Playing Rachael's Roasted Broccoli Rabe & 3-Cheese Hero Sandwiches

This hearty veggie sandwich is loaded with flavor thanks to a sun-dried tomato spread, plus ricotta, smoked mozzarella and provolone. Try it with Rach’s Tomato & Roasted Eggplant Soup.

For meat lovers like Rach’s husband, she says, "I add crispy crumbles of hot and sweet Italian sausage—but these sandwiches are DELICIOUS meat-free as well."

Ingredients
For the Broccoli Rabe:
  • 1 pound broccoli rabe, about 1 large bunch or 2 small bundles, split thicker stalks lengthwise and trim off the tough and fibrous ends (substitute a few bundles of broccolini for milder choice)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO), if making meat-free (add an extra half tablespoon if browning sausage)
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 teaspoons Calabrian chili paste, or 1 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
  • Salt
If making with sausage:
  • 2 links each sweet Italian sausage with fennel seed and hot Italian sausage, remove casings, optional
For the Sun-Dried Tomato Sandwich Spread:
  • 1 cup sun-dried tomatoes, not oil-packed
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted in oven or skillet to golden
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon wine vinegar, red or white
  • 1 teaspoon coarse black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano or marjoram
  • 1 cup basil leaves, packed
  • About 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, EVOO
For ricotta spread:
  • 2 cups fresh ricotta, sheep or cow milk
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
  • EVOO, a drizzle
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • Salt
To build sandwiches:
  • 4 hero rolls, 10-12-inch Italian bread-style rolls, split
  • 1 pound smoked mozzarella, thinly sliced
  • Pickled sliced cherry peppers, optional
Yield
Serves: 4
Preparation

For the broccoli rabe, preheat oven to 450˚F with rack 1 rung above center. Toss broccoli rabe with EVOO, garlic, about 2 teaspoons lemon zest, chili paste or flakes and salt. Arrange in single layer on a baking sheet and roast for about 15 minutes until leaves of tops of florets are crisp and the ribs are just tender-crisp. Douse with juice of the lemon.

If making with sausage, heat a skillet over medium-high heat and add half tablespoon of EVOO. Brown and crumble sweet and hot sausage. Drain and reserve.

For the tomato spread, place sun-dried tomatoes in bowl and cover with boiling water. Let stand 15 minutes, drain and coarsely chop.

Add chopped sun-dried tomatoes to food processor bowl with the pine nuts, garlic, vinegar, pepper, oregano or marjoram, and basil, pulse 10-12 times to chop, then stream in EVOO until a thick sauce forms. Remove to small bowl or jar.

For the ricotta spread, in a medium bowl, combine ricotta, thyme, lemon zest, salt and a drizzle of EVOO.

Spread ricotta on bottom of the rolls. Top the cheese with sausage crumbles, if using, and arrange the roasted broccoli rabe, dividing among 4 roll bottoms. Arrange the smoked mozzarella shingled with provolone on top of the broccoli rabe and broil to melt the cheese.

Spread the roll tops with sun-dried tomato spread. Add pepper rings, if using. Set the roll tops in place, cut to serve.