A brick is the key to this overnight sandwich. This Pressed Italian Sandwich takes all your favorite cold cuts and deli meats and piles them high into hollowed out ciabatta. Guaranteed to be the favorite halftime show!
Traditions are a big deal, right? With my college age kids, I've done a lot of tailgating over the years. And this Pressed Italian Sandwich has found its way into my cooler more times than I can count. It's the perfect tailgate or party sandwich because it feeds a crowd, looks good and is easy to serve.
Besides, who doesn't love a big ole sandwich after they've had a couple of tailgate beverages? The yummy stacked meat and cheese in this pressed sandwich have been known to make mouths water. Thick layers of ham, turkey, and salami are topped with sharp provolone, pickled red onions and cherry peppadew peppers and then the whole thing is dressed in a rich and tangy balsamic vinaigrette. It's one part Italian hoagie-one part muffaletta.
And all parts GOOD.
Weigh it down
The key to this pressed sandwich starts (and ends) with a brick. You might, like me, have a couple of bricks or pavers left over from a patio or house project. If you don't, a cast iron skillet and a gallon of milk will work just as well. You just want something heavy that is going to press down and flatten the sandwich.
Wrap up your brick in tin foil so that it (which, if it's like mine, is probably dirty) doesn't come in contact with the sandwich.
Best make ahead sandwich
The best part about this recipe is that it has to be made ahead. Hopefully that's good news. (If you woke up on game day craving this sandwich, I hope it's Saturday or College Game Day because then you could still make it in time for the pros on Sunday.)
It takes about 10 minutes to throw this together and would make a great appetizer for Thanksgiving or Christmas when the nibbling is an all-day affair. Plus, it's easy to portion for individual serving and puts on its best show when its cut.
What bread is best for a pressed sandwich?
- Ciabatta has a great dry, firm crust that doesn't get soggy from the dressing. Let's face it...nobody wants a wet, soggy sandwich.
- The soft, airy and deep pockets of ciabatta loaves make it easy to hollow out.
- The distinct Italian flavor of ciabatta bread (not too yeasty or sweet) makes it the perfect choice for this pressed Italian sandwich recipe.
The layering process.
The brick. Wrap the brick in foil and set inside a large cast iron or heavy skillet. Set aside.
The bread. After slicing in half lengthwise, hollow out each side of the ciabatta taking care not to go all the way through the crust. Leave about a ¼-1/2" border around the edges.
The dressing. Mix up the balsamic/Dijon vinaigrette in a small bowl and liberally brush on the inside of each side of the ciabatta.
The cold cuts. This is where your imagination can run wild. I used more classic deli meats and cheeses and accessorized with an Italian dressing and pickled veggies.
Other combos that would be great are:
- capicola, mortadella and salami
- porchetta (Italian roast pork) and prosciutto
- vegetarian with roasted eggplant and red peppers, black olives, pickled onions and more.
- Pickled onions. These easy pickled red onions add a tangy flavor and are so easy to make. Slice them thin and pour over some plain white vinegar. Add some sugar if you like and let them sit.
- Peppadew peppers. Fire up all the flavors with some bright red peppadew peppers. (btw —I was very conservative with these as not everyone loves them but feel free to pile them on!)
No pesto; no problem
You'll notice this pressed sandwich doesn't have fresh basil or pesto. There are a couple of reasons for that.
- Basil. This sandwich lasts longer than 1-2 days in the fridge after pressing. The basil might not. I don't like to risk the flavor as the basil bitters as it ages. If you know you'll serve the whole thing in one day and not save for leftovers, then definitely add some basil or arugula.
- Pesto. Feel free to add pesto to this pressed sandwich if you want. And if you love pesto, our favorite Chicken Caprese Sandwich has a pesto aioli that is out of this world!
Pressed brick sandwich pairings
Best Tomato Bisque. When comfort is required, a cup of this creamy soup does the trick.
JP's Chex Mix. The perfect game day munchie!
Italian Arugula Salad. Fresh and few ingredients make this a fav.
Cole Slaw. The flavors in Kathryn's coleslaw are right at home with this sandwich!
Make ahead. This sandwich can be made up to two days in advance.
For a few. While this sandwich definitely is a crowd-pleaser, it definitely works for when there's just a few at home. Find the smallest round or oval loaf and meal prep it for the week for lunches or last minute dinners.
For a crew. Make at least one of these depending on the size of your party or tailgate. They transport easily in a cooler especially because you'll have them already made. And to keep costs down, make thinner layers of cold cuts —it works equally as well!
It's a win whether or not your team does!
Italian Pressed Sandwich
- 1 lb loaf of ciabatta bread , sliced in half horizontally
- ¼ lb hard salami, sliced thin
- ⅓ lb roasted turkey, not too thin
- ⅓ lb smoked ham, not too thin
- ⅓ lb sharp provolone, sliced extra thin
For the dressing
- ⅓ cup balsamic vinegar
- ½ cup olive oil
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- ½ teaspoon oregano
- ¼ teaspoon thyme
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
For the pickled onions
- ½ red onion, thinly sliced
- ⅓ white vinegar, or more if needed
- ½ teaspoon sugar, optional
- fresh basil
- peppadew peppers
- black olives
- Slice the red onions thinly and mix with the white vinegar. Set aside for approximately 10-15 minutes until the color intensifies.
- Wrap a concrete paver or brick with foil and set aside.
- Slice the ciabatta horizontally starting at the short end working your way down the loaf. Hollow out both sides of the ciabatta within ¼-½" all around. [See photo above].* You want to leave a shell but not so thin you can see through the bread or make a hole.
- Combine dressing ingredients together in a small bowl.
- Using a pastry brush, generously brush the inside of the bread up to the edges. Don't oversaturate the bread.
- Beginning with the top side of the bread, start layering the meats and cheeses. I started with the turkey, salami, ham, cheese and then the peppers and onions. I realize this might be backwards but I like the taste at the end of the veggies. It's up to you! [Don't overfill or you won't be able to close the sandwich!]
- Put the bottom on the sandwich.
- Create a criss-cross of 2 equally sized pieces of parchment paper. Fold up around the sandwich. Repeat with foil.
- Place the sandwich in a cast iron skillet or heavy pan. Place a slightly larger pan on top of the sandwich and add your foil covered brick (or gallon of milk or something equally as heavy).
- Load this whole contraption into a lower fridge shelf and let it do its thing overnight or longer.
- When ready to serve, use a serrated knife to slice the sandwich into equal pieces.