2011 February: On A Roll

Stromboli is a second cousin to pizza and a first cousin to the calzone. Which brings us to this question: how, precisely, does a Stromboli differ from a calzone?

Well, in a nutshell, there is not much difference. A stromboli starts with a rectangular shaped pizza dough, while a calzone starts with a circle of dough. A calzone is always folded over just once, while a strom sometimes — but not always — gets rolled. There are different interpretations of the dish, but a stromboli essentially is an enclosed sandwich.

As a specialty item, stromboli needs to be treated in a certain way. What that means is that stromboli offerings should be separated from the pizzas on your menu to avoid confusion. The best way to do that is to create a separate section or box on your menu to make stromboli a featured item. That allows you to distance yourself from the chain gang of pizza places — your competition — that rarely feature or offer stromboli.

The good news is that this product delivers well. The key is to avoid slicing it all the way through prior to delivery. Instead, slice about one-fourth of the way through to enhance the presentation and prevent the filling from leaking out.

In house, for table service, you should slice the roll all the way through (I like to slice it on the diagonal) so that the customer can take a slice or two without much fuss. In either case, delivery or in-house, serve the stromboli with a warm marinara sauce on the side.

Different? Slightly, yes. But that’s the idea.

And what about the filling used for a stromboli? Just about any ingredient you have on your pizza prep table can be used in the dish. Let your creative juices flow. In the recipe that follows, I have allowed for certain select ingredients; however, you can tailor the stromboli filling any which way you chose to go relative to food costs and the price you will charge. 

Keep in mind that you may need to adjust the oven temperature and bake time to ensure that the dough is completely cooked through. Also, don’t stray too far from the size I give in the recipe.  Bigger is not better in this instance (if there are too many layers of dough, the inner layers may not get fully baked).

Lastly, be sure to seal the stromboli well, and don’t forget to  make several small cuts in the top of it so that steam can vent during baking. 

Here is the basic procedure. First, roll the dough into a rectangle that is about 10 inches by 14 inches.
In this basic recipe I use the following for my filling:
Lay 2 ounces of sliced, sandwich-size pepperoni (about 11 slices) over the dough, leaving a 1-inch border all around. Overlap the slices to fit as needed.
Brush pizza sauce (about 2 ounces) over the pepperoni.
Sprinkle about 4 to 5 ounces of shredded mozzarella over the sauce. Or, conversely, use slices of provolone.
Sprinkle on some dried oregano followed by some grated Parmesan.
Arrange the rectangle of dough with the short end being nearest you.

Paint the border of each long end of the dough with an egg wash (1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water).  Roll the dough into a cylinder, pinching the edges to seal.  Place the stromboli, seam side down, on a lightly oiled baking sheet or pizza pan. Cut several small slits in the top of the dough.
Brush the top of the dough with some of the egg wash. Sprinkle a bit of grated Parmesan on top.
Bake the stromboli in a 400 F oven for about 20 minutes, or until it is golden brown and starts to crisp.  Let cool for about 5 minutes before slicing and serving. I use three slices to an order, slightly overlapping the slices; then I drape the slices with warm marinara sauce.

Some tasty variations: In each of these, use the method for the basic recipe as a standard.
Use precooked Italian sausage crumbles or sauteed Italian sausage (out of the casing. Cool it a bit before using.  You will need about ½ pound of sausage).
A ham and cheese stromboli
using thin slices of prosciutto is a good alternative to pepperoni.
A four-cheese stromboli using provolone, mozzarella, fontina or Asiago and Parmesan is delicious.
A veggie stromboli should feature a medley of sauteed vegetables, such as bell peppers, onions, mushrooms and olives, as well as the cheese(s) of your choice. Drain the vegetable medley and cool slightly before using.u

Pat Bruno is Pizza Today’s resident chef and a regular contributor. He is the former owner and operator of a prominent Italian cooking school in Chicago and is a food critic for the Chicago Sun-Times.