What’s the Difference Between a Stromboli and a Calzone?

The shape isn’t the only difference — here’s everything you need to know when making or ordering these pizza-like treats.

<p>VeselovaElena / Getty Images</p>

VeselovaElena / Getty Images

Whether you’re making them at home or placing an order at your local pizzeria, you might’ve wondered what sets calzones and strombolis apart. Though they’re both oven-baked dishes that involve a combination of pizza dough, sauce, cheese, and meat, there are some key differences between the two. Calzones are a crescent-shaped Italian creation that are stuffed with fillings and sealed, while Italian-American strombolis are rolled up into a log around the fillings and sliced. But that’s not all — here’s everything you need to know when comparing calzones and strombolis.

The origins

Before we get into exactly what ingredients make calzones unique from strombolis (and vice versa), we have to talk about the birthplace of these pizza-like treats.

Calzones originated in Naples, Italy in the 18th century. “Calzones are one of the traditional Neapolitan pizza creations,” says Mike Fadem, chef and owner of Ops pizzeria in Brooklyn. “Supposedly calzones were intended to be a mobile food that would get wrapped in paper and you could eat it while walking.”

Stromboli, on the other hand, was likely invented on the outskirts of Philadelphia in the 1950s, nearly 200 years after its relative was created. Romano’s, a pizzeria and Italian restaurant in Essington, Pennsylvania, is widely regarded as the inventor of stromboli.

Related: 30 Italian Food Recipes for Memorable Meals

The dough

Calzones are traditionally made with pizza dough using just a few ingredients — flour, yeast, water, and salt. Strombolis are usually made with pizza dough but can also be made with bread dough, according to Anna Crucitt, owner of Mercurio’s in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. “With stromboli, you could add oil or some kind of fat to the dough, which is beneficial if they’re baked in a deck oven, like the type used for New York-style pizza,” adds Fadem.

<p>LauriPatterson / Getty Images</p> A stromboli filled with chicken

LauriPatterson / Getty Images

A stromboli filled with chicken

The shape

How calzones and strombolis are formed is what really sets these two foods apart from each other. “Calzones are normally shaped into a half-moon, whereas a stromboli is a rectangular log shape,” says Laura Meyer, owner and chef at Pizzeria da Laura in Berkeley, California. “Nowadays, a lot of strombolis are assembled like burritos, but they are actually meant to be rolled so you get a layered effect when they’re cut into. Calzones, on the other hand, are filled like a pocket but assembled into a crescent shape,” she adds.

To make a calzone at home, you’ll add your fillings to half of a circular-shaped pizza dough, then fold over, seal, and crimp the edges. To make stromboli, you’ll top a rectangular sheet of dough with the fillings, then roll up like a jelly roll before sealing. Both are typically brushed with olive oil or egg wash to give them a glossy, golden-brown color before they bake.

Related: 27 Pizza Recipes to Perfect

The fillings

The fillings for each of these baked bites tend to look pretty similar, and are subject to variation. “Calzones are usually filled on one side with ricotta, vegetables, a pork product such as prosciutto cotto or salsiccia, mozzarella, and a little bit of tomato sauce,” says Crucitt. Though ricotta cheese is less common in strombolis, you can often count on a delicious combination of marinara sauce, cured pork products, mozzarella, and vegetables.

One thing that’s up for debate when it comes to both strombolis and calzones: whether there should be sauce on the inside. “I have seen both across the board. Even in Italy, you can find sauce inside and outside,” says Meyer. You may even find calzones topped with mozzarella cheese and fresh basil on the outside of the crust, adds Crucitt.

David Cicconi Buffalo Chicken Calzones
David Cicconi Buffalo Chicken Calzones

The cooking process

Once calzones and strombolis are formed and filled, it’s time to bake them. Strombolis are typically baked at a lower temperature than Neapolitan pizza or calzones, says Fadem — about 20 minutes in a 350℉ oven. “When it comes to strombolis, you want to take into consideration that the dough will expand when cooked,” adds Meyer. “If the dough is not rolled out properly or docked to release some of the air in the dough, your nicely rolled and shaped stromboli will burst in the oven.” If you’re making strombolis at home, prick the dough with a fork before placing it in the oven to prevent a mess.

Calzones, on the other hand,  are cooked in pizza ovens at a very high temperature for about five minutes. In their birthplace of Naples, however, it’s just as common to find fried calzones as it is baked ones. “In Italy, the fried version goes by the name panzerotti. They have their edges pulled on when they are placed in the fryer so that they retain the crescent shape but are very long, as opposed to the shorter, chubbier baked calzones,” says Meyer.

Related: The F&W Guide to Making Pizza at Home

How to serve strombolis and calzones

Calzones are generally meant to be eaten by just one to two people, whereas strombolis are intended to be sliced and served to a crowd. “Lots of pizzerias will serve strombolis with a side of marinara sauce to dip. Calzones can be served with a side of sauce as well but it’s not quite as common,” says Crucitt. 

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