The classic Italian sub is one of my favorite sandwiches, but a good one is huge and could probably use a little restraint when adapting it to grilled cheese form! It’s a rare day that I get to present a grilled cheese sandwich as a lighter option, but that’s definitely the case with these Italian Grilled Cheeses.
Also, Italian subs are SO big that my kids are overwhelmed by them. So, by downsizing the layers a bit and making it into a gooey, crispy-on-the-outside grilled cheese, you kind of get the best of both worlds.
For serving kids, I cut the sandwiches into wedges for even easier eating.
What Kind of Meat and Cheese Goes on an Italian?
A classic Italian sub has at least three kinds of cured meats in it. I like a mix of pepperoni, salami, and prosciutto—but there is no hard and fast rule here. If you want something spicy, add some soppressata. If you want something a little creamier, add a thin slice of mortadella!
As far as cheese goes though, I’m a purist. Provolone only, please! It melts really well, has a nice mild flavor, and is just the perfect cheese to complement these cured meats.
Bread Options for Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
The bread I use for grilled cheeses depends on one thing: what I have in my pantry. Sure, there are some people that say you need to use fancy, crusty bread to make a good grilled cheese, but those people need to chill out.
When I’m cooking for my family, I use pretty much any and all breads for this sandwich. On the particular day I served these, I made it with plain white sandwich bread, and you know what? It was delicious!
My Favorite Method for Making Grilled Cheese
As far as I know, there are three classic ways to make grilled cheese. I’ve used them all, and they all work.
- Mayo all the way! Some people are mayo people, where they smear mayo on the outside of the sandwiches before toasting, and I like that method for a simple grilled cheese.
- Nope, gimme butter! Some other people like to smear on butter. That works well also.
- Butter, but melt it in the pan! I actually find it easier to melt a little butter in the skillet over medium-low heat, and then quickly flip the sandwich in the butter to coat all sides. Not only is this easier, but it also helps you gauge how hot your skillet is. If your skillet is too hot, it’ll just burn the bread before your grilled cheese is cooked through.
Once your sandwiches are coated with butter on both sides, just cook them for three to four minutes per side until they are golden brown, and the cheese has melted!
The Dad Add: Giardiniera
On a normal Italian sub, you will typically find a salty pickled veggie mix called giardiniera. I don’t really like to add this to the grilled cheese, because it makes it too watery, but I LOVE serving it on the side. Its acidic nature really cuts through the richness of the grilled cheese.
The olives I use for this recipe, Castelvetrano, are one of my favorite olives for recipes like this, but also just for snacking. They are buttery and creamy and have less bite than, say, Kalamatas. If you can’t find them, then you can substitute standard green pimento olives without too much worry.
The Kid Report Card
These grilled cheeses were a complete switcheroo in my house. Normally, my four-year-old is the good eater, and I struggle to put calories in my two-year-old. But in this case, the younger one loved this sandwich and ate many big bites on her own. Good for her!
Meanwhile, her older brother revolted against the idea of all these things in one sandwich. He insisted that I deconstruct it on his plate so he could eat all the pieces separately. Then he wanted buttered bread. Basically, he ate all the elements, just in an annoying four-year old method.
Except the provolone. He didn’t touch the cheese, because he insists that he doesn’t like cheese, which calls into question our entire relationship!
5 More Grilled Cheese Recipes to Try!
- Smoked Salmon and Gruyere Grilled Cheese Sandwich
- Greens, Eggs, and Ham Grilled Cheese Sandwich
- Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Bacon and Pear
- Turkey Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Pickled Onions
- Croque Monsieur Ham and Cheese Sandwich
- For the DAD ADD: Olive and Cauliflower Giardiniera
- 1 cup hot pickled cauliflower, chopped
- 1/2 cup green olives (Castelvetrano), chopped
- 1/4 cup banana peppers
- For the sandwiches:
- 8 slices sandwich bread
- 8 slices provolone cheese
- 4 ounces Genoa salami
- 4 ounces prosciutto
- 2 ounces pepperoni
- 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, loosely packed
- 2 tablespoons butter
Make the Dad Add (optional)
Chop the ingredients to roughly the same size, and stir them together in a bowl. Done!
Prepare the sandwiches
Add a slice of provolone to a piece of bread. Top with a layer of salami, prosciutto, and pepperoni. Divide the meat evenly among the four sandwiches.
Top meat with a handful of fresh basil leaves and a second piece of provolone cheese. Add second piece of bread and press down slightly to keep the sandwich together.
Grill that cheese
Preheat a large skillet over medium-low heat. Once warm, add about 1/2 tablespoon of butter per sandwich you are cooking. Usually, I cook two at a time. When the butter has melted, add the sandwich and coat the bread with the melted butter, then flip and coat the second side as well.
Let sandwiches cook over medium-low heat for about 3 to 4 minutes per side, making sure they don’t get too browned. After about 6 to 8 minutes total, the cheese in the sandwich should be well melted and the bread toasted. Done!
Repeat the process for the last two sandwiches. I like to serve the first two to kids while I make the last two for adults, but you can also keep the first two warm in a 200°F oven while you make the last two.
Serve sandwiches with chips, salad, steamed veggies, and/or giardiniera.