And now for something completely different…Kale Calzones with Spicy Marinara

It tastes as good as it looks, and is yet another dish you can't feel guilty about eating and enjoying!

Our CSA boxes have been pretty repetitive of late, but they happen to be featuring some of my favorite ingredients to work with and in particular, broccoli and kale. I made some of my Penne with Fresh Broccoli and Garlic last week—always a quick and tasty dish—but wanted to figure out something different to do with the kale other than my usual sauteed side dish or a main pasta dish. After casting about for a while looking for ideas from other recipes, I decided on calzones, and this dish was born: Kale Calzones with Spicy Marinara.

This makes a pretty and interesting dish. The slight bitterness of the kale is balanced and made sweeter by the onions, garlic and nutmeg—and while the savory nuttiness of the Parmigiano Reggiano is not anything new to my kale preparations, the saltiness of the feta really adds an extra punch. My spicy little marinara brings the always welcomed goodness of tomato, enhancing the filling flavors as well as the sweetness of the wheat dough. The added little kick of the red pepper flake to the sauce just perfects the dish, in my opinion.

For sure, you could easily substitute other veggies in this dish, and spinach and mushrooms would be the first thing that comes to mind, but I had kale and a lots of it, and now…another great way to use it! Two of these babies make a fine little dinner, or you could have one for a quick lunch, as a side dish to soup, or whatever suits your fancy. You could also make this into four larger calzones instead of the eight, but I liked the flexibility of the smaller ones. And, if you have the time, by all means make your own pizza crust or use some you have already frozen. I intentionally used whole wheat with this dish for the sweeter and nuttier taste and heartier texture…and also because it’s healthier than the white dough and this seemed like a perfect application for it. Even if you never liked kale before, I think you’re gonna like this dish!

Kale Calzones with Spicy Marinara
(Adapted from a recipe in Cooking Light, the filling in the Greek dish spanakopita, and your classic calzone.)

Makes 8 small or 4 large calzones and about 2 1/2-3 cups of marinara

1 teaspoon olive oil
1 medium onion chopped
2 cloves of fresh garlic, peeled and minced
1-28 oz. can of whole peeled tomatoes in puree, no or low salt
1 Tablespoon concentrated tomato paste
1/4 cup wine (use red, white or I used rosé because I had that open)
1 Tablespoon fresh oregano leaves, chopped
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
1 good pinch of dried red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
3/4 lb. fresh kale (I used Lacinto and Red Russian), stems removed and chopped into bite sized pieces
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
12 oz. whole wheat pizza dough (I bought mine frozen from the grocery store and thawed it)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

The reduced and finished marinara should look something like this...nice and thick.

For the marinara: In a medium sized saucepan, heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until tender and translucent, about 8-10 minutes. Add the garlic and saute another 2-3 minutes, then add the tomatoes and their puree, tomato paste, wine, oregano, basil and red pepper flakes, a pinch of salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Bring to a boil, crushing the tomatoes with the back of a spoon, then reduce the heat to low and allow to simmer for about 30-45 minutes while you make the calzones, stirring occasionally. The mixture will reduce and concentrate the flavors. Taste for seasoning before serving and add more salt and pepper to taste if needed.

While the marinara is simmering, heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Add the onion and saute for about 10-12 minutes, stirring frequently until the onion is tender and lightly caramelizing. Add the garlic and saute for 2-3 minutes more, then add the kale in two batches with a pinch of salt and several grinds of black pepper in each addition, allowing it to wilt a bit in between the two additions to make room in the pan. Saute the kale until it is tender, about 6-8 minutes, then add the nutmeg. Remove the mixture from the heat and allow it to cool slightly. Add the feta and Parmigiano Reggiano and stir gently to combine.

Cut the dough into 8 equal pieces. Roll each out into a circle as best you can, and as you can see, mine aren't perfect! Place 1/3 cup filling on one half of your dough, then fold it over and crimp the edges.

Separate the pizza dough into 8 or 4 equal pieces, depending on how large you want your calzones. Roll the dough out into small circles about 5- 6 inches in diameter for small calzones. Place a heaping 1/3 cup of the kale mixture (double if making larger ones) into one half of the circle, fold over the other half of the dough and press it closed around the outer curved edges. Crimp the edges of the dough to seal it, pushing it back onto itself as you would with piecrust dough. Repeat this procedure with each piece of dough and filling until you have 8 small calzones.

