Stromboli is like the rolled-up cousin of pizza – its easy to eat with your hands and makes for a great shared appetizer. Plus, one recipe can feed a crowd! Despite its distinctly Italian flavours of mozzarella, ham, tomatoes, and its close resemblance to the calzone from Naples, stromboli is actually an American creation that comes from Philadelphia. Find out how to make this classic Italian-American fusion dish and discover the story of its beginnings.
The story of the stromboli goes back to 1950s Philadelphia, where a restaurant owner by the name of Nazzareno Romano is known to have started selling a rolled up pizza dough filled with ham, cheese, and peppers. Stromboli is often confused with another dish called calzone – so how are they different?
Calzone vs Stromboli
First, the origins: stromboli is from Philadelphia, while calzone is 100% Italian. The latter is a popular street food with origins in the southern regions of Italy, such as in Campania, Puglia, Calabria, Sicily.
Secondly, the shape: stromboli uses a rectangular dough that is rolled then sealed, whereas calzone is a round dough that is folded in half and closed for frying or baking.
The third difference is often said to be in the filling, although it is an ambiguous argument – classic fillings for stromboli and calzone include ham, mozzarella and tomatoes, and both in Italy and in America, many variations exist.
Some also go further with a fourth point, with the sauce: that calzone is made with the sauce on the side, whereas stromboli has sauce in the filling. In Italy, calzone is rarely served with a dipping sauce as it is often found in America. Instead, it is always incorporated with the filling – it makes for a challenge as you bite into a fresh calzone not to drip the tomato sauce all over your shirt!
This recipe will make one large stromboli, but you can easily divide the dough in two and fill it with a different set of ingredients. One idea is a filling made of sausage, fennel and mozzarella: just cook the de-cased sausage and crumble it over the dough along with sliced, pan fried fennel and top with shredded mozzarella. Always remember to drain your ingredients to avoid having excess moisture in the stromboli as this would prevent the dough from cooking properly.
1. Preheat oven to 200°C.
2. Prepare the sauce: in a medium bowl, combine the tomatoes, oregano and a pinch of salt. Set aside.
3. Lightly flour a large sheet pan. Roll and stretch the dough into a rough rectangle in the sheet pan, making it as even as possible.
4. Spread the tomato sauce over the dough, leaving a clear strip of 3 cm around the edges.
5. Cover with the salami slices, followed by the anchovies, olives, mozzarella. Scatter over some fresh basil leaves.
6. With the long side towards you, roll the stromboli carefully, then pinch the ends of the long roll with your fingers to seal. You may fold the stromboli slightly to form a U shape if it is too large.
7. Cut several slits across the stromboli to allow for ventilation while it bakes. Brush over with egg wash.
8. Bake 20-25 minutes until golden brown on top. Cut into several slices with a serrated knife. Serve warm.
In Sicily there is an island called Stromboli which has one of the three active volcanoes in Italy, called Mt. Stromboli! Some say that Nazzareno Romano took the name for his delicious rolled pizza creation from this, after how the ingredients look like they are about to explode from a volcano. There is another version to the story however, which is that he was inspired by the love affair between the actors Roberto Rossellini and Ingrid Bergman on set during the filming of “Stromboli Terra di Dio”. Whichever the truth, they no doubt will make for great conversation starters at your next dinner party!