I always make a big batch of Bolognese and end up with leftovers – this Italian sloppy Joe sandwich reinvents the leftovers into an entirely new and delicious meal. And don’t forget extra napkins, it gets messy. This upgraded Italian twist on the kitschy classic, the sloppy Joe, is made with chunky, meat-packed Bolognese sauce, sautéed rapini and melted, creamy burrata piled onto fresh ciabatta. I use homemade ciabatta, making use of a new hobby of mine, baking bread.
The slightly bitter sautéed rapini pairs with the sweetness of the Bolognese sauce and contrasts with the spicy Calabrian chili paste. The crusty bread helps to hold everything in the sandwich mixture together while the Bolognese fills all the nooks.
A Sloppy Joe is a sandwich made with tomato sauce or even ketchup mixed into ground beef with onions. It was created by a midwestern restaurant in the 1930’s and popularized for its use of minimal ingredients. During the Great Depression the loose meat sandwich allowed restaurants and cooks to stretch ingredients for a small cost. Since then sloppy joes have become a classic on diner menus for comfort food nationwide.
Typical sloppy joes meat is made with ground beef seasoned with a tomato-based sauce or ketchup seasoned with brown sugar, mustard, garlic powder, onion powder and Worcestershire sauce resembling a BBQ sauce. In New Jersey a sloppy Joe is more similar to a Reuben, a triple decker sandwich made with deli meats like turkey, ham and corned beef or roast beef with cheese, coleslaw and Russian dressing on rye. My Italian twist on the recipe is an elevated take on the sloppy joe recipe.
The rapini or broccoli rabe is simply sautéed in olive oil with a bit of garlic. The bunches somewhat resemble broccoli though they don’t form large broccoli heads. The slight bitter taste complements the burrata and bolognese.
Ciabatta is a porous, rustic white bead from Italy. This bread is perfect for this sandwich because it has a chewy crust with an airy inside which seeps up the sauce without losing it’s structural integrity.
They are little red Italian chili peppers that pack a punch and once preserved in oil (as used here), they are smoky, salty, fruity and spicy all at the same time. I use the paste or ground version of them to add a bit of spice. For a more mild version of the recipe simply omit the calabrian chilies in this recipe.
This recipe is a great way to rework leftover bolognese. My recipe for bolognese uses beef, veal and pork simmered slowly over a few hours for a rich, hearty sauce that replaces seasoned beef in this twist on the classic recipe.
Burrata, a soft cow’s milk cheese from Italy, is essentially mozzarella filled with a creamy interior. The burrata can added to this sandwich chilled for a contrast in temperature or melted over the bolognese for a messy, delightful sandwich that may require a fork and knife.
Heat oven to broil on high.
Sauté the rapini in olive oil with garlic.
Cut the loaf of ciabatta in half lengthwise and then again widthwise so you have two buns for your sandwiches.
Evenly spread the calabrian chili paste over each of the bottom halves of the sandwiches.
Top each with 1 cup of the Bolognese followed by a handful of sautéed rapini and torn pieces of burrata.
Arrange on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet. Add the top half of the bread to the baking sheet as well.
Broil until the burrata is melted and the bread is golden brown. Close the sandwich and serve hot.
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