What's the Difference Between a Stromboli and a Calzone? We Break It Down

Both are pizza-like in their ingredients and flavor, but they’re not the same.

The term “baked goods” can evoke imagery of cookies, cakes, and muffins, but baked goods don’t always have to be sweet. Take savory turnovers, for example. They’re typically made from a base of dough or puff pastry, but instead of fruit and sugar, they’re filled with various meats, cheeses, vegetables, and sometimes sauces. Oftentimes, the result is something that closely resembles pizza (or a pizza pocket)—especially if we’re talking about the stromboli and calzone. At a glance, both dishes call for nearly the same ingredients, but they’re not identical. So, what’s the difference between a stromboli and a calzone? Here, we take a deep dive into the delicious distinctions that make strombolis and calzones different. 

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What Is a Stromboli?

A stromboli is a baked turnover featuring savory ingredients like dough, cheese (such as mozzarella or Parmesan), cured meats, and veggies. It might also include some tomato sauce, but that’s not a strict requirement. 

A stromboli starts out with some rectangular dough, such as bread or pizza dough. You’ll add toppings to your rectangular canvas, but stromboli’s aren’t open faced like pizza. The “toppings” actually become fillings. The whole thing is sealed, so it’s folded lengthwise to create a cylindrical shape. Then, the two ends are folded over the sides to really seal the deal. So steam can release while baking, a few slits are cut into the top. 

When the stromboli comes out of the oven, it’s sliced into pieces, making it a dish that can be shared like an appetizer. The pieces are perfectly shaped for dipping, so stromboli is often served with a side of marinara sauce. 

In the grand scheme of things, the stromboli is a relatively new creation. Its history only dates back to the 1950s or so, when it originated in Philadelphia. It’s inspired by Italian flavors, but make no mistake—the stromboli is an American dish.

What Is a Calzone?

The history of the calzone dates further back. It was created in the 1700s in Naples, Italy, so it’s not Italian-inspired—it is Italian. The word “calzone” is also derived from the Italian word for “trouser leg” or “pant leg,” which is considered a reference to the dish making pizza even more portable.

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So, what is this Italian delicacy? It’s a savory dish that’s baked in the oven, and it’s made with ingredients like dough, cheese (such as ricotta, mozzarella, or Parmesan), veggies, and cured meats. It usually doesn’t have sauce, but it’s often served with a side of sauce for dipping. 

A calzone starts out with a flat, circular pizza or bread dough. The fillings are added to one side of the dough similar to how you’d add fillings to an omelet. The dough is then folded in half over the side with the fillings, creating a semi-circle shape. To create a seal, the edges are pressed or pinched together like the edges of an empanada. It might be brushed with an egg wash before going into the oven. Rather than a shareable appetizer, a calzone feeds just one or two.

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

Strombolis and calzones have a lot in common, so you’re not the first to confuse the two. They’re both pretty much descendants of pizza, and their ingredients can overlap. Both call for dough, cheese, and meat, for example. And yet, each is still its own thing. Here’s why.

The biggest difference between a stromboli and calzone is how each one is sealed. Both use dough to create a seal around the fillings, but a stromboli is folded multiple times, while a calzone is just folded in half. They’re often compared to tacos and burritos, which also call for similar ingredients, but tacos are folded while burritos are rolled. Similarly, calzones are folded while strombolis are rolled.

Their shape also differs, and so can their fillings. A stromboli is rectangular in shape, and a calzone resembles a half moon. Both contain cheese—multiple types of cheese, in many cases—but calzones mainly call for ricotta cheese, while strombolis typically use mozzarella cheese. In terms of sauce, a stromboli is more likely to contain sauce, and a calzone is more likely to be served with sauce on the side.

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Other differences include their respective origins and how many they feed. The calzone dates back hundreds of years to Naples, Italy, while the stromboli is an American creation that’s not even a century old. Strombolis can feed several, while calzones typically feed one or two at most, making the stromboli more of an appetizer and the calzone more of an entrée.

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