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Mom’s Chicken Cutlet Sandwich

Half chicken cutlet sandwich with broccoli rabe, pesto, fresh basil, fresh mozzarella and roasted tomatoes on toasted Italian bread.
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This Chicken Cutlet Sandwich is an Italian American favorite, especially on the east coast. Savory and comforting chicken cutlets are paired with slightly bitter, sautéed broccoli rabe, fresh mozzarella cheese, basil pesto and roasted peppers or tomatoes then stacked proudly on Italian bread. It’s the best use of leftovers in the history of leftovers!

Two halves of the chicken cutlet sandwich stacked on top of each other.

I once read that “a sandwich is a hug between two slices of bread.”

And, it couldn’t be more true of this Chicken Cutlet Sandwich–the one that my mom made for me, my family and ALL my friends and colleagues time and time again with more love than an army of professional chefs.

I can still see the brown paper bags with everyone’s names on them containing their own personal hug in the form of this sandwich. People would request them. I would request them when I had been away for too long. It was always a great time for chicken cutlets and broccoli rabe on a roll. And, it still is.

To this day, a road trip or beach day just does not seem complete without a bunch of chicken cutlet sandwiches in tow.

Close-up of chicken cutlet panino.

A Perfect Pairing

Savory chicken cutlets and robust broccoli rabe go together like fresh mozzarella and basil, burgers and fries, peanut butter and jelly, Martin and Lewis and Abbot and Costello. I’m not sure why, but THEY JUST DO.

One of the things I recommend with both my chicken cutlet and broccoli rabe recipes is to make a double batch and plan for leftovers. For Just This Reason. Once you have leftovers on hand, you can assemble this sandwich in no time!

Mom’s chicken cutlet sandwich might just be the perfect bite, despite its simplicity. There are few tastes as satisfying and eating this sandwich actually puts me in a better mood.

I am thrilled to share this recipe with you today. It’s my mom’s sandwich creation through and through—savory, breaded, pounded-out chicken cutlets, the most delicious, sautéed broccoli rabe, mozzarella cheese, pesto and roasted peppers on rustic Italian bread. I hope you love it as much as I do. Mangia bene!

Plate of chicken cutlets.

Ingredients for Chicken Cutlet Sandwich

⁠This sandwich was really designed to be the best use ever of leftover chicken cutlets and sautéed broccoli rabe. Of course, you absolutely can make batches of each just for this sandwich (and, I encourage it!). Having said this, assuming you are using leftovers and purchased pesto and roasted peppers or tomatoes, this sandwich will come together in a heartbeat. Here are the ingredients:

  • Chicken Cutlets: The star of the show! This ubiquitous Italian-American form of a thin, pounded-out chicken breast seasoned with grated cheese, spices and herbs, then breaded and pan-fried or baked is my desert island food. Make them often. Make extra. Enjoy. Repeat.
  • Sautèed Broccoli Rabe: Despite its name, this broccoli-resembling veggie is actually in the turnip family. It’s a dark leafy green with bitter notes that is very popular with Italian Americans, especially in the northeast U.S. When making a batch of broccoli rabe (a.k.a., rapini), be sure to make extra for sandwiches the next day! If you’re not a fan of broccoli rabe or have trouble finding it, sautéed spinach is a great alternative.
  • Bread: As with all sandwiches, the bread is very important here and you can use lots of different types. I cut thick slices from a large Italian loaf and toasted them. But, long rolls (6-8” long), kaiser round rolls, ciabatta rolls or a sesame semolina loaf would all work, among other breads. This recipe makes enough for 4 people, so if you are using a whole loaf, just pick one that will accommodate that.
  • Basil Pesto: The delicious, savory and aromatic sandwich spread. Use either homemade or store-bought.
  • Cheese: Fresh mozzarella is an ideal pairing with the other ingredients in this sandwich. Sharp or mild provolone is a close second choice!
  • Roasted Peppers/Tomatoes: Both of these are great condiments and their sweetness complements the other sandwich flavors. I always have some store-bought varieties on hand for just this purpose. You can generally find these ingredients on either an olive bar or in the Italian section of most supermarkets. When tomatoes are in season, by all means use fresh!

Just a note about the chicken cutlets and broccoli rabe–homemade is obviously best, and super easy assuming that you’re working with leftovers. But, don’t let not having time to make everything from scratch keep you from enjoying this super easy sandwich. You can usually find prepared chicken cutlets in most supermarkets or Italian delis. There are also generally some par-baked versions available in the freezer sections. Sautéed broccoli rabe may be a bit more difficult to find, but your neighborhood Italian deli will likely carry it already prepared.

