TV dinner {Parks and Recreation}


If you want to be my friend, you have GOT to watch Parks and Recreation. Or at least pity-laugh at all my Parks & Rec references. This is one of the few shows I’ve actually watched since its beginning and stuck with… and I still laugh at every episode, old or new. And since the season premiere airs tomorrow on Thursday, September 26 at 8/7c, I had to make a dish to commemorate one of my (dozen) favorite shows. Welcome to the Low-Cal Calzone Zone!


In Season 4, the ever-adorable Ben Wyatt has a bit of a meltdown. He finds himself unemployed and directionless (like being in your 20’s). Instead of moping about, however, he decides to pursue his “hobbies”… claymation and a new restaurant concept he calls, The Low-Cal Calzone Zone. The claymation… turns out to be a dud. The calzone endeavor also proves to be a dud, but it does provide the genius for the second installation of my TV dinners series!


My “low-cal calzone” is a veggie calzone, inspired by one I’ve had at the restaurant Marina’s on the Square in Murfreesboro, TN (where I went to high school). Marina’s is a charming little Italian place in “downtown” Murfreesboro. It’s not fancy but so comforting and always hits the spot. Their veggie calzone is stuffed with black olives, spinach, artichoke hearts, mushrooms, and lots of cheese. So basically I decided to recreate it exactly and just call it my own.

I find veggie calzones to be more appealing because they’re much lighter and don’t make you feel as full or gross after eating them. A great excuse to eat more than one! If you want, you can add to your own calzone whatever your heart desires. That’s the beauty of calzones– they’re fairly easy to make and very customizeable.  Plus kids love them because you get to dunk them into tomato sauce! If you prefer, you can even buy your own pizza dough at your local pizzeria (I’ve even seen it at Trader Joe’s), just please don’t get the canned Pillsbury stuff.



With these calzones, I decided to get a little fancy. My coworker-friend Aliza bought me some of the most amazing gifts for my birthday recently, including Maldon smoked sea salt and umami paste. I used the umami paste (basically tomato paste with anchovy, black olives, heaven in a tube) in the filling and sprinkled some smoked sea salt on top of each calzone. It was di-vine! If you can splurge on a few key ingredients, go ahead…





Lastly, an ode to possibly my favorite Parks & Rec character, TOM HAVERFORD. (Just don’t tell Leslie… or Andy… or Ron. Basically anyone except Jerry.)


Veggie Calzones aka “The Low-Cal Calzone Zone”
makes 8 calzones

  • 1 recipe Calzone Dough, recipe follows
  • 1 cup black olives, sliced
  • 1 cup canned artichoke hearts, quartered
  • 2 cups fresh spinach
  • 1 cup cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup pepper jack cheese
  • 2 tablespoons umami paste (or tomato paste)
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons Maldon smoked sea salt
  • crushed red pepper
  • 1 cup jarred marinara sauce (your favorite brand)

(1)    Preheat the oven to 475°F.
(2)    Divide the calzone dough into 8 equal portions. On a lightly floured surface, roll out each portion of dough into a 8-inch circle.
(3)    On one half of each calzone circle, add about a ¼ cup of spinach, 1 tablespoon each of black olives, artichokes, and mushrooms, and about a teaspoon of umami paste. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of mozzarella cheese and pepper jack over the vegetables. You want to be sure to spread each ingredient evenly over the calzone half but try not to overfill it.
(4)    Fold the other half of dough over itself and pinch the edges to seal. Using a fork, crimp the edges of each calzone to ensure complete closure.
(5)    In a small bowl, beat the egg with a tablespoon of water. Brush the surface of the calzone with beaten egg, then sprinkle some parmesan cheese, ¼ teaspoon of garlic powder and salt, and crushed red pepper to taste.
(6)    Cut two slits into the top of each calzone and bake for 9-10 minutes , or until nice and golden brown. Serve with warm marinara sauce.

Calzone Dough

  • 1 (¼ ounce) envelope active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 cup warm water (105-110° F)
  • 2 ½ cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

(1)    In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine yeast, sugar, and warm water; stir and let stand for 10 minutes to proof the yeast. After 10 minutes, you should see that the yeast has foamed and bubbled. (If this doesn’t happen, say a small prayer and start over cause your yeast is dead.)
(2)    Add 1 cup of flour, olive oil, and salt to bowl and beat at low speed, using dough hook attachment for 1 minute.
(3)    Gradually add the rest of the flour until the dough begins to leave the sides of the bowl and pull together. (Note: the dough will take on a “shaggy” appearance as the flour is being added.  When enough flour has been added, the dough will look soft and smooth, not wet and sticky or overly dry with a rough surface.)
(4)    Increase speed to medium and beat for 5 minutes.  Cover bowl of dough with plastic wrap and let stand in a warm place for 45 minutes or until doubled in bulk.
(5)    Punch dough down and let stand another 10 minutes.  At this point, the dough is ready to use or can be wrapped up and refrigerated for up to 1 week.

2 thoughts on “TV dinner {Parks and Recreation}

  1. Marina’s!! Chris loves their calzones (although he gets the supreme … definitely not lite in calories) hope we can find a time while you are in Nashville to hang out! (plus!!!! I should know if this person is a boy or girl by then!!!!)

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