Before we dive into the recipe, let’s clear up some confusing words!
Confusing Words in English & Italian!
peperoni vs. pepperoni
- Peperoni with one P is a bell pepper in Italian.
- Pepperoni with two P’s is the spicy salami Americans put on their pizza. The closest thing to American pepperoni in Italy is salamino piccante. Or you can order a diavola in Italy to get something similar to a pepperoni pizza.
panino vs. panini
I am not sure why Americans say panini to mean a singular sandwich. It’s like saying, “Hi, I’ll have a sandwiches.”
- Panino = a sandwich -> o is masculine singular
- Panini = sandwiches -> i is masculine plural
For Americans, a “panini” is always a hot sandwich, usually grilled in a panini press. For Italians, a “panino” is just a sandwich, hot or cold.
It’s unclear why Americans use the plural panini, but I heard it may have been picked up since delis owned by Italian immigrants would probably label their selection of sandwiches as panini.
In the U.S. it’s perfectly acceptable to say “panini,” even if ordering one sandwich, because people might not understand you if you say “I’ll have a panino.” However, in Italy, you might want to order a “panino,” that is unless you want two sandwiches or more. 😉
A Very Special Panino
I first met this panino a few years ago, but Alberto’s memories go way back to his childhood. Unfortunately, the food truck has just closed down for good since the children of the original owner decided not to keep it going. That’s why this recipe is so special, so that the Da Marino panino can live on.
The panino onto (that can be translated with dirty panino in English), is a typical street food from here in Veneto, although I’m pretty sure other regions have a name for that, and their own variation.
My version of panino onto comes from a food truck in the neighborhoods of my town, and basically involves a soft milk bread with porchetta and one sausage cut in half. Then on the top of the sausage, caramelized onions, roasted red peppers and Tabasco, all covered with a slice of melted Fontina cheese.
The wonderful thing about having Alberto as my food guide in Italy is he takes me to secret places that no tourist would ever be able to find. Some of these places, like the Da Marino food truck, he’s been going to since he was a teenager.
Alberto lives in a small town in Veneto, and one night he took me to an even smaller nearby town to eat a panino at 10:30 p.m. (and that’s considered “early”). That’s right…the food truck doesn’t even open until then. The first time we went there I thought Alberto was playing a trick on me because we were in the middle of the countryside on a quiet street. Then, out of the blue, there was a white truck with absolutely no markings on it…that is until you get to the other side and the truck opens up to display a humble stove and a selection of panini.
The panini are made to order and I got the same as Alberto (I trust his taste in food). It was one of the best panini of my life: slightly sweet sausage, grilled onions, and porchetta, all held together on a roll with gooey cheese. If you like things spicy, a generous drizzle of Tabasco pulls everything together. It was so good that I talked about it for weeks until Alberto took me back again.
The icing on the cake was a complimentary shot of espresso to wash down our panini.
We decided to re-create the Da Marino food truck panino to share with you. It has become a family favorite and THE sandwich of the summer! We can’t get enough of it!
This panino is just made for a nice, crisp, refreshing rosé!
- a baguette or soft sandwich rolls
- 4 Italian sausages
- 4 slices of porchetta
- 1 roasted red bell pepper
- 8 slices of Provolone or Fontina cheese
- tobacco (optional)
For the caramelized onions:
- 1 onion
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 1 tsp butter
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- salt (to taste)
To caramelize the onions:
- Slice the onion into thin rounds. Heat the butter and olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the onions, and then turn the head down to low after a few minutes. Let the onions cook slowly for around 30 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding any extra butter or olive oil as necessary so they don't burn. Towards the end of the cooking, add the balsamic vinegar and let it cook off to help the onions caramelize. After 30-40 minutes, add the roasted bell pepper, sliced in strips and let them heat up. Keep the onions and peppers on low while you grill the sausage and assemble the sandwich.
To assemble the sandwiches:
- Grill the sausages on the BBQ, and then butterfly them. (It is much easier to do once it is already cooked).
- While the sausages are grilling, heat the sandwich rolls or baguette on the top rack of the grill, away from direct heat so they don't burn. If using a baguette, you may want to hollow out the middle a little so that the ingredients stay inside better.
- Add a slice of cheese on each side of the baguette or roll to let it melt. (This will act as a binder for the ingredients).
- Lightly sear the porchetta, or herbed ham if porchetta is not available, on both sides to warm it up. Move the baguette or rolls to direct heat on low to assemble the sandwiches. Add the porchetta, sausage, onions, roasted red bell peppers, and tabasco sauce if desired.
- Mangia! Pair with a glass of rosé and buon appetito!