Alright now, where are all the film buffs in the area? We need to travel back to the early 1950s in which a movie created a scandalous affair. Too vague for that era? Stromboli, aka Stromboli, Land of God, is a 1950 Italian-American film directed by Roberto Rossellini and starred Ingrid Bergman. It was a box office flop, Rossellini and Bergman were married, but not to each other, and their affair resulted in a “love child”. In the 1950s, this was a scandal as far as Americans were concerned, but in Italy it was just amore being a beautiful thing.
The movie, Stromboli, may have been a flop, the invention of a sandwich, with the same name, was a huge hit though. Romano's Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria, in Essington, Pennsylvania, outside of Philadelphia, takes first claim to the creation. To honor the grand opening of the movie, owner Nazzareno Romano, an Italian immigrant, experimented with "pizza imbottita", or "stuffed pizza", and added ham, cotechino sausage, cheese and peppers into a pocket of bread dough. It was a huge success, so renamed his creation, stromboli, after the movie itself. Now why would he do that if the movie tanked at the box office? Ah, that was when it debuted in the United States, but in Italy, it was awarded the Rome Prize for Cinema for best film of the year (1950).
However, in 1954, Mike Aquino, owner of Mike's Burger Royal in Spokane, Washington, claimed to make a turnover dedicated to the movie. His version consisted of capicola ham and provolone cheese, covered in an Italian chili sauce, on a French bread roll, and called it stromboli. So, created four years after the movie flopped in the USA, and claims he created it first, before Nazzareno Romano made his culinary creation. Sorry Mike, but I am calling, “Shenanigans” on you!
What exactly is stromboli? Similar to the half moon shaped calzone, but made with a square of Italian bread dough, or pizza dough. Ingredients, such as sliced cheeses and cold cuts, are layered out along side each other, then rolled; the roll is place in the center of the dough square. The dough is sealed on the long seam, and at the ends, placed on a jelly roll pan and baked. A traditional stromboli would be with Italian cheese, cold cuts and basil leaves; when the stromboli is cut in half, the inside has the colorings of the Italian flag, green, white and red.
A stromboli does not always have to be made in the twelve-inch size, and then cut into servings. Six-inch and four-inch individual portions fit containers much better when packing a picnic basket; also, for sending off as lunches for school and work. My hubby, Roy, says, “These are like homemade hot pockets, and taste way better!”. Cold cuts do not have to be the meat of choice; the mixtures for cheese steaks, tacos, even buffalo chicken can become a stromboli.
The ones I recently made contained the ingredients for cheese steaks, but I added homemade pasta sauce plus mozzarella cheese, to give an Italian flair. By the way, not in the mood to prep your own dough, then frozen bread dough works great. I have used the Rhodes brand, with not one complaint, so this is the one I recommend. Not available in your store, then use what you know is quality.
Italian Cheese Steak Stromboli
2 loaves bread dough (if frozen, Rhodes brand is recommended)
1 lb. chopped ribeye steak (can be found frozen and labeled for cheese steak use)
1 large onion, julienned
1 small green, yellow and red bell pepper, seeded and julienned
2 cups homemade pasta sauce
10 slices mozzarella cheese, divided in half
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, divided in half
Water for sealing
1 egg, beaten
In a large skillet, on medium-high heat, brown the steak along with the onion and peppers; drain liquid. Add in sauce and let cook for 10 minutes. Turn off heat and let ingredients cool down for 20 minutes (hot food will melt the dough).
Preheat oven to 350F and line jelly roll pan with parchment paper.
Roll out each bread loaf to 14” x 14”, or as close to possible (sides do not have to be perfectly straight). Down the center, lay five slices of mozzarella cheese, leaving one-inch space from top and bottom edges. Spoon half the skillet ingredients down the center, over the cheese, again one-inch space from top and bottom. Sprinkle half cup of shredded mozzarella over the filling.
With a brush, or fingertip, wet the edges of the dough, all around with the water. First fold over the one-inch edges at the top and bottom. Next take one side of dough and fold over the filling; then fold other side over. With the beaten egg, brush over all exposed areas of dough, including seams.
Place both completed strombolis onto parchment paper and bake for 20 minutes, or until dough is puffed and golden brown. Remove to cooling rack and let rest for 5 minutes before moving to cutting board and slicing up portions. Each stromboli will make four 3-inch portions.
Personal opinion of both Roy, and myself, is frozen hot pockets might be convenient, but they will never beat homemade.