Friday, August 29, 2014

Baked Italian Sandwiches

 Last Year's Post: Pinchos Morunos
Two Years Ago:   Seafood Cobb Salad

School has started, which means everyone's schedule has gone crazy again.  Football games, after-school activities and other commitments make it really difficult to sit down as a family to eat dinner.  I'm posting these hot sandwiches because they're a great make-ahead solution for a busy workday or a hungry teenager that comes home in the evening.  Everything is assembled in advance - all you have to do is throw however many sandwiches you want into the oven.  I think you could even put the foil-wrapped frozen sandwiches in a slow cooker and turn it on for a few hours while you're gone to a game, or heat the sandwiches before leaving home and throw them in an insulated bag to take to a chilly outdoor game to eat hot - they're really versatile. Although this combination is totally delicious (if I do say so myself), after you make them one time you'll start thinking up your own combinations, tailoring the meats, spice levels and other elements to your family's tastes.

The recipe as written makes 5 sandwiches, but I would strongly suggest doubling it (or making two varieties) to keep in your freezer.  They're very easy to assemble.  The only key is to get rolls that aren't overly squishy (such as hamburger buns) - you want the outer crust to be a little more sturdy so it holds its shape when you pull out the insides.  Hard rolls, ciabatta rolls, or other round-ish sturdy rolls are perfect.  If you could find round pretzel buns they'd be really good also.  Heating the sandwiches in the oven does several things:  it melts the cheeses into gooey goodness, it causes the pesto to permeate the bread and other ingredients with fragrance and flavor, it uniformly heats all the ingredients as opposed to just the outside, and it causes the exterior of the roll to because slightly crisp without becoming really crunchy.  Although I like paninis and grilled sandwiches as much as the next person, this treatment is slightly different and just as good.

Don't be afraid to pack the sandwiches tightly because they'll shrink down a little as the cheese melts. You just don't want them over-stuffed so the tops don't fit and they leak as they're heated.

While we were eating these last night The Lawyer told me how good they were. I remarked that I would definitely have one for dinner when he's gone next week.  His reply?  "Don't eat them all".  Enough said.

printable recipe
Baked Italian Sandwiches
Makes 5 sandwiches

3 ounces (about ½ cup) pitted Kalamata olives, chopped
1/3 cup chopped red onion
4-5 sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
6 ounces shredded mozzarella
1 cloves garlic, minced
5 round sandwich rolls, ciabatta rolls, or hard rolls
3-4 ounces pesto
5 slices provolone cheese
5 ounces thinly sliced salami (about 30 slices)
½ shredded Parmesan

Combine the first five ingredients (olives through garlic) in a medium bowl and set aside.

Cut the top third off each roll and pull out most of the soft interior bread from both the tops and bottoms, being careful not to break through the crust.  Softly press the interior of the rolls and tops to create as much space as possible.

Brush the interior of the rolls and tops with a light layer of pesto, then layer ingredients in the following order:  one slice of provolone, 5-6 slices of salami, the shredded mozzarella mixture, and the Parmesan.  Gently press down on the top of the ingredients so the sandwiches will fit together tightly.  Replace the lid on each and press together.  Wrap each sandwich tightly in foil.

At this point, the sandwiches may be frozen for up to several months.

To bake, preheat the oven to 350d.  Do not remove the foil before baking.  If frozen, bake the sandwiches for 45 minutes.  If not frozen, bake the sandwiches for 25 minutes.  Unwrap and serve.

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