Italian Pesto Picnic Sandwich

Picnic sandwiches are a delicious, portable answer to the question, “What’s for lunch?” For our version, we layer olive salad, pesto, cured meats, cheese, and roasted red peppers, held inside a scooped-out round loaf of rustic bread. What to do with the insides of that loaf? Try making croutons for your next salad.


  •  1 cup mixed olive salad, from the deli olive bar
  •  ¼ teaspoon red chili flakes, optional
  •  1 large round loaf of bread, sourdough or Italian
  •  ½ cup Armanino Pesto Sauce
  •  ½ lb thinly sliced Italian deli meats (hard salami, mortadella, capicola, pepperoni, or whatever cold cuts you like)
  •  ½ lb thinly sliced provolone
  •  8 oz jar roasted red peppers, drained and patted dry


  1. For the olive salad, finely chop the olive mix. Add the chile flakes, if desired. Can be refrigerated for up to 1 week.
  2. Cut into the top of the bread to remove the top, making a bread bowl and a lid.
  3. Pull out as much of the soft, bready insides as possible leaving a hollow bread shell. Do the same with the lid. Reserve the soft insides for something else.
  4. Starting with the bread bowl/shell, spread a thin even layer of pesto on the bottom, about 2 tablespoons.
  5. On top of the pesto, spread a thin but even layer of olive salad.
  6. Add a layer of your first Italian deli meat, cutting the pieces in half as needed to fit into the edges and corners. The goal is to evenly fill the bread shell so there are no gaps along the edges, no large bump in the middle and nice, even layers once cut. Press down each layer as you go to compact.
  7. Add a layer of provolone; press down.
  8. Add the next layer of deli meat in the same manner and another layer of provolone, pressing each layer as you go. Repeat one more time for a total of 3 meat/cheese layers.
  9. Spread a thin even layer of pesto on top of the third layer of cheese then lay down a single layer of roasted red peppers, filling the space as evenly as possible.
  10. Continue with additional alternating layers of meat/cheese, pressing each layer to compact, until you reach the top. Depending on the size of your bread loaf, you’ll have around 5-6 meat/cheese layers with the roasted red peppers in the middle.
  11. On top of the last layer of meat/cheese, spread a thin, even layer of olive salad.
  12. Spread 1-2 Tablespoons of pesto on the soft side of the bread lid and place on top, pesto side down.
  13. Press down on the sandwich then wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Place the wrapped sandwich on a plate, top with another plate and place a heavy can or weight on top to compress. Chill for at least 1 hour. The sandwich be made several hours ahead.
  14. To serve, unwrap the sandwich and cut into wedges. To hold the wedges together, use a sandwich pick or small wooden skewer if desired. Serve cold or room temperature.

Chef’s Tips

  • This is a variation on a muffuletta sandwich which traditionally use a special type of sesame topped bread that can be hard to find outside of New Orleans. A sturdy round loaf – sourdough or Italian – works well in its place and holds up perfectly for picnics and summer BBQs.
  • The sandwich can be layered with any combination of meats and cheeses you like or even roasted vegetables for a vegetarian friendly version.
  • Olive salad can sometimes be found jarred in in the Italian or pickle aisle of your grocery store but it’s just as easy to make a delicious version with finds from the deli section olive bar. Look for one with that is a mix of olives, carrots, celery, cauliflower and roasted peppers for best flavor and color. You can also use a giardiniera with the addition of chopped olives. If you like, stir an extra tablespoon or two of pesto sauce into the mix.
8 servings
Prep Time
30 minutes

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