Ok, people. Break out the maps of Italy that I know you all keep on hand. Today we're moving on to the region of Molise. Molise is the second smallest region in Italy, and is located directly south of Abruzzo on the Adriatic coast. Until 1963, Molise was actually part of the Abruzzo region, and so in many people's minds the two regions are still linked. However, while many of the food characteristics in Molise are similar to that of Abruzzo, such as the abundance of lamb, Molise has plenty of recipes all its own.
The antipasto dish that I made from Molise has a slightly hazy moniker. I most frequently found them to be referred to as Isernian Calzones, or Calzoni d'Isernia after the town of Isernia in Molise. However, calzones really are a pizza folded in half and baked, while these are much smaller (hence why they make such a good antipasto) and are fried. I also found a similar recipe that referred to these as ricotta stuffed ravioli. But, they are definitely bigger than ravioli, use a dough that is more bread than pasta, and are fried rather than boiled. I tried making my own name, but Triangle Shaped Fried Cheese and Pancetta Stuffed Dough just didn't do it for me. So for simplicity's sake, we'll stick with Isernian Calzones. I stuffed mine with ricotta, mozzarella, and pancetta and ate them with a little bit of marinara sauce. You could easily change around the ingredients though and instead use scamorza or provolone or thick sliced prosciutto. If you really want to get crazy, you could change things up altogether and stuff them with things like mozzarella, roasted red peppers and chicken, or broccoli and cheese.
I have to give a warning here. This recipe was one of the more time-consuming ones. It took me about 2 hours from start to finish, but I was also taking my sweet time doing it. The dough is very firm, and without a pasta machine, takes awhile to roll out. The good news is that once you've tackled this dough you've gotten your arm workout in for the day. Aside from the lengthy process of rolling out the dough, I'm also Type-A to the extreme, so I actually got out a ruler to make sure each square that I cut out from the dough was perfect. Plus, I fried them one at a time in a small pot to use less oil. Ok, so it's not a time-consuming recipe, I'm just really slow at cooking. If someone tries this, I'd be interested to see how long it takes a normal person.
Adapted from Mario Batali
-Makes 12 Calzones-
3 cups all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
1/4-1/2 cup water
4 ounces pancetta
8 ounces ricotta
2 egg yolks
1 cup mozzarella, grated or diced into small cubes
1 teaspoon parsley
pinch of salt
pinch of pepper
oil for frying
- In a large bowl, combine the flour and salt. Add the eggs and slowly incorporate until a dough forms. The dough will be very firm, and you will likely need to add some water to incorporate all of the flour. Add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of water slowly until the flour is incorporated. Don't add too much water or the dough will become sticky.
- Once the dough is formed, knead for about 5 minutes.
- Roll out the dough to about 1/8 inch thickness. Cut the dough into squares that are 4 inches by 4 inches. You should be able to get about 12 squares.
- Cook the pancetta in a skillet over medium-high heat for a few minutes until well browned.
- Combine the ricotta, egg yolks, mozzarella, pancetta, parsley, salt and pepper together in a large bowl.
- Place some of the filling in the center of each square of dough. Fold the dough over to form a triangle. Use the tines of a fork to pinch together the seams of the dough. Be careful not to over-stuff the dough, or the filling will come out during frying.
- Fill a heavy-bottomed pot with about 3 inches of oil. Heat oil to about 350 degrees. Once the oil is hot, drop the calzones in (1 at a time if using a smaller pot, or just a few at a time using a larger pot).
- Remove the calzones when they have gotten a golden brown color on both sides using a slotted spoon. Let them drain on a paper towel.
- Serve warm with marinara sauce.
Ryan's rating of Isernian Calzones - 4.5.