Leftover Love: Roasted Chicken, Broccoli and Lemon-Thyme Ricotta Calzones

calzones finished2I can see now that “Leftover Love” is a recurring theme, as I’m often inspired by leftovers from one meal—or whatever is left in my pantry—to make something new. Is this true for you as well?

Today’s leftover revamp is a quick and easy way to use up meat and veggies in a fun little package. Yes, it’s the beloved calzone, made even easier by using purchased pizza dough for those extra busy days.

This version is composed of leftover pan-roasted chicken breast and some roasted broccoli crowns from a meal we enjoyed earlier in the week, plus a mixture of lemon, thyme, ricotta and shredded mozzarella. Place the ingredients into your rolled out pizza dough, seal, bake, add some homemade or purchased low-salt marinara sauce as a side and voilà! You’ve got dinner.

Certainly you could use purchased rotisserie chicken if you like, or substitute spinach for broccoli—or use all vegetables for a vegetarian version. In this instance, I was quite pleased with how the lemon, thyme, creamy ricotta and mozzarella mixture gave a wonderful boost of fresh flavor to the simply seasoned chicken (salt, pepper and rosemary) and roasted broccoli. The smell of these baking was tantalizing and they came out of the oven puffed, piping hot and oozing cheesy goodness.

Want to make these into a fun little appetizer? Just divide your dough into 16 -1 oz. portions, dollop a heaping teaspoon of the cheese mixture, one crown of broccoli and a bite of chicken into each rolled out mini calzone circle, seal, bake and use your marinara as a dipping sauce. Delicious, bite-sized party fun!

Got a little more time on your hands for calzone and marinara sauce making? Click on this link to check out my previously posted Kale Calzones with Spicy Homemade Marinara.

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Chicken, Broccoli and Lemon-Thyme Ricotta Calzones
Makes 10 Medium-sized Calzones

1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
1/2 cup Parmigiana Reggiano cheese, grated
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt and black pepper
The meat of one roasted chicken breast, sliced thinly crosswise
2 cups roasted broccoli crowns
1 lb. uncooked pizza dough
1 1/2 cups marinara sauce, warmed
olive oil for oiling the pan and brushing the calzones

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Line a cookie sheet with sides in aluminum foil and lightly oil it with olive oil. In a small bowl, combine the ricotta, Parmigiana Reggiano, thyme, lemon zest and juice, the mozzarella and the salt and pepper, and mix by hand until well blended and fairly smooth.

Lightly dust a work surface with flour and lightly flour your hands and a rolling pin. Divide your pizza dough into 10 equal portions. Roll each piece of dough out to be an approximately 5-6 inch circle. (Do the best you can…pizza dough is stretchy! I usually do these one at a time.) Place 1/10th  (about 2 tablespoons) of the ricotta mixture into one half of the circle. Next, layer 2-3 slices of the chicken breast (1/10th of your total slices) over the ricotta, then top with 3-4 broccoli crowns. Carefully pull one side of the circle of dough over to meet the other side, gently stretching it to cover the filling and pinching the two edges together to form a crescent. Press the seam firmly 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 the fillings until you have 10 calzones, placing each calzone carefully onto the oiled baking sheet as you finish them. Lightly brush the tops of the finished calzones with some olive oil applied to your fingers. Bake at 400 degrees F for 18-20 minutes watching carefully, until the calzones are browned on top and firm to the touch. Remove from the oven and allow them to sit for 3 minutes. Serve with warm marinara sauce.