Ready for the oven: They're not perfect, but they're cute, and more importantly they're tasty!

Place each calzone on a cookie sheet that has been lightly oiled with olive oil. Dab a little more olive oil on your clean fingers, and gently brush the top of each calzone. Place the cookie sheet in the oven and bake for 18-20 minutes or until the calzones are browned on top and the dough is firm to the touch. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 5 minutes, then serve, topping each calzone with about 1/4 cup of the marinara sauce. Use any leftover marinara for pizza or pasta.

Note: You could bake your calzones on a pizza stone heated in the oven if you prefer. You may need to adjust the time to accomodate the extra heat of the stone. I used a cookie sheet so that I could get all eight calzones cooked at once.


48 thoughts on “And now for something completely different…Kale Calzones with Spicy Marinara

    • I was rather pleased with this in terms of use of kale and the health factor! Thank you for your kind words, Norma. You just made my day as I was not thinking that my calzones were anywhere close to perfectly made, but I got them sealed! 😉


  1. This is such a great recipe, Betsy! Calzones are a favorite, as-is, but sometimes a veggie option is better. This calzone, with kale, is just that one. Add your marinara and you’ve made quite a meal!


  2. I feel what your saying about the repetitiveness of a CSA box, as we deal with that on a semi-regular basis. However, it does challenge one to come up with different recipes. Great job integrating kale into a calzone.


    • Hi Kay, thanks for your comments! Yes, as mentioned above my first thought in substituting other veggies would be to try spinach and mushrooms…I think you could use all the same ingredients with those two and it would be great…I know I’m going to try it! 🙂


      • I’m wondering how I skipped that line that talked about spinach. I think I know why.. I was in drool mood lol. But I would love to use all the same ingredients and just add the spinach. Yummy


        • These would be terrific with spinach…and I’ll bet chard would work, too! I’d love to see what you come up with. The sky’s the limit with these calzones. I miss stuff all the time and in fact, I’m guilty of skimming…should I admit that? 🙂 …I just wanted you to know that the spinach or spinach/mushroom combo would definitely work…and if you don’t like the taste of kale I’d absolutely go for it!


  3. Ah, the crust of your calzone looks incredible – baked to perfection! 🙂 I bet these make a fantastic lunch. I know they’re supposed to eaten hot but did you ever try to eat these cold? I’m curious as to whether I could make something like this and take them for my lunches to work. I like to leave the office during my lunch break and go and sit by a nearby lake to unwind for a bit… only problem is, there’s no oven there 😀


    • Hi Charles, and thank you! These do make a great lunch. We had them for lunch a couple of days…perfect size. And I’ve eaten them at room temp and microwaved after being in the fridge. I should think if you took them to work and let them warm up to room temp they’d be fine, maybe take a little marinara to dunk them in. Also in this case, you might want to cook them on a pizza stone for a slightly crispier crust, as that is better cold in my opinion. Hope this helps! 🙂


  4. I love the way you have taken a calzone (usually stuffed with so much cheese) and made it healthier and still have great taste. Betsy, did you make many slits in the dough? Sometimes calzones crack from the steam inside. Yours look perfect.


    • Hi Karen, and thanks for your great comments. I did not make slits in the dough because these were very thin crusted, small and not overly filled so I thought they’d be okay. I was also afraid they might pull apart if slitted. One did leak a tiny bit through a side seam, but no cracks. Most calzones I’ve had haven’t had slits and I’m wondering if not filling them too full helps with the steam issue, or if leaving a tiny hole in the end seam alleviates that? For sure, larger ones might need the slit, a hole or some fork pricks, and that’s a good point.


  5. Feta and Parmesan and marinara made with leftover wine! You are talking my kind of kale. I am saving this post. We are still buried in parsnips and oranges here. Salad greens are coming in, mostly small heads of romaine and some spinach.


  6. Pingback: And Now… Green Calzones Stuffed with Leeks, Chard, Green Garlic and Mushrooms « thekalechronicles

  7. Pingback: Leftover Love: Roasted Chicken, Broccoli and Lemon-Thyme Ricotta Calzones | bits and breadcrumbs

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