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Tramezzini: A great Italian sandwich

Tramezzini: A great Italian sandwich

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Shrimp and vegetable tramezzino (top) and carbonara tramezzino are two of a myriad of types of the Italian sandwich. (Michael Tercha/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

A midmorning snack along the street, off the Rialto Bridge in Venice. Soft slices of crust-less white bread stuffed with a mountain of chopped seafood — shrimp, squid, other lovelies of the sea, probably pulled from the giant market just up the calle — in a dressing, probably maionese, generous with chile heat. Somehow managing not to slop it all onto myself. Eaten standing up in the street as tourists and Venetians, both, bustle about.

Our idyllic culinary memories of vacation drive us to search out those flavors back home. But the simple Italian sandwiches called tramezzini are hard to find. Their more well-known cousins, panini, are everywhere in the U.S., since they caught on like pizza a few years ago. But tramezzini, not so much. In Italy, you’ll find them in cafes, train stations, everywhere, stacked on silver trays, cut to show off their fillings of egg salad, or prosciutto cotto and sliced artichokes, or tuna, capers and tomatoes.

What they are not: panini. Not pressed, griddled or toasted. Not melty with cheese. Not on rustic bread. Not served hot.

What they are: neat, contained, with the fillings perfectly aligned to the very edge. Made with plain white bread, like a Pullman loaf or pain de mie. Crustless. Varied, with countless filling options. Heavenly.

Make them yourself at home, and have them for lunch or for antipasti, because their best companion is an aperitivo, like a Venetian spritz, Negroni or other Italian before-dinner drink.

And if it’s possible to make these cute Italian sandwiches even cuter, assemble a few kinds and cut them into small squares, which makes them francobolli (postage stamps) and easier for guests to nibble a few. See, cuter. And then recount the time you had one on a canal …

This recipe is from “Aperitivo,” by Marisa Huff, who draws this recipe from the Gran Caffe Diemme in Padua, Italy.

Shrimp and Vegetable Tramezzini

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 1 minute

  • 1 carrot, peeled, trimmed
  • 1 zucchini, trimmed
  • 1 rib celery, trimmed
  • 1/2 fennel bulb, trimmed, fronds removed
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 ounces cooked shrimp
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise, Italian-style (see recipe), or store-bought
  • Fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 slices soft white sandwich bread, crusts trimmed off

Use a vegetable peeler, mandoline or box grater to very thinly slice the vegetables lengthwise. Alternatively, julienne the vegetables.

Fill a medium saucepan with water, add a generous pinch of salt, and bring to a simmer. Fill a bowl with ice water. Blanch the vegetables for a minute, just until slightly tender but still crisp to the bite; drain and transfer the vegetables to the ice water to stop the cooking. Drain again; pat dry with kitchen towels.

In a bowl, toss the vegetables with the olive oil; season with salt and pepper. In a separate bowl, mix the shrimp with 2 tablespoons mayonnaise.

Arrange the bread slices on a cutting board or flat work surface. Spread some of the remaining mayonnaise atop each slice. Divide the shrimp mixture between two slices, layer vegetables on top, folding them if necessary. Then close the sandwiches with the remaining bread, mayonnaise-side down. To make 4 tramezzini, cut each sandwich in half either lengthwise or diagonally.

Makes 4 tramezzini (half sandwiches).

Nutrition information per serving: 256 calories, 18 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 126 mg cholesterol, 10 g carbohydrates, 3 g sugar, 16 g protein, 262 mg sodium, 2 g fiber

Recipe from: “Aperitivo,” by Marisa Huff

In “Aperitivo,” Huff features this recipe, also from the Gran Caffe Diemme. The filling is built on the classic ingredients of carbonara sauce: bacon, eggs and cheese.

Carbonara Tramezzini

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 5 minutes

  • 4 ounces guanciale, pancetta or good dry-cured bacon, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 4 large hard-cooked eggs, shelled, chopped
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed grated pecorino Romano
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise, Italian-style (see recipe), or store-bought
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 slices white sandwich bread, crusts removed

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, brown the guanciale until crispy and golden, about 2 minutes, tossing occasionally for even browning. Transfer the guanciale to a paper towel-lined plate and let cool.

In a bowl, mix together the guanciale, eggs, grated pecorino Romano, 2 tablespoons mayonnaise and a couple of grindings of pepper.

Arrange the bread slices on a cutting board or flat work surface. Spread the remaining mayonnaise atop each slice. Divide the egg mixture between two slices, then close the sandwiches with the remaining bread, mayonnaise-side down. Cut both sandwiches in half either lengthwise or on the diagonal to make 4 tramezzini.

Makes 4 tramezzini (half sandwiches).

Nutrition information per serving: 314 calories, 17 g fat, 8 g saturated fat, 211 mg cholesterol, 7 g carbohydrates, 1 g sugar, 17 g protein, 507 mg sodium, 0 g fiber

Recipe from: “Aperitivo,” by Marisa Huff

Mayonnaise, Italian-Style

In a medium bowl, whisk 2 large egg yolks (at room temperature) until frothy. (Alternatively, use a handheld electric or stand mixer.)

Gradually add 1/2 cup vegetable oil, a tablespoon at a time, whisking continuously until the mixture has thickened. Whisk in the juice of half a lemon and a pinch of fine sea salt.

While whisking continuously, gradually add 3/4 cup more vegetable oil and 1/4 cup olive oil.

Keeps, covered and refrigerated, for about a week.

Makes 1-1/2 cups.

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