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Cure your calzone craving

Chef Mario Batali shares some secrets for this Italian favorite. Check out the recipe here.

Babbo, Esca, Lupa and Otto. No, New Yorkers aren’t speaking a funny language lately. They’re really just uttering the names of chef Mario Batali’s growing restaurant empire. Mario seems to be everywhere, so it was no surprise “Today” found New York’s best known Italian chef at New York’s best known Italian street fair — the Feast of San Gennaro. Batali is also launching a new show on the Food Network called “Ciao America.” On it, he’ll cross the country in search of the best Italian food. He shares a recipe for the best calzone on “Today.” Check out the recipe here:

RICOTTA AND HAM CALZONE: CALZONE DI RICOTTA E PROSCIUTTO COTTO

Recipe courtesy Mario Batali

Filling:

2 cups fresh ricotta

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 slices thin (not paper thin, but still thick enough to be folded without cracking) prosciutto cotto

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Dough:

1 pound store-bought bread or pizza dough

All-purpose flour

Extra-virgin olive oil, for frying

Parmigiano-Reggiano, for grating

Red chili flakes

For the filling: Place ricotta into a medium sized mixing bowl. Salt and pepper generously, to taste, while mixing with a wooden spoon. Mix in the Parmigiano-Reggiano and set aside.

Cut the dough into 4 equal pieces and knead each portion into a round.

In a tall-sided frying pan filled 2/3 of the way, heat the extra-virgin olive oil to 360 degrees F.

While the oil heats, prepare the calzones. Dust a clean work surface lightly with flour. With your fingers and palms, flatten each of the dough rounds into a 10-inch oval about 1/8 to 1/4-inch thick.

Center 1 slice of prosciutto cotto on each dough round. Divide the ricotta filling evenly into 4 portions, spooning one portion on top of each slice of prosciutto cotto, covering only 1/2 of the exposed meat. Gently roll up the other side of the prosciutto so that you have formed a ricotta-filled prosciutto pocket on 1 side of the dough round. Brush a little water around the edges of the dough round, and gently lift the uncovered 1/2 to cover the side with the filling, forming a half-moon. Use your fingers to gently crimp the outer edges together, sealing the calzone with the filling inside.

Using a spider, carefully fry the calzones in the hot oil until golden brown, about 5 minutes on each side. You will probably need to work in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan and lowering the temperature of the oil. Serve immediately, while crisp and hot, finished with a generous grating of Parmigiano-Reggiano and a sprinkle of red chili flakes.

Yield: 4 calzones

Prep Time: 25 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Ease of preparation: Intermediate

Recipe provided by Mario Batali. Copyright 2003. All rights reserved.