Sunday Lunch! Inspired by my husband’s love of the sandwich and Italian smoked meat, we made these savory pressed sandwiches. Layers of sharp provolone, Italian meats and the star of the show, spicy tomato relish – this was an instant hit. To quote my sandwich snob husband, “I think this is one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had.” Quite an endorsement! These sandwiches are wrapped in foil and bake in the oven to create perfectly crunchy bread and melty cheese. The dense, complex combination of spicy hot cherry peppers, capers and fresh rosemary with the last of the season’s sweet farm ripe tomatoes was an explosion of zesty flavors… simply delicious.
Since we rarely eat sandwiches this decadent (always trying to be healthy), we splurged on the best quality ingredients. If you’re going to take the time to make this sandwich, spend a little extra and get good imported Italian meats and cheese. It will turn a good sandwich into a sensational one.
INGREDIENTS FOR SPICY TOMATO RELISH (makes enough for the one loaf of ciabatta bread sandwich below)
- 1 medium farm ripe tomato (cored, seeded and chopped)
- 1/2 cup roasted peppers, drained and chopped
- 1 tbsp capers, drained
- 1 tbsp hot cherry peppers in vinegar, drained and chopped (add more if you like it really spicy)
- 2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- Kosher salt & pepper to taste
Combine all the ingredients and let sit for 30 minutes to allow the flavors to come together. You can roast your own peppers if you’d like. I used jarred roasted peppers for this and they worked nicely.
INGREDIENTS FOR SANDWICH (serves 3-4)
- 1 loaf ciabatta bread (or 4 ciabatta rolls)
- 8 slices sharp imported provolone cheese
- About 1/2 lb assorted Italian meats (prosciutto, spicy salami, Italian ham, hot capicola…)
- 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- Kosher salt & pepper
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Slice the ciabatta bread through, but not all the way… you want to be able to open it like a book. Scoop out the excess dough from the inside of the bread. Whisk the vinegar and oil together in a small bowl, add a pinch of salt and some fresh pepper. Drizzle evenly over the top side of the bread. Layer the cheese slices on the top and bottom halves of the bread – it will be the glue that holds the sandwich when it heats through. Next layer the meats evenly over the cheese on the bottom side. Top with the tomato relish (use the entire recipe of relish above, careful to drain it a bit before placing it on the sandwich). Close the bread and press down. Wrap tightly in foil, place on sheet pan in preheated oven for 15 minutes or until the bread is crisp and the cheese is melted. A full ciabatta bread will take longer to bake (20-25 minutes) than if you use rolls. You can always sneak a look to see how it’s coming along, or cut the ciabatta loaf in half and wrap each half in foil separately – this will help heat the sandwich through faster.
Cut into wedges and enjoy!
* This recipe makes one big sandwich using a large loaf of ciabatta bread. We cut our loaf into two large halves so we could try two meat combinations. One half was prosciutto and hot capicola and the other was Italian Tuscan ham with spicy Calabrese salami. I suggest a combination of one mild meat with one spicy. Makes for nice balance of flavors. Choose your two favorite meats, just be sure to use a nice sharp imported provolone. By the way, you could use a panini press to make this sandwich too.