Stromboli vs. Calzone: The Great Debate

Categories: Recipes

Of all the culinary conundrums, the one that plagues me the most is the difference between a calzone and a stromboli. Growing up I thought the main difference was that stromboli is typically rolled and made with cold cut-type meat, while a calzone is folded over and made with anything else. Then I went to college and experienced a place called Stuff Yer Face, where I was introduced to fishbowls and 'bolis. I remember being confused as I realized my 'boli resembled more of a calzone -- it was not rolled, and there was not a luncheon meat to be found. So, what the heck is the difference?

For years, I've received conflicting information, like "stromboli always contain marinara, while calzones always have ricotta," but experience has taught me not to believe these lies. I've also heard that calzones are authentically Italian, while stromboli are a product of either Washington or Philadelphia and named for the film Stromboli starring Ingrid Bergman.

I'd planned to research this question until I could define each accurately and completely. But then I got really hungry, and, well, the quest for truth is having some minor setbacks. Whatever you want to call it, here is my recipe for a quick and easy strom-zone or cal-boli that is perfectly delicious no matter the name.

Strom-zone or Cal-boli

  • Take any type of sausage (one per person) out of its casing and cook through in olive oil.
  • I typically use sweet Italian sausage or turkey sausage, but feel free to get creative with hot or specialty sausages like HEB's feta and spinach chicken sausage.
  • Remove the sausage and sauté one sliced onion, one sliced red bell pepper and a few garlic cloves until tender in the pan drippings and Italian seasonings.
  • Flour and roll out pizza dough onto a baking sheet. I used one tube of Pillsbury's refrigerated classic pizza dough (love this stuff!).
  • To assemble, make a thin layer of marinara, along with an Italian blend of cheese and fresh spinach leaves, across the whole surface of the dough, leaving a small border. I have never mastered the stromboli roll without creating a mess, so for this reason I loaded up the rest of my toppings on just one side of the dough, folded the other side over, pinched the ends together and molded into a neat little package. Roll at your own risk.
  • Once the whole thing is brushed down with olive oil, given a few slits in the top and sprinkled with garlic salt for good luck, it is ready for the 400-degree oven for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

If that's not challenging enough for you, here are a few other, slightly more sophisticated stromboli recipes to try: Thanksgiving Stromboli; Spinach, Feta and Kalamata Olive Stromboli; and Traditional Stromboli according to Emeril Lagasse.

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Bruce R
Bruce R

If you go to Wikipedia and look up "stromboli" then the main picture (on the top left) is what I am used to. A rolled up loaf that does not contain sauce. The calzones I'm familiar with are more like folded over pizzas, maybe with ricotta. I don't recall either having sauce inside.

But it's like reubens, chicken 65, chicken tikka masala, etc. The origins are hazy and hence authenticity has little meaning.

Christina Uticone
Christina Uticone

Ha! I love it. This debate "raged" in the comments of my post last week about pizza.

My grandmother - born & raised in Rome - made calzone without sauce baked into it, but on the side. In my heavily Italian/Italian-American hometown in Upstate NY, calzones are folded and served with sauce on the side, while stromboli are rolled and include sauce baked into the roll.

I wouldn't be surprised to see true Italian calzone (like my grandmother's) vary by region in Italy, but the sauce baked in/served on side distinction is the primary one recognized by me, as well as most of my friends who are also 2nd generation American and their 1st generation parents (like my father).


penned like a true stoner.

do you say: I live in the 'Trose?

the difference is that calzoni are sewn shut, like shoes, or socks.


Are stromboli regional? I always see them on menus back east, but not here or Missouri.Stromboli I used to get seemed like a pizza, without sauce, with toppings and cheess that was folded in half, then baked in the pizza oven. Marina on the side. Crap! Now I'm really hungry.


I don't put marinara in either stromboli or calzones, I dipe the stromboli in it and pour it overtop the calzone

Christina Uticone
Christina Uticone

Fair enough, but I always go with Gram over Google when it comes to Italian gastronomy. And boys.

Brittanie Shey
Brittanie Shey

I say 'Trose and I have smoked weed maybe four times in my life.

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