Recipe: Homemade Italian Subs

After a couple weeks off here on the blog, I’m pleased to report that I’m back from my hiatus feeling fully inspired and ready to start sharing some fun new recipes.  During my time away, Chris and I went on a weeklong vacation out to the East Coast, starting our tour in Maryland and working our way up to Boston and Maine.  It was so nice to (finally!) take a week off of work and leave the computer screens and burning California behind for a bit.  We had a really nice time exploring old and new (to us) places and visiting friends and family on both sides – a welcome break indeed!

One of my favorite things about being back East (in the Boston area in particular), is being surrounded by Italian American foods.  Delis everywhere loaded with my favorite things – meats, cheeses, and cannolis.  During our day visiting Gloucester, MA, we stopped by Virgilio’s Italian Bakery and Deli and picked up one of the best Italian subs that I’ve had in a long time, along with some pastries to go.  We ate half of our sub for lunch and took the second half out to the beach for dinner, and thoroughly enjoyed being surrounded by the chilly New England sand with plenty of seagulls eying our bread stuffed with meats and cheeses.

My Virgilio’s beach sub catching the setting sunlight in Gloucester, MA.

Since returning home, we started craving the flavors from our trip, so we decided to whip up some Italian subs of our own.  Now, as much as I love California, Italian delis are few and far between out here, so we used basic grocery store rolls, salami, and provolone, which turned out to be fine, but not perfect.  If you can get your hands on the good stuff straight from your local deli, now would be the time to do it.  I did make my own homemade giardiniera to make up for this, and we were sure to season the lettuce with plenty of oil and vinegar before adding it to our sub.  Although our ingredients were generally sub-par, we still made an excellent sandwich that hit home with all of the flavors of our beach subs that we were craving.  This turned out to be a really great base recipe for homemade Italian subs, and we’ve been making these on repeat in my house all weekend!

As with all recipes, this can of course be customized to use ingredients that you have on-hand.  Use your favorite deli meats here (mortadella, prosciutto, your favorite salamis and hams) – go with what you like and I’m sure it will be perfect.  If you can’t find provolone, low moisture sliced mozzarella would be a great substitution here.  Other things that would be great on this sandwich: some basil or pesto for that herby take, some Calabrian chili paste or additional pickled peppers for some heat, sliced raw onions for some funk, or even some capers or pickles for that extra briny vibe.  This is the base recipe here, but feel free to spice it up however you like!

As I mentioned, I made my own giardiniera using some leftover escabeche that I had in my fridge blended with some pickled (and homegrown!) pepperoncini peppers.  I simply threw all of that into the food processor and blended it up until it was nicely chopped into small pieces.  If you don’t happen to have pre-fermented (or pickled) peppers and cauliflower lying around (is it weird that I do?), there are plenty of great store-bought giardiniera options available as well.  Chris is very fond of this spicy version from Potbelly, which they sell at their sandwich shops (including the ones in the airport – I know this because that’s where we picked up our jar!).

Okay, now that we know all about my love of Italian subs and giardiniera, let’s make some! Recipe down below, along with photos.  This recipe is enough to walk you through making one sandwich, so feel free to scale up and make a bunch for a crowd as needed!

Homemade Italian Subs

Ingredients:

  • 1 Italian Roll
    • Example linked here for reference
  • 1 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1-2 slices ham
  • 2-4 slices salami
  • 1-2 slices provolone cheese
  • 2 tbsp giardiniera
  • 1 tomato, sliced into ¼ inch slices
  • ½ head of romaine lettuce, sliced into ½ inch shreds
  • 1 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper

Method:

  1. If not already sliced, use a serrated knife to cut the roll in half (lengthwise), leaving enough of one side attached so it can be opened up fully (like a book) but mostly cut through.
    1. Optional: Lightly toast the sliced roll in the oven or toaster to refresh it a little if store-bought.  If fresh, this step can be skipped.
  2. Add a layer of mayo to both sides of the bread.  Top with a slice or two of ham, followed by the salami, and followed by the provolone cheese.
  3. Next, add the sliced tomato in a nice layer (about 2-3 slices should do), and top the tomato with a layer of the giardiniera.
  4. To season the lettuce, first chop the romaine lettuce into thin (about ¼ or ½ inch) shreds by using a knife to cut across the top of the romaine head, continuing to cut crosswise as you work your way down.  Once you have a good amount of lettuce chopped up, add it to a bowl.  Season the shredded lettuce with the salt and pepper, and add the olive oil and red wine vinegar to the bowl of lettuce as well.  Toss to fully combine.
    1. This is a crucial step, as it brings a ton of extra flavor to this sandwich.  If the oil and vinegar on the lettuce is skipped, your sandwich will be somewhat dry and bland and you’ll be sad.  We’re here for seasoned lettuce, friends!
  5. Top the rest of the sandwich toppings with a big handful of the seasoned lettuce.
  6. Fold the sandwich in half so that the toppings are fully encased in the bread.
  7. Take a big bite and enjoy immediately!

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