With the Super Bowl just around the corner, it’s never too early to discuss tantalizing treats to serve during the Big Daddy game of the year. There’s never a guarantee that the on-field match-up, or the commercials, will live up to the hype. But Grade A snacks can carry the day every time.
Prior to this year’s LSU/Alabama game, my sons and I went on a quest to assemble the ultimate hot Italian submarine sandwich. We were not playing around here. This bad boy was stacked high with fine Italian cold cuts, impressive enough on first glance to make the mouths water of any MeatHeads in your Super Bowl crowd.
Since the original “Godfather” movie was showing later that Saturday evening after LSU dispatched the Crimson Tide 46-41, in the spirit of fine Italian/American cuisine, we dubbed our creation the “Il Grande Mafioso.”
Never ask this sandwich about its business… It will rub out your hunger in no time flat.
Generally speaking, all the necessary ingredients for this monster creation can be found at your local supermarket, such as Kroger, Giant, Safeway, or the like. Walmart should stock most of these items, but a couple are questionable. Recently, I was unable to find capocollo at Kroger. I see it all the time when I’m not looking for it.
I will add that it might seem this sandwich is a tad on the expensive side as one is dropping the fixings into his or her shopping cart. I wouldn’t disagree with this notion, but once the prescribed items are acquired, there is sufficient quantity to make at least two full footlongs. That drops the ticket price to somewhere around $15-$20 per sub. That’s not too shabby if we are talking about feeding 10 or more people.
For any submarine sandwich fans, whether that be a muffuletta, Po’ boy, wedge, blimpie, hoagie, hero, grinder – call it what you will, the “Il Grande Mafioso” is poised to win the praise of your guests, and make the taste buds smile for all who cross its path.
2 – 12″ Soft Italian Bread Loaves
3 tblsp – Salted Butter
6 oz – Sopressata (A spicier, more coarsely ground cured meat)
5 oz – Genoa Salami (A greasy pork sausage, more tart, due to use of white or red wine)
5 oz – Pepperoni (The larger deli sliced variety)
4 oz – Salame Calabrese (A dry pork salame, sweet and hot, with Italian fennel seed)
4 oz – Capocollo (Pork cold cut from dry-cured muscle running from neck to shoulder)
5 oz – Mortadella (Finely ground heat-cured pork incorporating small cubes of pork fat)
4 oz – Prosciutto (Thinly sliced dry cured ham – think thin bacon)
8 oz – Black Forest Ham (Sliced)
6 oz – Provolone Cheese (Deli sliced thick)
8 oz – Shredded Iceberg Lettuce (1-bag)
Kosher Salt and Black Pepper (Freshly ground)
1 Teaspoon – Dried Oregano
2 Tablespoons – Red Wine Vinegar
2 Tablespoons – Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
16 oz cup – Pepperoncini (sliced)
Optional: 1/2 large onion, thinly sliced; tomatoes (fresh-thinly sliced)
*** Remember there is generally sufficient amounts here to make two sandwiches at least. Many of these deli items are sold pre-packaged, and this is the smallest denomination available for purchase. In my book, it’s always better to have too much than not enough of each item, especially when cooking for a crowd. Over-estimate for success is my motto.
To start, find a nice loaf of Italian bread. Kroger has a lovely one for $2. No fuss. Make sure it is fresh. The bread should be soft to the touch, yet firm. But definitely don’t use a hard loaf.
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.
Locate a baking sheet or pizza pan. Slice the bread in half on the baking sheet, separating the two halves. Take butter and spread across the top half and set aside, butter side up.
Now layer the cold cuts. The flat circular meats are applied first, creating a flavor base. Take half of the Sopressata, and space it out accordingly so the entire surface area of the bottom half of the Italian loaf is covererd. It will be a thin single layer, perhaps slightly overlapping. Then repeat this process with the Genoa salami, pepperoni, salame calabrese and capocollo.
With the mortadella and black forest ham, layer it in folds. Delicately place Prosciutto over the ham, and cover with four slices of provolone cheese.
Place both sandwich halves into the oven on the baking sheet, with the provolone and butter sides facing up. Warm in the oven for 10-15 minutes. Check it at 10 minutes, then at 15. Leave it in for another five if you prefer a little crunch to the bread. The idea is to activate the fatty tissues and juices in the critter so that it releases another layer of flavor that seeps into the fresh bread.
While the oven is doing its thing, find a mixing cup, and add the red wine vinegar and olive oil. Stir until combined. Measure out the oregano and stir into the vinegar/olive oil combo, and set aside.
The pepperoncini might come whole, and will need to be sliced. If so, get a cutting board and place it near the sink. These are juicy suckers, and will squirt when pressure is applied. Chop off the tops and discard. Slice longways and rinse the peppers under cool water to remove seeds. Once cleaned, slice and dice the better part of the entire bottle if two sandwiches are being assembled. These are not so much spicy as they serve to enable a contrast in flavors to be brought out. Pepperoncini really highlights the meat combo.
Once the sandwich is removed from the oven and cooled slightly, grab the shredded lettuce from the fridge. It’s good to keep this cool and crisp. Form a dense layer across the top of the provolone cheese. Find the measuring cup with your red wine vinegar/olive oil/oregano combo, and pour half across the top of the lettuce, zig-zagging back and forth from one end to the other.
If tomatoes are desired, add a thin layer along the crest of the lettuce. Otherwise we have reached the climax. Add half the Pepperoncini, and administer a healthy sprinkle of salt & pepper across the finished assemblage.
Finally, place the top loaf with its melted butter atop this mountain of goodness and serve. It can be divided into five rather healthy wedges. Served with chips or a small side, it will fill up most folks. If multiple entrees are in play as part of a wider buffet, cut the sandwich into five subsections and slice each of those into half.
A small square of the Il Grande Mafioso is a taste explosion waiting for the next lucky passerby. Get it while it’s hot.