Ingredients for Italian chicken cutlet sandwich.

How to Make Mom’s Chicken Cutlet Sandwich, Step-byStep!

  • Prep and gather all ingredients. If using sliced bread, toast it, if desired, as I have done here. If using rolls, slice them open into two halves. If using loaves, slice them in half or thirds to portion.
    • PRO-TIP: This sandwich works if all the ingredients are cold just out of the fridge, at room temperature, or if the chicken cutlet and broccoli rabe are heated. Do whatever is convenient and whatever you are in the mood for!

  • Build each sandwich. First, spread about pesto on each half/side of bread.
    • PRO-TIP: The pesto will soak into the bread as it sits, possibly making the bread a bit soft. I actually like this. But, if you do not, just distribute the pesto in the middle of the sandwich, in between layers. Or, serve the sandwiches immediately to prevent this!
Getting ready to build the sandwich with toasted bread on cutting board.
Pesto spread on both sides of toasted bread.
  • Then, shingle fresh mozzarella slices on one side.

  • Next, place roasted red peppers or roasted tomatoes on top of mozzarella.
Fresh mozzarella shingled on one slice of bread with pesto.
Roasted tomatoes placed over fresh mozzarella.
  • Then, place sautéed broccoli rabe on top of the peppers/tomatoes.

  • Place the chicken cutlet on top of the broccoli rabe.
    • PRO-TIP: If the chicken cutlets are very thick, slice them in half horizontally so they will sit better in the sandwich.

  • Finally, place a few fresh basil leaves on top of the chicken cutlet.
Sautéed broccoli rabe placed over fresh mozzarella.
Fried chicken cutlet placed over the broccoli rabe, next to the top half of toast spread with pesto.
Fresh basil leaves placed over chicken cutlet.

  • Once all the ingredients are on, place the top on the sandwich on and press down. Carefully slice sandwich in half and serve. That’s it!
    • PRO-TIP: The amounts of the ingredients are all approximate. Use as much or as little as you prefer or based on the size of the bread.

Slicing the panino in half.


Half chicken cutlet sandwich with broccoli rabe, pesto, fresh basil, fresh mozzarella and roasted tomatoes on toasted Italian bread.

What to Serve with a Chicken Cutlet Sandwich

This is a pretty hearty and filling sandwich. Rather than serve it with anything, you may just want more sandwich! Seriously.

But, to make this sandwich more of a “meal”, serve it with a light green salad or perhaps a small bowl of vegetable soup to balance it out. If you’d like to pair it with something a bit more substantial, here are a few great options:

Close-up of cotoletta panino.

Chicken Cutlet Sandwich Variations and Substitutions

The great thing about starting with two slices of bread is that they are a blank canvas upon which to draw.

Here, I’ve given you a great colorful formula, but there are always ways to make the piece of art your own. Here are a few ideas:

  • Pesto: Mix the pesto with some mayonnaise for a creamier spread or use a sun-dried tomato pesto in place of the basil pesto.
  • Homemade Peppers: Instead of roasted peppers or tomatoes, use some homemade roasted long hot peppers or fried sweet peppers.
  • Greens: If you’re not a fan of broccoli rabe or have trouble finding it, sautéed spinach is a great substitute.
  • Heat: Add pungent, vinegar-marinated peppers (hot or sweet), or some homemade spicy pepper oil drizzled over the whole thing for a serious kick of picante!
  • Make it More American: Ditch the whole pairing I’ve suggested and go in a more lettuce/tomato/onion/mayonnaise direction–which also works!
  • Cheese: Taleggio, fontina, smoked mozzarella, scamorza, sharp provolone and even a shmear of ricotta are all great options!
  • Meat: Replace the chicken cutlets with meatballs or Italian sausage–both are PERFECT in this same sandwich. You may want to heat the sausage up if using it.
  • Heat it: Make this more of a grilled sandwich/panini by heating it on a press (if you have one) or lathering up the outside of the bread with butter and browning it “grilled cheese-style” until the mozzarella melts.

Half chicken cutlet sandwich with broccoli rabe, pesto, fresh basil, fresh mozzarella and roasted tomatoes on toasted Italian bread being held in hand with other half and basil garnish in background.

