Juicy Italian sausage bound with melted Fontina cheese is all packed into a pressed sandwich with sautéed onions, fennel, and red peppers and stopped with a rich and tangy sun-dried tomato and caper relish to balance out the fat. This is one hell of a sandwich.
Why this recipe works:
- The rich, salty, and tangy flavors and juicy-crisp textures hit all the right notes for a sandwich that's deliciously balanced.
- Triple-layering the sausage and cheese allows them to intersperse and marry together as the sandwich is pressed and heated.
- We sauté the onions, fennel, and peppers in rendered sausage fat, boosting their flavor.
- Pressing the sandwich under a heavy weight and slicing while wrapped produces neat, easy to pack and easy to eat serving portions.
- 1 (8 ounce) jar sun-dried tomatoes, drained with 1/4 cup oil reserved, and roughly chopped
- 1/3 cup capers, drained and roughly chopped
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
- 1 small shallot, minced (about 1/4 cup)
- 1 medium garlic clove, minced (about 1 teaspoon)
- 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1 1/2 pounds Italian sausage, removed from casing
- 1 large onion, thinly sliced
- 1 bulb fennel, thinly sliced
- 1 large red pepper, thinly sliced
- 1 loaf rustic Italian bread
- 12 ounces grated Fontina cheese
Combine sun-dried tomatoes and 1/4 cup of their oil, capers, parsley, shallot, garlic, and vinegar in a small bowl and stir with a fork. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add sausage and cook, breaking it up with a wooden spoon or a potato masher, until fully cooked and just starting to brown, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, leaving fat in skillet.
Add onions, fennel, and peppers to skillet and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until fully softened and just starting to brown, about 12 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to a plate lined with a double layer of paper towels and press with more paper towels to drain completely.
Slice off the top 1 to 1 1/2-inches of the loaf of bread using a bread knife. Cut around the perimeter of the interior crumb, making sure not to break through the bottom crust, then use your hand to lift out the excess bread from the inside, leaving you with a hollow bread boat.
Spread half of relish on bottom of sandwich and top with half of pepper/fennel mixture. Add 1/3 of cheese, then 1/2 of sausage, another 1/3 of cheese, remaining sausage, remaining cheese, remaining peppers and onions, and remaining relish Close sandwich.
Wrap sandwich tightly in aluminum foil or burtcher's paper, then place in between two stiff cutting boards. Place a heavy weight on top (about 40 pounds), press down firmly to flatten sandwich, then let rest under the weight for at least 4 hours and up to overnight (keep an eye on the sandwich to ensure that it is pressing evenly).
When ready to eat, adjust oven rack to center position and preheat oven to 375°F. Remove weights, slice sandwich into four to six pieces through paper or foil with a bread knife, unwrap, and transfer to a rimmed baking sheet, pressing the pieces back together to form a full sandwich shape. Place in oven until hot and cheese has melted, about 15 minutes. Serve immediately.