Before moving to Italy, we enjoyed a lot of Italian food in Rhode Island, which was our home for 19 years. One of our favorite foods there were calzones, especially those made with a spinach and cheese filling!

A calzone is basically an Italian turnover sandwich, which is either baked or fried. The dough used is a basic Italian dough and, like pizza, the filling can vary from mozzarella and cheese to ricotta and spinach. Here’s a short and simple, step-by-step lesson in how to make my favorite calzones (called Spinach Pies in RI). Then, why not try them with the filing of your choice?

Today we’ll be making the baked calzones but you can deep fry the sandwiches for a delicious–though perhaps less healthy–alternative. My son often requested Fried Calzones for his birthday…made with a mozzarella, ham and ricotta filling. Either way, you would begin with buying or making a basic Italian Dough. (See my Grilled Pizza blogfor step-by-step instructions for making it.)

While the dough is rising, sautè 1-2 cloves of garlic in olive oil. Add fresh or frozen spinach, sprinkle generously with salt and sautè until well done. If using frozen, you’ll want to sautè until the mixture is fairly dry. Sorry I can’t really give you proportions here”¦but don’t skimp on the olive oil. Just give it a taste occasionally and adjust the flavorings with more salt or oil.

I like to add black olives to my cooked spinach as it gives it even more flavor.

Pinch off a small ball of dough””about three inches in diameter””and roll it into a 5-6 inch circle.

Next, place a mound of the cooked spinach on one half of the circle”¦

Add some cubes of your favorite cheese…we like Provolone or Asiago…and fold it over into a crescent shape.

Pinch the edges of the crescent closed. You may need to rub a little water on the edges with your fingers if they are too floury or dried out.

After I’ve shaped them all, I pour some olive oil into the palm of my hand”¦

“¦and rub both sides of each calzone/pie with the olive oil.

By the way, for those of you who are detail-oriented and curious, the little black dot on them is to differentiate between some which had ham inside and those that didn’t. I baked them in a 400 degree F oven for about ten minutes, before turning them over for more even browning.

In fact, I eventually transferred them to a black cookie sheet as they were not browning as much as I wanted on the nice, shiny cookie sheet. You’ll notice that I used parchment paper on the cookie sheet. We don’t have Pam available in Italy and parchment paper (carta da forno) is pretty inexpensive. It sure makes for an easy clean-up! After turning them over I then baked them for about 15 minutes more. You want them to be nice and brown.

That’s all, folks! Really pretty easy. And they store well for a day or two, wrapped in waxed paper. Or they can be frozen in a well-sealed bag. My kids used to love taking these to school for lunch. If I’m eating them at home, for example out of the freezer, I thaw them and then reheat in a toaster oven until the crust is crisp.




Italian Bread Dough

Yield: Makes 2 large pizzas, 2 large loaves or 12 sandwich rolls

Italian Bread Dough


  • 2 1/2 C. (625 ml) warm water
  • 1 T. sugar
  • 1 T. active dry yeast
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 6 1/2 - 7 C. (800-875 g) bread flour


  1. 1. Add the sugar and the yeast to the warm water. I think water temperature is probably the most crucial part of making dough. I don't get out my thermometer to measure the temperature to 110 degrees F. My rule of thumb is that the water should be comfortable for a baby's bathtub. Too cold and the yeast won't rise; too hot and you'll kill it.
  2. 2. Add the salt and half the flour. Beat well, with a wooden spoon, the paddle attachment of a Kitchen Aid or with a hand beater.
  3. 3. Add the remaining flour, one cup at a time, incorporating well. If using a Kitchen Aid, switch over to the dough hook. If using a hand beater or spoon, you'll need to begin kneading the mixture on a well-floured board. Ideally, the dough should be kneaded for about 10 minutes.
  4. 4. Cover with plastic wrap or a clean dish towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Then shape as desired.


Italian bread or rolls ““ Shape the Italian bread into two long loaves. These should be placed on a greased cookie sheet that is sprinkled with a little cornmeal. Or you may divide the Italian dough into twelve equal pieces. Roll each piece into a long oblong (almost like a hot dog bun). Place on a greased cookie sheet at least 1 ½ inches apart. Let rise until doubled. Most breads bake in a preheated oven. However, if you want your Italian bread or rolls to be crusty, place the risen rolls in a cold oven, turn the oven to 400° F (200° C) and bake for about 25-30 minutes until brown and crusty. Spraying or brushing the loaves with ice cold water before and during baking will also help to make them crusty.

