Stromboli is more or less a big calzone stuffed with savory meats, cheeses, and vegetables. Back home in the North East, the broccoli variety is simple referred to as "Broccoli Bread". That crusty, cheesey, garlic-saturated bundle of deliciousness often haunts my dreams, it being one of those things you just don't see down here in Texas.
After we had Charlie, friends and family took turns bringing us dinner. There was a great variety of meals. Over that first two weeks with Charlie we enjoyed everything from veggie chili to takeout pad thai. One of the last contributions to our Meal Train came from my sister's sister-in-law (or is she also just my sister in-law? I never know how all of that works once you go beyond the basics.) brought a homemade stromboli. I thought I might just die from pleasure, stromboli being one of my all-time favorite foods.
Betsy's stromboli, which turns out to be a Pagano family tradition, features a crisp crust of buttery, flakey dough. She stuffed it with ham, cheese, sausage, mustard, and salami – an unexpected but tasty combination. She told me that when the Pagano kids were young their Mom would treat them to hot stromboli after hours spent playing in the snow. Can you imagine how awesome that must have been? And here I thought my Mom was fancy with Swiss Miss and buttered and toasted saltines. My sister certainly picked a good family to hitch on to. Any family with stromboli-based traditions is A-OK in my book.
Betsy generously shared her recipe with me, after which I went on a week long stromboli bender. The following recipe is my own version of Broccoli Bread, featuring a whole wheat crust and oodles of butter and garlic.
For a more Pagano variety, replace the whole wheat flour with white, and stick to meatier, cheesier fillings. While you are at it, don't be afraid to experiment with your own strombolis. As a rule, if you think it would taste good in a hot sandwich, it would probably taste great in a stromboli. You can't really go wrong.
If you are short on time, try using a pre-made batch of pizza dough to replace the dough portion of this recipe. It won't be quite as tender and buttery as this homemade dough, but using it will shave more than an hour off of your prep time.
P.S. Mom, don't worry. I think you're buttered saltines are fancy too. In fact, I still crave them every time I find myself covered in snow.
Broccoli and Cheese Stromboli
Makes about eight servings
Ingredients – For the Crust
- 2 cups whole wheat flour
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/3 cup warm water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) yeast
- 2 ounces oil
Ingredients – For the Filling
- 1 head broccoli, chopped
- 2 tablespoons butter, divided
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon oregano
- the juice from 1/2 lemon
- 2 tablespoons grated parmesan
- 1 1/2 cups (about 15 ounces) ricotta
- 1 egg
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella
- Combine the dough ingredients in a bowl or stand mixer (equipped with a dough hook) and mix until thoroughly combined. Knead the dough until smooth, then transfer to an oiled bowl. Cover with a damp towel, and let rest for 1 1/2 hours.
- Meanwhile, prep your fillings. Start by blanching the broccoli in boiling water. (Tip: Add 1 teaspoon of salt to the boiling water to make the broccoli extra green.) To do this, bring the water to a rolling boil, drop in the broccoli and boil for about two minutes. Strain the broccoli and rinse with cold water.
- In a large skillet, combine the butter, olive oil, and minced garlic. Turn the heat onto medium, and stir the ingredients as they become hot. Cook the garlic until it has softened a little (about three to five minutes) but try not to let it brown. Add the broccoli followed by 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon red pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon oregano. Toss ingredients together, then remove from heat. Add the lemon juice and parmesan, toss again, then set aside.
- Beat together the ricotta and egg in a mixing bowl. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder. Mix well and set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. If you are using a pizza stone, allow the oven to preheat for an extra twenty minutes after coming to temperature.
- When the dough has finished rising, punch it down, then remove it from the oiled bowl and onto a floured baking sheet or pizza peel/paddle. Stretch the dough as you would a pizza dough, or roll it out with a rolling pin, to make a square about 18 inches wide.
- Spread the mozzarella out in the center of the dough, covering a square about 12 inches wide. Layer the broccoli over the cheese, then spread the ricotta over the top in large dollops.
- Fold the sides of the dough into the center by gently pulling them. Try not to let them rip, but do your best to get them to meet in the center. Repeat this step with the top and bottom sides.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment, silpat mats, or cooking oil, then place it over the folded stromboli (with the paper/mat/oiled side touching the stromboli). Press the pans together and use them to carefully flip the stromboli upside-down. The stromboli should now be on the new pan with the folded side down.
- Melt 1 tablespoon of butter, then brush it over the top of the stromboli. Sprinkle a little salt, pepper, and garlic powder over the top. A little dried parsley would look nice too, if you have it handy.
- Bake the stromboli for 15 – 25 minutes, or until the top becomes golden brown. Allow it to sit for about 10 minutes after removing it from the oven, then cut it into eight pieces.