella cheese, garlic powder, and sesame seeds are all you really need.

calzone

Arrange the dough to cover a baking sheet completely (I use a sheet that is 10x15inches – I wouldn’t go much bigger than that). Top the dough with a single layer of pepperoni, mozzarella cheese, parsley, and garlic powder.

Calzone

Roll the dough (on the long side) as if you were rolling a jelly roll. Tuck the dough on each side of the roll, to ensure that nothing falls out when baking. Brush egg wash over the entire roll, liberally top with sesame seeds, and cut slivers into the top (every couple of inches).

calzone

Bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes (or until dough is golden brown). Let cool and slice into 1 inch pieces.

calzone

Grandma’s Famous Calzones

Ingredients

  • 1 Pillsbury Pizza Dough
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Approx. 50 small slices of pepperoni
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley
  • 1 TBSP garlic powder
  • 1 egg
  • Toasted sesame seeds

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  2. Arrange the dough to cover a baking sheet completely (I use a sheet that is 10x15inches – I wouldn’t go much bigger than that). Top the dough with a single layer of the pepperoni, mozzarella cheese, parsley, and garlic powder.
  3. Roll the dough (on the long side) as if you were rolling a jelly roll. Tuck the dough on each side of the roll, to ensure that nothing falls out when baking. Brush egg wash over the entire roll, liberally top with sesame seeds, and cut slivers into the top (every couple of inches).
  4. Bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes (or until dough is golden brown). Let cool and slice into 1 inch pieces.

calzone

Spaghetti with Littlenecks

One of my favorite seafood dishes is spaghetti with littlenecks. It’s a simple “sauce” but packed with flavor. Although we don’t have many seafood markets here is Northern Virginia, we are lucky enough to have 4 Asian grocery stores within a 2 mile radius of our house. These grocery stores have an incredible selection of ethnic foods and have amazing seafood departments.

I was lucky enough to find littlenecks at the La Lotte Market near our house. Littlenecks are the smallest type of clam (typically 2″ in diameter) and you can normally get about 7-10 per pound. These are my favorite kind because the small size makes them easy to work with – especially in a pasta dish.

Spaghetti with littlenecks

Spaghetti with Littlenecks

Ingredients

  • 1 pound dried spaghetti
  •  1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 5  garlic cloves,  finely chopped
  • 2 1/2 pounds littlenecks (about 25-30)
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

  1. In a large pot, bring salted water to a boil. Add pasta, stirring constantly in the beginning to prevent it from sticking together. Cook until al dente, about 8 minutes.
  2. While the pasta is boiling, heat the olive oil in a large saute pan. Add the shallots and garlic and saute until soft and translucent, about 3 to 4 minutes, being careful not to burn the garlic. Add the littlenecks, parsley, wine and 1/2 tsp each of salt and pepper. Cover and simmer for 6 to 8 minutes or until most littlenecks have opened (discard any littlenecks that did not open). Whisk in butter to thicken sauce slightly.
  3. Drain the pasta and place into the littlenecks pan and mix thoroughly. Season with more salt and pepper, if needed.
  4. Pour pasta into large serving bowl. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese* and serve immediately.

*I have to note that most Italians are probably cringing at the fact that I put cheese on my seafood pasta – even though it’s not “traditional” to do so, I still love the way it tastes!

Minestrone Soup

There is nothing better than a warm bowl of soup on a cold day. Even though it’s now officially spring, it doesn’t necessarily feel like it. This morning it was 30 degrees outside when I left for work and it made me crave nothing more than a comforting bowl of minestrone soup when I got home.

This recipe is one of my favorite soup recipes because it is quick and simple to make. No need to worry if you don’t have all day to let a pot of soup simmer, this will be ready to enjoy in about 45 minutes. Serve with a sandwich or a crusty loaf of bread and you have the perfect one-pot lunch or dinner. The ingredients are simple: carrot, celery, onion, garlic, ground beef, diced tomatoes, cannellini beans, tomato paste and beef broth.

Minestrone Soup

Dice the carrot, celery, and onion. Place in a large dutch oven and saute until vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. add the ground beef and garlic, season with salt and pepper, and cook until the meat is browned, about 5 minutes.

DSC01708 (2)

Stir in the tomato paste and mix to combine. Add the broth, tomatoes, beans, and bay leaf. Simmer on low until the soup has reduced by half, about 30 minutes. Serve with grated Parmesan cheese and enjoy!

Minestrone Soup

Minestrone Soup

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 1 rib celery, diced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 ounces lean (8 percent fat) ground beef
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 4 cups low-sodium beef broth
  • 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan

Directions

  1. In a large Dutch oven, add and heat the oil over medium hear. Stir in the onion, carrot, celery, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently until the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes.
  2. Increase the heat to high and add the ground beef and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until the beef is browned and cooked through, about 5 minutes.
  3. Stir in the tomato paste and mix to combine. Add the broth, tomatoes, beans, and bay leaf. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the liquid has reduced by half, about 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with Parmesan cheese.

St. Joseph’s Day Zeppoles

March 19th is St. Joseph’s day. In the Catholic-Italian community where I grew up, St. Jospeh’s day meant going to your favorite Italian bakery and eating zeppoles (a type of cream puff pastry). Growing up, I was extremely fortunate to have many places to buy a pastries from for St. Joseph’s day. However, here in Virginia, there is no bakery in driving distance to find a zeppole (trust me, I checked). That’s why, last year I finally decided to make them on my own.

Little did I know that there was an extreme difference between a “Rhode Island zeppole” and the type of zeppole most people think of. Most people know zeppoles as being like a fried donut, similar to Giada’s recipe here. A Rhode Island zeppole, on the other hand, is a puff pastry with a cream filling topped with a cherry. Unfortunately, there aren’t too many recipes out there for our specific type of zeppole, but I found one that gets pretty close to the pastries I grew up eating on St. Joseph’s Day.

I’m not going to lie, this recipe takes a little bit of work and can be frustrating if you don’t get the dough completely correct. But the final product is absolutely delicious and well worth it! Although, when all is said and done, I will probably stick to making it once a year on March 19th.

Zeppole

St. Joseph’s Day Zeppoles

Ingredients

Pastry shells:
1 cup water
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 eggs

Filling:
6 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 ounce cornstarch
2 1/4 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon dark rum
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups whipping cream, whipped
Powdered sugar for garnish
Dark cherries for garnish

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. In a saucepan, boil the water with the butter, salt and sugar. Add the flour all at once and cook over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon until the mixture pulls away from the sides without sticking. Remove from the fire and beat in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Let cool.
  3. Line a sheet pan with baking paper. With a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip, pipe the dough into puffs on the sheet. Bake for 5 minutes. Turn the oven down to 350 degrees and bake for approximately 15 minutes more or until golden brown. Remove and let cool.
  4. Make the filling: Beat the yolks with the sugar until very light. Add the flour and cornstarch to the yolk mixture. In a large saucepan over medium heat, bring the milk to a boil slowly, and add the yolk mixture while beating until smooth. Over low heat, cook until thickened, stirring all the time. Remove from heat and add the rum, orange zest and vanilla. Let cool completely and fold in the whipped cream.
  5. Fill the pastries: Split the pastries and hollow them out; fill and put the tops back on. Dust with powdered sugar. Top with cherries. 4 servings.
Zeppole