Winter is the time of year when we crave warm, home-cooked food. We love getting cozy with a variety of winter comfort food recipes, from mashed potatoes and gratins to mac n’ cheese.
Comforting or not, though, those classics are typically loaded with butter, milk, heavy cream and refined carbohydrates, piling on pounds that can stick around long past the winter thaw. But you don’t have to give up on comfort food just yet.
Hot and hearty sandwiches are the best of all worlds on chilly days: filling, warming and easy to eat. They can be delicious, yet healthy. Whether you grab a bite as you’re rushing around or fix yourself a dinner plate, the following Italian sandwich recipes will give you comfort.
- Two 6-ounce cans albacore tuna
- 1/4 cup finely diced red onion
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon minced basil
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 4 ciabatta rolls, split
- Dijon mustard
- Eight 1/4-inch-thick slices of Mozzarella or Fontina cheese (6 ounces)
- Sliced bread and butter pickles, optional
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
In a medium bowl, mix the tuna with the onion, olive oil, vinegar, basil and crushed red pepper. Season with salt and pepper.
Heat a panini press or griddle.
Spread the cut sides of the rolls with mustard and top each roll half with a slice of cheese. Spread the tuna mixture on the bottoms and add a few pickles slices, if desired.
Close the sandwiches and spread the outsides of the rolls with the butter.
Place the sandwiches in the press and cook over moderate heat until the cheese is melted, about 6 minutes. Cut the sandwiches in half and serve.
Grilled Chicken, Tomato and Onion Sandwiches
- 3 ounces pitted mixed olives (1 cup)
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- 2 teaspoons fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Freshly ground pepper
- 2 large tomatoes, cut into 1/3 inch thick slices
- 1 Vidalia onion (or any sweet onion), cut into 1/4 inch thick slices
- 4 crusty rolls, such as ciabatta, sourdough or hero, split horizontally
- 1 1/2 pounds thin chicken cutlets
Heat a stove top grill pan.
In a mini food processor, pulse the pitted olives with the crushed garlic and oregano until chopped. Add the 1/4 cup of olive oil and pulse until finely chopped. Season with pepper.
Brush the, chicken, tomatoes, onion and cut sides of the rolls with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
Grill the tomatoes and onion over high heat until they are softened and lightly charred, about 2 minutes for the tomatoes and 6 minutes for the onion. Transfer to a plate and season with salt and pepper. Grill the bread until lightly toasted, about 2 minutes Remove to a plate.
Season the chicken cutlets with salt and pepper and grill them, turning occasionally, until they are lightly browned in spots and cooked through, 5 to 6 minutes.
Cut the chicken cutlets to fit the toasted rolls and top with the sliced tomatoes, sliced onion and olive relish. Close the sandwiches, cut them in half and serve.
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
- 1 pound red bell peppers, thinly sliced
- 1 large red onion, thinly sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- Kosher salt
- 6 Italian chicken sausages, about 5 ounces each
- 3 long hero rolls, split lengthwise
Heat the oven to 200 degrees F.
Heat a large skillet and add the oil, bell peppers, onion, garlic, oregano and crushed red pepper and season with salt. Cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the peppers are softened and just beginning to brown, 6 minutes. Place the vegetables in a heatproof bowl, cover with foil and keep warm in the oven while you cook the sausages.
Prick the sausages with a knife and cook over moderate heat, turning occasionally, until no trace of pink remains, about 10 minutes.
Add the sausages to the vegetables and keep warm.
Brush the rolls with oil and toast under the broiler. Fill the rolls with the sausages and peppers, cut each one in half and serve.
Eggplant Parm Sandwiches
- One 28-ounce can whole Italian tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for brushing the baking pan
- 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 2 cups Italian seasoned dry bread crumbs
- 2-pounds of eggplant, peeled and cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
- 3 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
- 12 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced 1/4 inch thick
- 1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 1 cup basil leaves
- 4 long hero rolls, cut in half and split lengthwise
Preheat the oven to 375° F.
In a blender or food processor, puree the tomatoes with their juices, garlic and the 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Season the sauce with salt. Set aside.
Brush 2 baking sheets with olive oil.
Put the eggs and bread crumbs in 2 separate shallow bowls. Working with 1 slice of eggplant at a time, dip the slice in the egg, letting any excess drip back into the bowl, then coat with the bread crumbs. Place the slice of eggplant on one of the baking sheets. Repeat with the remaining eggplant slices. You may need a third baking sheet.
Bake the eggplant slices until lightly brown, about 20 minutes.
Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F.
Lightly oil a 10-inch springform pan. Line the bottom with a single layer of eggplant. Spread 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce over the eggplant. Top with a few mozzarella slices and sprinkle with 3 tablespoons of the parmesan. Tear one-third of the basil leaves and place over the cheese.
Repeat with the remaining ingredients for a total of 4 layers, ending with a layer of eggplant and a thick layer of tomato sauce. Sprinkle the remaining parmesan on top.
Wrap the entire pan in foil and set it on a large rimmed baking sheet. Bake the eggplant for about 1 hour, until heated through.
Increase the oven temperature to 400°. Remove the foil from the top of the pan and bake for about 10 minutes longer, until lightly browned on top.
Remove from the oven and let rest for at least 15 minutes before unmolding.
Cut wedges of eggplant to fit the rolls and serve.
Pepper Pork and Fennel Sandwiches
Aleppo chili pepper comes from Syrian town of Aleppo, just east of the Turkish border. These red chilies are also known in the Mediterranean region as halaby peppers. Moderately hot, the crushed, dried peppers are celebrated for their rich, fruity flavor that’s sometimes described as a cross between cumin and cayenne. It has a moderate heat level with a hint of a vinegar, salty taste. Aleppo pepper offers a nice variation from your usual crushed red pepper flakes.
- 3 1/2 pound boneless pork shoulder
- 1 tablespoon fine sea salt
- 3 tablespoons minced garlic
- 1/4 cup Aleppo pepper
- 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 large fennel bulb—trimmed, cored and very thinly sliced
- 4 cups (packed) arugula
- 6 toasted ciabatta rolls, split, for serving
Make 6 cuts in the pork, 1 inch apart, cutting most of the way through the meat. Rub the pork all over with the salt. Rub the pork with the garlic and then with the Aleppo pepper, covering the meat completely. Wrap the pork in plastic and refrigerate overnight.
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Set the pork in a baking dish just large enough to hold it and add 1/4 cup of water. Cover the pork with parchment paper and then cover tightly with foil. Bake for about 2 1/2 hours, until the meat is very tender.
Pour all but 1/4 cup of the roasting juices into a bowl and reserve. Drizzle the pork with the vinegar, cover with foil and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the pork from the oven and let it rest, covered in the pan, for 10 minutes. Remove the pork to a cutting board.
Combine the pan juices with the reserved juices in a microwave safe bowl.
In a large bowl, stir the olive oil with the lemon juice and season with salt and black pepper. Add the fennel and arugula and toss.
Brush the rolls with oil and toast under the broiler.
Discard any fat and gristle from the pork. Reheat the juices in the microwave or in a pan.
Shred the meat and toss with the hot pan juices.
Pile the meat on the rolls, top with the fennel salad and serve.