TOP TIPS FOR CHICKEN CUTLET SANDWICH

  • Food Temperature: This sandwich works if all the ingredients are cold just out of the fridge, at room temperature, or if the chicken cutlet and broccoli rabe are heated. Do whatever is convenient and whatever you are in the mood for!
  • Plan on Leftovers! This sandwich was really designed to be the best use ever of leftover chicken cutlets and sautéed broccoli rabe. Of course, you absolutely can make batches of each just for this sandwich (and, I encourage it!). Having said this, assuming you are using leftovers and purchased pesto and roasted peppers or tomatoes, this sandwich will come together in a heartbeat.
  • Sandwich Amounts: The amounts of the ingredients are all approximate. Use as much or as little as you prefer or based on the size of the bread.
  • Great for Road Trips or Beach Days:Growing up and now still in adulthood, long road trips and beach days are just not the same without chicken cutlet sandwiches. Seriously. Make them in the morning with ingredients right out of the fridge and they will be the perfect room temperature when you’re ready to enjoy them!

More Great Recipes to Try

I hope that you are enjoying my Italian food blog Mangia With Michele and all of my Italian recipes and Italian-American recipes!

If you’ve tried this Chicken Cutlet Sandwich or any other recipe on the blog, please let me know how it went in the comments below — I love hearing from you!

You can also FOLLOW ME on FACEBOOK and INSTAGRAM to see more delicious food and what might be going on behind the scenes!

Two halves of the chicken cutlet sandwich stacked on top of each other.

Mom’s Chicken Cutlet Sandwich

Michele
This Chicken Cutlet Sandwich is an Italian American favorite, especially on the east coast. Savory and comforting chicken cutlets are paired with slightly bitter, sautéed broccoli rabe, fresh mozzarella cheese, basil pesto and roasted peppers or tomatoes then stacked proudly on Italian bread. It’s the best use of leftovers in the history of leftovers!
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 5 minutes
Assembly Time: 10 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Course Sandwich
Cuisine Italian
Servings 4 servings

Ingredients
  

Instructions
 

  • Prep and gather all ingredients according to specifications above. If using sliced bread, toast it, if desired, as I have done here. If using rolls, slice them open into two halves. If using loaves, slice them in half or thirds to portion.
    (Please see the section above in the blog post for Step-By-Step instructions with photos.)
  • Build each sandwich as follows, placing each item on the bread in the order listed:
    ·      Spread about 1 Tbsp pesto on each half/side of bread (about 2 Tbsp per sandwich);
    ·      Shingle 3 slices fresh mozzarella on one side;
    ·      Place ¼ cup roasted red peppers or roasted tomatoes on top of mozzarella;
    ·      Place 1/3 heaping cup sautéed broccoli rabe on top of the peppers/tomatoes;
    ·      Place 1 chicken cutlet (or2 smaller cutlets) on top of the broccoli rabe; and
    ·      Place a few fresh basil leaves on top of the chicken cutlet.
  • Then, place the top on the sandwich (second slice/half of bread/roll spread with pesto) on and press down. Carefully slice sandwich in half and serve. Buon Appetito!

Notes

  • You can use lots of different types of bread for these sandwiches. I cut thick slices from a large Italian loaf and toasted them. But, long rolls (6-8” long), kaiser round rolls, ciabatta rolls or a sesame semolina loaf would all work, among other breads. This recipe makes enough for 4 people, so if you are using a whole loaf, just pick one that will accommodate that.
  • This sandwich works if all the ingredients are cold just out of the fridge, at room temperature, or if the chicken cutlet and broccoli rabe are heated. Do whatever is convenient and whatever you are in the mood for!
  • Mix the pesto with a little mayonnaise if you’d like a creamier sandwich dressing.
  • About 1 bunch (1 pound) raw broccoli rabe will yield enough sautéed broccoli rabe for 4 sandwiches. This sandwich recipe is ideal for leftovers! The recipe for sautéed broccoli rabe is here – definitely make extra to have on hand for these or other sandwiches,
  • If the chicken cutlets are very thick, slice them in half horizontally so they will sit better in the sandwich.
  • The pesto will soak into the bread as it sits, possibly making the bread a bit soft. I actually like this. But, if you do not, just distribute the pesto in the middle of the sandwich, in between layers. Or, serve the sandwiches immediately to prevent this!
  • The amounts of the ingredients are all approximate. Use as much or as little as you prefer or based on the size of the bread.
 
Recipe by Mangia With Michele. Please visit my site for more great cooking inspiration!
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1 thought on “Mom’s Chicken Cutlet Sandwich

  1. 5 stars
    We made these over the weekend with leftover cutlets and they were a big hit! Will definitely make these again.

5 from 1 vote
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