My all time favorite sandwich growing up was the classic BLT. Salty, crispy bacon, ripe, juicy tomatoes and fresh crisp iceberg lettuce nestled between two pieces of toasted white bread generously slathered with mayo. Not in my wildest dreams did I think I could make this classic any better, but here it is; in all its’ glory!
This Italian style BLT I came up with is a rif off of a panino I had in Lecce, a beautiful sun drenched town in southern Italy. My husband and I spent an long overdue weekend there with friends for some sun and relaxation. After a fabulous weekend of eating our way through Lecce, we needed to find something quick to eat before heading to the airport to catch our flight back to Rome. It was a Sunday and a little early for lunch so our options were fairly limited. We stumbled across a small sandwich eatery that was just opening for lunch. To my utter joy and amazement, they had American style bagel sandwiches. Now to everyone who knows me, I LOVE bagels. It is one of the few things I really miss from the U.S….a warm, toasty chewy New York style bagel with a thick smear of cream cheese makes me so happy. Finding bagels in Italy is a bit of a scavenger hunt so it was all I could do not to drag my husband and friends inside!
We all settled on the same sandwich…fresh mozzerella, tomatoes and lettuce on a bagel. While the bagel was more of a foccacia version instead of the chewy New York style I was craving, the sandwich hit the spot. So, the inspiration for my Italian style BLT actually was born out of this panino…so thank you to Cinema Bagel Burger in Lecce for my spark! My version of this Italian inspired BLT includes crunchy pancetta, creamy mozzerella, juicy tomatoes, a homemade basil mayo and some baby arugula with a drizzle of balsamic reduction to cut through the richness of the mozzerella, So there you have it…my Italian version of the traditional BLT.
The key to this sandwich are the ingredients. The type of tomatoes you use is up to you. Just make sure they are ripe. I like to cut my tomatoes and sprinkle them with a little salt and let them sit for a few minutes as it helps to bring out the flavor and juiciness. It is also important to use fresh mozzarella in this sandwich. It makes all the difference in the world. If you can’t find pancetta in your supermarket by all means use bacon! It will still be super yummy!
- 4 rolls (either ciabatta or focaccia style works well)
- 12 round slices of pancetta or 8 slices of bacon
- 2 fresh mozzarella balls
- 2 to 3 large, ripe tomatoes, sliced
- 1 small bunch of arugula
- 1 large hand full of basil
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- balsamic glaze (optional)
- To make the basil mayo put the mayo and basil leaves into a food processor and blend until well combined.
- In a cold, large non stick frying pan add the pancetta or bacon slices. Turn the burner to a medium-high heat and cook on both sides until golden brown and crispy. If you start out with a cold pan, your pancetta or bacon will be crispier.
- Slice the rolls in half and slather both sides with the basil mayo. Add a few leaves of the arugula, a thick slice or two of the mozzarella, a slice or two of tomatoes, and a few slices of the pancetta (or two slices of the bacon). Top with a bit more arugula and drizzle a bit of balsamic glaze over the type (optional) and close with the other half of the roll.