An Italian submarine sandwich is one of the great American sandwiches of all time. There are infinite variations but it’s always easily recognizable. I’ve included my favorite Italian sub recipe below, but there is no single perfect recipe.
If you’re here reading this, you’re probably looking for suggestions for ingredients to use for your perfect sub. I’m going to dive into each aspect of what makes up the perfect Italian sub so you can adjust your sandwich to be perfect for you. Keep reading or my Italian sub recipe at the end.
Italian cold cuts
An Italian sub needs Italian cold cuts. I like to use three different types. I also like to have about 1 oz of meat per inch of sandwich. So, for a 6 inch sandwich I like to use 6 oz of cold cuts. You can use more or less, but I find this to be a good balance between bread and meat.
Freshly cut cold cuts are by far the best. The best place to get them is from the deli counter at your supermarket. Or, even better, a local Italian market! Have them slice your favorites to order.
Here are some Italian American cold cuts that are commonly found in supermarkets all over the US:
- Ham – Not exactly Italian, but super common on Italian subs. I usually skip the ham, but I included it here since it’s so common.
- Salami – There are so many different varieties of salami, and they’re all delicious. I love Gallo brand dry salami, but also love any type of Soppressata. I always go for salami!
- Prosciutto – Sometimes I add prosciutto and sometimes I don’t. It has such an amazing, but subtle flavor that it gets covered up easily by the other ingredients. My favorite use of prosciutto is on a baguette with camembert or brie cheese.
- Mortadella – This is where American bologna came from, but it’s so much better. Don’t be afraid of it. It’s amazing. It’s snappy and rich and nearly always finds its way into my sub.
- Capicola – I love Capicola, especially the spicy variety. It’s like a cross between ham and salami.
- Pepperoni – Who doesn’t love pepperoni on pizza? It’s just as good on an Italian sub.
Some kind of cheese is essential on an Italian sub. I always try to get something Italian because I think they work well. You can really use any kind of cheese you like. Here are some I suggest…
- Provolone – This is my personal favorite for an Italian sub. I like sharp provolone for a sandwich, but it’s not always easy to find. Regular provolone is fine.
- Fontina – This is super creamy and not easy to slice. The deli won’t be able to slice it like provolone, but if you like creamy cheese, you should try this.
- Asiago – This is a good option if you like sharp cheese but can’t find sharp provolone. It’s a little tart and salty and works really well on a sub.
- Taleggio – This is even creamier than fontina. This is great if you love brie or camembert.
- Mozzarella – Everyone loves mozzarella. It’s not that great on an Italian sub because it’s so mild. But, fresh mozzarella is great paired with prosciutto because they won’t overpower each other.
The bread for your sub is nearly as important as the filling. The ideal Italian sub bread has a crust that is firm enough to hold up to a drenching with vinegar and oil. But, not so tough that when you bite down all the insides squirt out of your sandwich.
The type of rolls used for Philly cheesesteaks are great. Many French bread loafs work well. To prepare, I like to heat them in a 300 degree oven for 10 minutes at least an hour before making my sandwich. The heat will crisp up the crust just a bit. Then I let it cool down so the bread is room temperature when assembling the sandwich. This makes the bread seem as if it was baked the same day! It’s an excellent technique that I use all the time.
An Italian sub sandwich is all about contrasts of tastes and textures. Toppings are there to add crunch, moisture and spiciness. Here are a few great options…
- Lettuce – I usually skip lettuce, but there is no denying that thinly sliced iceberg lettuce has a delightful crunch.
- Tomatoes – I love tomatoes on my sub. I slice them as thinly as I can, because it keeps them from squirting out when you bite down.
- Pepperoncini – These are amazing on a sub because of their crunch and sharp bite. They’re not spicy but super flavorful. These are always on my sub.
- Onions – Raw onions make a great addition because of the crunch and spiciness. I slice them super thin and soak in cold water for 10 minutes to remove the bitterness and harsh taste.
- Giardiniera – If you’re from the midwest you know exactly what this is. If not, you should look it up. It’s an amazing mix of pickled vegetables and olive oil that works really well on a sub.
- Olives – I love olives on everything. Chop or slice them before adding to your sandwich.
- Roasted peppers – This is a really unique ingredient because it brings a sweet taste that isn’t in anything else. You can find these in jars at the supermarket, but they’re also super easy to roast yourself under the broiler, or right on a gas range.
Italian Sub Dressing
Some sort of dressing is essential on an Italian sub. Bottled salad dressing works, but I love to make my own dressing. The ideal dressing is tart, which helps to cut through the richness of the cold cuts. It’s also nice to have classic Italian herbs to remind you that you aren’t just eating a ham and cheese sandwich.
Here are a few good options…
- Homemade – Check out my Italian Sub Dressing Recipe
- Italian salad dressing – This hits all the notes you want. It’s tart and herby. Just make sure to shake it well before using.
- Greek salad dressing – This is almost as good as the Italian dressing!
- Oil and vinegar – Just a simple mixture of olive oil and any vinegar will work. A little salt and pepper is all you need to add to this.
My favorite Italian sub recipe
After all that, here is my favorite recipe. It’s perfect for me, but feel free to adjust to your own taste.
- 6 inches French loaf
- 2 oz Soppressata
- 2 oz Mortadella
- 2 oz Capicola
- 1 oz Pepperoni
- 2 oz Sharp provolone
- 1/2 Tomato sliced super thin
- 1/4 Onion sliced super thin, soaked in water
- 1/4 cup Pepperoncini
- 1/2 Red bell pepper roasted
- 4 tbsp Italian dressing
- Put bread into the oven on the top rack. Set to 300 and check in 10 min. Remove when outside is slightly crisp. Let cool before using.
- Split bread open and cover both sides with dressing
- Cover bottom with sliced tomatoes, onions and pepperoncini
- Pile cold cuts on top of vegetables. Top with cheese
- Put roasted red pepper on top and close the sandwich