Pizza ““ The Italian dough may be divided into 2 or 3 pieces and used as a pizza crust. Roll each piece into a circle or rectangle, depending on the shape of pizza you desire. Add your toppings and bake at 425° F (220° C) until crust is golden on the bottom (lift the edge slightly to peek).

Focaccia ““ Make the Italian dough, preferably using the minimum amount of flour called for. Push the dough with your fingers to fit two greased 12-inch (30.5 cm) pans or cookie sheets. Let rest for 30 minutes, then make indentations with your fingers and sprinkle with olive oil, basil, rosemary or Parmesan””whatever you’d like. Bake at 425° F (220° C) for about 15-20 minutes. Delicious with homemade soup!

Calzones ““ For individual calzones, pinch off pieces of dough and roll out into 5-6 inch (12-15 cm) circles. Place fillings on half of the circle. You can try things like pepperoni and mozzarella, spinach sautèed with garlic in olive oil, broccoli sautèed with mushrooms in olive oil””whatever you’d like. One of our favorites is equal parts minced ham, shredded mozzarella and ricotta mixed together””especially if I have leftover filling when making Cannelloni (p. 141). After placing filling on the dough, fold the dough over the filling, moistening the edges of the dough so it seals together when you pinch it closed. You may bake them immediately on a greased cookie sheet””no need to let them rise. Bake at 400° F (200° C) for 25-30 minutes. You may also deep fry the calzones in hot oil.







  1. 12-5-2011

    My husband makes dinner for our family of five (almost six!) every Sunday night to give me a much needed break. Last night he made calzones following your Italian Bread Dough recipe. Instead of your Spinach Pies he filled them with chicken, mushrooms, onions, green peppers and, of course, cheese! DELICIOUS! Thankful the recipe makes twelve–I can enjoy leftovers for lunch this week. : )

  2. 7-18-2014

    You would have to be from Rhode Island to know that “PIE” is not actually pie —– it’s a turnover (kinda like knowing a cabinet is not a small closet but a drink. Thanks for the recipe- I subsitute swiss chard for spinach works just as good.


    • 4-29-2017

      you probably won’t ever see this reply but coming from a 67 year old from Cranston RI , now living in the north of spain I can totally identify with the swiss chard and olives replacing the spinach as some of my aunts, who were born in Italy,but living and raised in RI, LOVED the swiss chard. You can see then just how THAT dates back.

  3. 9-16-2014

    I am also from Rhode Island and totally understood the “pie and cabinet” expressions!!! My daughter moved down to North Carolina and could not find a bakery that sold dough so she could make her husband pizza, dough boys and stromboli so she found the recipe on your web site. She was so impressed as to how it came out and the ease of it that she Skyped me and I watched the whole process that took just a few minutes. When the dough was ready I watched her make three stromboli(very proud I must say!)and her husband took a whole one to work. He shares them with his co-wokers and they just love them. I will be trying the dough myself this weekend. Thanks for sharing…. Marion C.

    • 9-16-2014

      I was so glad to learn how much your daughter liked making the dough! All the best as you make it this weekend.

  4. 8-25-2015

    Thank you so much! I’m a Rhode Islander who has become gluten intolerant so cannot have store-bought spinach pies ie calzones any more. Bought a gluten free pizza shell from a gf bakery here in town that seems to be somewhat bread-y and am making spinach pies (well, calzones!) tonight. Can’t wait! Thanks so much for your recipe.

  5. 8-31-2015

    I am from Connecticut now living in Florida. All my son wanted for his birthday was a Spinach pie like he use to have in Ct. Your website was so easy to follow.
    A million thanks

  6. 11-13-2016

    I love the fact that you lived in RI for 19 years. I am in RI too, and this recipe is exactly what I was looking for, Italian style spinach pie!

  7. 12-11-2016

    Hi Debbie,
    My Italian Mom always made these “Spinach Pies” for Christmas Eve! I am 66 and have carried on the tradition with my family! I was pleasantly surprised to find your recipe online which is very similar to mine!
    Thank you and Merry Christmas!!

  8. 12-16-2016

    Loved the Rhode Island spinach pies.I was from R.I. and now live in Elgin south Carolina.

  9. 12-14-2017

    In the oven.

    Great instruction, Debbie

    Hope they taste better than our favorite Wimpy Skippy.


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