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Pressed Italian picnic sandwiches aren’t just for picnics. Yes, they are great for summer picnics because they travel well, but they’re also amazing for lunch when you want to treat your tastebuds to an authentic taste of Italy. Make these Italian picnic sandwiches and you’re sure to love all the incredible flavours in every bite. 

A piece of a pressed Italian sandwich on a red checkered parchment paper. There is an olive on top.

This Italian picnic sandwich recipe is ideal for parties, picnics, game day, BBQs, road trips, tailgating and gatherings. Boasting ham, cheese, salad veggies, and olive spread, all wrapped in ciabatta bread, this is perhaps the best picnic sandwich ever.

If you enjoy these you might also like grinder salad, meatball subs or any of these sensational Italian salads.

Overhead view of  wrapped pressed picnic sandwiches in a basket.

Why You’ll Love This

Amazing flavours:  If you love all things Italian, such as ciabatta and Italian deli meats and cheeses, and of course homemade olive tapenade, you are going to love how this wrapped sandwich tastes.|
A make ahead sandwich:  An Italian pressed sandwich is supposed to be pressed for hours to seal all the fillings in there, making it a great choice if you want to prepare food in advance.
Easy to tweak:  You don’t have to use the ingredients which are listed in the recipe. If you prefer another type of bread, different cold cuts or deli meats, and types of cheese, or an alternative to the olive salad, you’re free to change it up.

Close up view of an Italian pressed sandwich.

Pressed Italian Picnic Sandwiches Ingredients

The traditional choice for the loaf of bread is ciabatta, a light, fluffy type of bread. Olive oil, balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar, garlic, parsley and oregano add flavour on top of the sandwich, and then salami, two kinds of ham, fresh tomato, fresh basil and arugula are sandwiched between the Italian bread. Olive salad sandwich spread is also needed.

The ingredients to make a pressed sandwich recipe.

How to Make an Italian Pressed Sandwiches

For more detailed instructions with weights and measurements, jump to the printable recipe card.

Prepare the bread:  Cut the loaf of bread in half across the middle and put it on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and then plastic wrap.
Prepare the oil mixture:  Shake the oil with the two types of vinegar, the garlic, some of the oregano and parsley, and some salt and pepper in a mason jar.
Add the oil mixture:  Drizzle the mixture over one half of the bread (this will be the top half).
Add more fillings to the sandwich:  Add basil, arugula to the bottom half of the sandwich, then olive salad and cheese to the top, before adding cold cuts and deli meats to the bottom.
Finish filling the sandwich:  Add tomatoes and the remaining fresh herbs, then close the sandwich.
Press the sandwich:  Once it is wrapped in plastic wrap, put something heavy on top (a cast iron skillet or other heavy objects) and let it sit overnight in the refrigerator, or for about 8 hours, before serving.

Making an Italian pressed picnic style sandwich.
A piece of a pressed Italian sandwich on a red checkered parchment paper. There is an olive on top.

Substitutions and Variations

You can tweak this make ahead sandwich however you wish. If you want to incorporate other ingredients like artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers or roasted red pepper strips, go ahead. You can also sub fresh mozzarella or different cheeses such as provolone cheese for what’s listed in the recipe. And you can sub homemade Italian basil pesto for the olive spread.

Overhead view of  wrapped pressed picnic sandwiches in a basket.

What to Serve with an Italian Pressed Sandwich

If you’re making pressed Italian sandwiches for a picnic, you might also like to have some tasty sides, such as watermelon salad or chips with hot salsa. Other picnic foods and Italian picnic ideas to consider would be pinwheel sandwiches, individual strawberry shortcakes, antipasto skewers, and pasta salad.

Close up view of an Italian pressed sandwich.

Storage Directions

Store:  Keep the sandwich refrigerated and eat within two days for the best result.
Freeze:  The fresh ingredients in this sandwich make it unsuitable for freezing, else the salad leaves will wilt and the bread will get soggy.

Close up view of an Italian pressed sandwich. It is wrapped in red checkered parchment.

Italian Pressed Picnic Sandwich FAQs

Do you have to use a panini press to press Italian picnic sandwiches?

You can use a panini press if you have one. Don’t use the heat function since you only want to press these sandwiches rather than toast them. Otherwise, a heavy skillet such as a cast iron skillet will also work to press and compact the sandwich.

