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April 8, 2015

Calzones: Proceed as Indicated

By Rachel Hammer

Just three weeks into my general surgery rotation, I have continually been given the privilege to “close”, or stitch shut, the incision. It sounds like I might be a reserve star pitcher, but really, it’s the grunt work OR job for medical students. Since I’m not allowed to do anything more exciting at this point—like stitch any visceral organs shut—I thought I would practice my suturing skills on a calzone.

A calzone with sutures

Calzone with sutures (makes enough for 3 calzones)

Ingredients for the Basic Pizza Dough

  • 1-cup sourdough starter
  • 1 1/4 cups water, at room temperature
  • 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups (22 oz.) bread flour, plus more for dusting (used all-purpose)
  • 2 cups whole-wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • Olive oil or non-stick cooking spray for greasing the bowl
  • For the Extras
    • 3 cups pizza sauce (I use marinara)
    • 4 ounces mozzarella, shredded
    • 8 ounces sliced pepperoni
    • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan


  1. Measure the warm water and oil into a bowl and add the sourdough starter.
  2. Add flour and salt to the liquid ingredients. Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic for about 5 minutes. Form the dough into a ball, drop in a deep oiled bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Press the dough to deflate it.
  3. Shape into smooth round ball and cover with a damp cloth. Let dough relax for at least 10 minutes (no more than 30 minutes).
  4. Brush rolled out dough with oil. Spread 1 cup tomato sauce even over dough round, leaving ½ inch border. Sprinkle one half with 1-cup mozzarella, and cover with pepperoni, or topping of choice. Fold in half and scrub in.
  5. Find a needle driver and pick-ups.
  6. Closing a calzone has long been a tricky practice fraught with error. In my previous iterations of this effort, I have tried a folding pleat technique. Prep your calzone with conscious sedation (talking gently to it will work if you don’t have Versed and fentanyl) and instead of betadyne, rub the belly or exposed area with olive oil in a circular fashion (always move from clean to dirty).
  7. Now, I tried several different types of silk, but braided Ethicon 2-0 non-absorbable had the best tension and well withstood the oven temperatures. I also experimented with three different suture patterns, subcuticular stitch, interrupted horizontal mattress stitch, and, the best—continuous running stitch.
  8. When your stitches are in, slide the calzone on a peel (covered with corn meal) onto pizza stone (which you should have heated for at least 30 minutes at 500 degrees) and bake for 8 to 12 minutes. Remove pizza from oven and sprinkle with Parmesan or more mozzarella.
  9. Repeat with the two other rounds. Enjoy!

Just remember—remove the sutures to eat the calzone. Or before you bring it to a party. Unless it is a party full of surgeons. Then they are all going to want you in their OR.

















 Rachel is a fourth year medical student at Mayo, where she practices narrative medicine, food and jazz as personal subspecialties on her way to a career in psychiatry. A girl from Portland, OR, she is (as you might suspect) rather granola, and you can follow her foodie adventures with her not-so-vegetarian bulldog and vegan backyard chickens on Twitter @hammer_rachel.

Tags: Baking, Bread Making, Calzones, Cookies, Mayo Clinic, Mayo Medical School, Mayo Medical School Blog, Medical School, Medical Student Blog, Meet Mayo Med, Recipes, Surgery, Uncategorized

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