In the spring, tables in the Galilean towns of Safed and Tiberias are set with calsones — pronounced caltzones — ravioli-like pockets stuffed with locally-made sheep’s milk cheese called tzfatit. The dish has roots in the Jewish communities of Spain and Italy, and possibly dates as far back as the period just following the Inquisition. Scholars believe it was brought by migrating Jews to first to Syria and ultimately to Israel where it is a Shavuot staple.
This recipe comes from Yedida and Elli Dabah who grew up in neighboring apartments in Jerusalem. When they make the calsones, they work in tandem, Yedida is in charge of making the dough and filling mixtures, while Elli rolls out the dough and oversees the stuffing of the dumplings. After they are finished, the calsones are frozen, always ready for visits with their grandchildren.
While they freeze well, they are best fresh, served in a light tomato sauce or simply with butter and a sprinkling of extra tzfatit cheese. If you cannot find tzfatit cheese, substitute feta.
7 cups (1000g) all-purpose flour, plus more for the work surface
½ tablespoon salt
5 eggs, whisked
1½ cups water
For the filling:
1 ½ cups ricotta cheese
½ cup tsfatit, finely grated, plus more for serving
¼ cup pecorino, finely grated
2-3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1-2 eggs, whisked, for egg wash
Pasta machine or attachment
Make the dough: In a large bowl, whisk the flour and salt together. Create a well in the center of the flour and pour in the eggs. Using a circular motion slowly start to incorporate the flour into the eggs. Once most of the egg mixture has been incorporated, slowly drizzle in the water while continuing to mix. Once the dough starts to come together, knead for 3-4 more minutes until an even dough forms. It will still be a little shaggy. Divide the dough into 10 balls, sprinkle with flour and cover with a clean kitchen towel, let it rest for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Place the ricotta, tsfatit, and pecorino in a medium bowl and mix until well combined.
Prepare your work station: Securely fasten your pasta machine to a large table or work surface. Generously flour the work surface and the pasta maker.
Roll out the dough: Take the first ball of dough and flatten it, stretching it into a 2×3-inch rectangle. Set the pasta machine to position 2 and carefully crank the dough through the machine. Repeat with the pasta machine set to position 4 and then position 6. The dough will have gone through the machine a total of three times and should now be a long, thin, wide sheet. Place the sheet on the prepared work surface and sprinkle with flour. Repeat with the remaining dough balls.
Fill and shape the calsones: Place a pasta sheet in front of you. Using a pastry brush, lightly coat with the egg wash. Place 1 tablespoon of filling, about 1 inch from the top edge of the pasta sheet. Repeat, moving down the length of the pasta sheet placing tablespoons of filling about 2 inches apart from one another.
Working carefully, lay another pasta sheet, approximately the same size, over the fillings. Press around the perimeter of each filling mound out to the edges of the dough sheets to seal the pasta around the filling being careful not to create any air pockets. If you encounter any air pockets, poke them with a knife, release the air and re-seal the dough. Use a thin rimmed glass or cup (about 2 ½ -3 inches in diameter) to cut the calsones into even circles with the filling in the middle. Transfer to a floured baking sheet. Gather the scraps back into a ball and set aside to rest covered.
At this stage you can freeze the calsones on the tray for 10-15 minutes and then transfer to a sturdy freezer bag and tuck it into the freezer.
To cook the calsones: Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Place 8-10 calsones in the water, being careful not to overcrowd the pot, and cook for about 2 minutes (if cooking frozen calsones, place in the boiling water straight from the freezer and add 1-2 more minutes of cooking time). Remove with a spider or strainer, add sauce or butter and serve immediately.
For the leftover dough: Use the remaining scraps to make fettuccine. Reshape the dough into 2×3-inch rectangles and run it back through the pasta machine on 2, 4 and 6 and then finally through the fettuccine setting. Spread it out on a floured surface until totally dry, then move into a sealed container. Cook for 2 minutes in boiling water. Drain and serve with your choice of sauce