Why do you have to press these tasty sandwiches?

These are hearty sandwiches with plenty of fillings. Not pressing them means eating them is going to be a messy experience! Pressing the sandwiches helps the bread hold all the fillings. It also compresses it so you can fit it into your mouth.

Italian pressed sandwiches. They are wrapped in red checkered parchment.
A piece of a pressed Italian sandwich on a red checkered parchment paper. There is an olive on top.

Pressed Italian Sandwiches Recipe

5 from 58 votes

Pressed Italian Picnic Sandwiches

By: Bella Bucchiotti
Indulge in authentic Italian flavors with pressed Italian picnic sandwiches. Perfect for summer outings or a delicious lunch.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 8 hours
Total Time: 8 hours 15 minutes
Servings: 6


  • 1 Loaf ciabatta
  • 2 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 Tablespoon oregano
  • 2 Teaspoon garlic, minced
  • ½ Tablespoon parsley
  • 1 Cup olive salad (see recipe), or olive tapenade
  • Pound genoa salami
  • Pound ham, hot capicola
  • Pound ham, proscuitto cotto or tavern ham
  • Pound provolone cheese
  • 1 Tomato, thinly sliced
  • a handful basil leaves, fresh
  • 1 Cup arugula


  • Slice the loaf of bread in half horizontally. Next, place the bread halves onto a few sheets of plastic wrap that are draped over a parchment paper lined baking sheet.
  • Combine olive oil, balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar, ½ the oregano, minced garlic, ½ the parsley, and a pinch of salt and pepper in a mason jar and shake. Drizzle the top half of bread with oils.
  • Line the bottom half with basil leaves and top with arugula.
  • Spread olive salad onto the top half and top with sliced cheese.
  • Add salami, ham, and Capicola over the bottom. Half.
  • Next, add sliced tomatoes. Sprinkle with remaining oregano and parsley and a pinch of pepper if desired.
  • Close and wrap the sandwich with plastic wrap.
  • Weigh down and refrigerate 8 hours preferably overnight. -use a cast iron skillet or any heavy flat item to press the sandwich.
  • Remove plastic wrap, then tightly wrap with parchment paper. Slice and secure with kitchen twine.


Calories: 723kcal | Carbohydrates: 39g | Protein: 40g | Fat: 44g | Saturated Fat: 17g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 5g | Monounsaturated Fat: 20g | Cholesterol: 130mg | Sodium: 2481mg | Potassium: 533mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 507IU | Vitamin C: 4mg | Calcium: 212mg | Iron: 1mg
Like this recipe? Rate and comment below!

Pressed Italian picnic sandwiches are a picnic sandwich recipe featuring Italian meats and cheeses, salad ingredients, olive tapenade, and more, for a beautiful taste of Italy. They’re ideal for a summer picnic, as an appetizer for Thanksgiving or Christmas, or any other special occasion when you want to impress!

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Bella Bucchiotti

Bella Bucchiotti is a Canadian-based syndicated food, travel, and lifestyle writer, photographer, and creator at xoxoBella. She founded xoxoBella in 2015, where she shares her love for food, dogs, sustainability, fitness, crafts, outdoor adventures, travel, and philanthropy to encourage others to run the extra mile, try new recipes, visit unfamiliar places, and stand for a cause. Bella creates stress-free and family-friendly recipes for weeknight dinners and festive feasts.


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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    I wasn’t sure about the arugula but it was so good. These sandwiches are really filling… bet you can’t manage two!

  2. 5 stars
    Wow!!! I have never loved a sandwich more in my life. And I spent my third pregnancy obsessed and addicted to subway!!!
    But had I know about these pressed sandwich…..well my poor hubby would have been making them everyday!

    They were the right amount of wet to dry (if that makes sense) and the flavor was amazing!!
    I added some artichoke and strips of red pepper like you suggested and used a mild fennel salami along with my ham and prosciutto. Wow girl!!!! THANK YOU.

  3. 5 stars
    These sandwiches are amazing! The olive salad added such a nice bright flavor, and I love how loaded this sandwich was. Still thinking about how good it was!

  4. 5 stars
    Okay so the arugula seriously makes these so good (which may be odd because its a meat sandwich)… BUT it adds a peppery, crunchy bite. Loved these mini sandwiches. Will make again.