Italian Beef Sandwich Recipe

italian beef sandwich

The Spruce Eats / Diana Rattray

Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 8 hrs
Total: 8 hrs 10 mins
Servings: 6 servings
Yield: 6 sandwiches

Italian beef sandwiches are a Chicago specialty, made with tender beef, chopped and pickled vegetables, and a beef broth flavored with Italian seasonings. It's a hearty sandwich, perfect for tailgating or a game day party at home, and since this version cooks hands-free in the slow cooker, it makes an excellent weeknight meal.

As with so many iconic American dishes, the origin of Italian beef sandwiches is often the subject of debate. Al Ferrari, a Chicago street vendor, purportedly needed a way to serve many people at weddings or work, so he stretched the roasted beef by slicing it thinly and serving it in French bread with "secret spices." In 1938, he founded his famous restaurant, Al's #1 Italian Beef, with his sister and brother-in-law, Frances and Chris Pacelli. Some give Pasquale Scala of Chicago's Scala Packing Company credit for the sandwich. He made a similar sandwich in the 1920s with a similar story about stretching inexpensive beef to serve many.  

Today's recipes are typically made with shredded or thinly sliced beef, chopped giardiniera, tangy Italian pepperoncini, and jus. The sandwiches are served on a hoagie or sub roll and are often topped with slices of provolone cheese. Our version is slow-cooked to perfection with Italian salad dressing mix, beef stock, and some of the giardiniera and pepperoncini. It's a sandwich that everyone will fall in love with.

Choose a tossed salad with Italian dressing, potato chips, and pickle spears for side dishes. Italian-style side dishes that go well with Italian beef include pasta salad, caprese salad, grilled eggplant, and seasoned roasted potatoes.

Ingredients

For the Beef:

  • 3 pounds beef pot roast, lean chuck or rump roast

  • 1 (16-ounce) jar sliced pepperoncini peppers, divided

  • 1 (16-ounce) jar Chicago-style Italian giardiniera, drained divided

  • 1 (0.7-ounce) packet zesty Italian salad dressing mix

  • 1 1/2 cups beef stock

For the Sandwiches

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Place the beef chuck roast in a 3 1/2- to 5-quart slow cooker.

  3. Drain the giardiniera, reserving 2 to 3 tablespoons of the oil for later. Add about two-thirds of the giardiniera to the slow cooker.

  4. Drain the pepperoncini peppers, reserving 1/4 cup of the liquid. Add about two-thirds of the pepperoncini peppers and the liquid to the slow cooker.

  5. Sprinkle the beef and peppers with the Italian salad dressing mix, then add the beef broth.

  6. Cook the beef until it easily shreds with a fork, 8 to 10 hours on low or about 4 to 5 hours on high.

  7. Preheat the broiler. Split the hoagie rolls, then brush lightly with a little of the reserved oil from the giardiniera, if desired. Fill the rolls with the beef, then drizzle with some of the jus. Top with more of the giardiniera and pepperoncini, then finish with slices of provolone cheese.

  8. Broil the sandwiches until hot and the cheese is melted. Serve immediately.

Tip

  • To serve the sandwiches with extra jus for dipping, skim the liquids and discard excess fat. If the juices are watery, put them in a saucepan and reduce them on the stovetop for a few minutes until the flavors are concentrated.
  • Chopped Chicago-style giardiniera in oil is the best choice for authentic flavor, but feel free to chop pickled giardiniera if you can't find the Chicago condiment in your area.

Recipe Variations

  • To cook the beef in a Dutch oven, sear it in 2 tablespoons of olive oil until browned and crusty. Add the giardiniera, pepperoncini, Italian dressing mix, and 3 cups of beef stock. Cover and braise in a 300 F oven for 3 1/2 to 4 hours, until very tender.
  • Instead of provolone, top the sandwiches with sliced fresh mozzarella cheese or fontina.
  • Swap out the hoagie rolls with French bread. If the bread is thick, hollow it out to make more room for the beef.
  • Instead of Italian dressing mix, sprinkle the beef with 1 tablespoon of Italian seasoning, 1 teaspoon of garlic powder, 1 teaspoon of onion powder, and 1 teaspoon of salt.

How to Store

  • Refrigerate leftover Italian beef in a covered container within 2 hours and eat within 4 days.
  • To freeze Italian beef, transfer the cooled beef and jus to an air-tight freezer container or resealable freezer bag. Label with the name and date and freeze for up to 3 months.
  • Defrost frozen Italian beef in the refrigerator overnight. Reheat it in a saucepan on the stovetop over medium heat with a little of the jus until it reaches at least 165 F.