Picnic Sandwich with Artichoke Pepper Spread

Hello and welcome! Picnic season is upon us and today, we are making a great Picnic Sandwich. This is one of those easily customizable recipes that you can throw together over the course of a morning and have it ready for an afternoon picnic, or keep it wrapped in the fridge until the next day. I think the real star of this Picnic Sandwich is the Artichoke Pepper Spread – artichoke hearts, garlic, basil, sweet Piquanté peppers and Calabrian chilis processed together and stirred with olive oil to make a savory, sweet and spicy sandwich spread. Let’s get to it!

While the spread might be the star of the show, the fresh baked pizza dough bread and the toppings are playing important supporting roles. And this is where you should get creative with what you have. I am going with Coppa, Provolone, finely sliced fennel bulb and fresh parsley. But salami, low-moisture mozzarella, and fresh basil leaves would be good too! We will start with the Artichoke Pepper Spread, but first take the pizza dough out of the fridge. Lay a sheet of parchment in a rimmed baking sheet and spray the parchment with cooking spray. Place the dough ball on the oiled parchment and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let the dough sit at room temp for about 1 hour.

Artichoke Pepper Spread

One can of quartered artichoke hearts, drained and patted dry goes into the food processor with about 1/3 cup quartered Piquanté peppers, 3 cloves of garlic, a tablespoon or so of the chopped Calabrian chilis, juice of half a lemon, and about 8-10 fresh basil leaves. Process the ingredients to a pesto-like consistency. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and add the 5-6 tablespoons of olive oil and taste for seasoning, add Kosher salt to taste. Mix to incorporate the oil and set aside.

Pizza Dough Bread

After about hour at room temp, the dough should be pliable enough to press and shape into a 7-inch square. Brush some olive oil on the top, sprinkle with flaky sea salt, if you like and bake the bread on the upper middle rack of a 425 degree oven for about 12 minutes, until the dough is puffed and golden.

When the pizza dough bread is out of the oven, transfer it to a wire rack and let it cool completely, about 1.5 hours.

It helps to have a mandoline slicer for the fennel bulb. We want thin slices, only 1/8-inch thick. Slicing the bulb on the mandoline also makes removing the core easier because you slice the bulb as-is (with the top and bottom sliced off) and the just discard the centers of the slices. Since we will tightly wrap this Picnic Sandwich in plastic wrap, go ahead and lay two long sheets of plastic wrap on your sandwich-making surface. Overlap the long sides, so that it makes one large plastic wrap sheet.

When the bread is fully cooled, use a serrated knife to slice the loaf in half, horizontally, directly on the plastic wrap. Spread half of the artichoke spread on each half, using all of the Artichoke Pepper Spread.

Build the Picnic Sandwich

Now it’s time to layer on all the toppings. Start with the cheese slices. I have thinly sliced provolone, but smoked gouda would amazing, or Fontina…I am using about 8 ounces of provolone. Then for the Coppa, I have about 9 ounces of Coppa – it’s three, 3-ounce packages. I have folded, or crinkled each slice of Coppa to give a little more texture and heft to the meat layer.

Spread the fennel slices over the parsley leaves. Now, place the top side on top of the sandwich and wrap tightly with the plastic wrap. Then, do another layer of plastic wrap to get a nice tight wrap.

Now for the fun part, place your Dutch oven on top of the Picnic Sandwich. If you don’t have a Dutch oven, use a sheet tray or large skillet loaded with canned goods to weigh it down. Let the sandwich sit weighted for about 1 hour. After that hour, if you’re not serving this sandwich right away, you can place the pressed sandwich in the fridge for up to 24 hours.

Picnic Sandwich with Artichoke and Pepper Spread

Let’s unwrap and slice this Sandwich!

Use a serrated knife to slice it into quarters and serve large slices, or slice those quarters in half to make 8 servings.

This sandwich is such a treat! the flavors are amazing and it just looks so pretty with all the layers, compacted to form an easy-to-eat Picnic Sandwich! The smooth and creamy provolone cheese with the cured meat; the bright pop of fresh parsley; crunchy, mellow fennel; and of course that Artichoke Pepper spread, which has soaked into the bread just enough to marry the flavors with the bread, but not enough to sog it out.

Honestly, when isn’t a good sandwich a good idea? Picnic or not, this beauty, sliced up to serve a group along side salads and other mains and sides, would be a perfect addition to any brunch, lunch or cookout. Baking a store-bought pizza dough this way is so perfect for this recipe. It’s super simple and the fresh-baked aroma and flavor make this sandwich extra-special.

You guys know we love sandwiches at the Djalali house, so if you’ve missed any of our favorites so far, you can find them on the blog. And if you’re looking for another easy way to feed a group, try Easy Cheese Steak Sliders – perfect for upcoming July 4th festivities! Remember, you can find me on Pinterest too! Take care and be well, everyone! xo Kelly

Picnic Sandwich with Artichoke and Pepper Spread

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Main Course, Side Dish, Sandwich, Lunch, Picnic Food American/Italian
By Kelly Djalali Serves: 4-8
Prep Time: 20 Minutes Cooking Time: 12-15 Minutes Total Time: 2 Hours, 45 Minutes (includes bread cooling and pressing time)

Creamy provolone cheese with Coppa; a bright bite of fresh parsley; crunchy, mellow fennel; and of course the Artichoke Pepper spread – sweet and savory.


  • Artichoke Spread
  • 1 14-oz. can Artichoke Hearts, drained and patted dry
  • 1/3 cup Piquanté peppers, quartered
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tbsp. Chopped Calabrian Chilis
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 8-10 fresh basil leaves
  • 5-6 tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Kosher Salt to taste
  • Sandwich
  • 1 1-lb. Prepared Pizza Dough
  • 8 oz. Provolone, sliced thin
  • 8-9 oz. Coppa, sliced thin
  • 1/2 cup Fresh Parsley Leaves
  • 1 Small Fennel Bulb, sliced thin, core and stalks removed



Take the pizza dough out of the fridge. Lay a sheet of parchment in a rimmed baking sheet and spray the parchment with cooking spray. Place the dough ball on the oiled parchment and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let the dough sit at room temp for about 1 hour. Preheat oven to 425.


Press and shape the dough into a 7-inch square and brush the top with olive oil. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt, if desired.


Bake the dough for about 12 minutes, or until the crust is golden and the bread has risen.


When bread is done, transfer to a wire rack to cool completely, about 1.5 hours.

Artichoke Spread


Process artichoke hearts, Piquanté peppers, garlic, Calabrian Chilis, lemon juice and basil leaves in a food processor until finely chopped to a pesto-like consistency.


Transfer to a bowl and taste for seasoning, add Kosher salt to taste. Add olive oil and stir to incorporate the oil in to the spread. Set aside.



When the bread is cooled completely, slice in half horizontally.


Spread half of the artichoke spread on each half of bread, using all of the spread.


On the bottom half, layer the provolone, then the Coppa.


Then the parsley leaves and finally the fennel slices.


Cap with the bread top and wrap tightly with two layers of plastic wrap.


Place a Dutch oven on top of the wrapped sandwich and let the sandwich press for one hour.


Unwrap sandwich and slice into quarters, or eighths and serve.


If you don't have a Dutch oven, place a large frying pan on the wrapped sandwich and load the frying pan with canned goods to press the sandwich. If not serving immediately, place the wrapped, pressed sandwich in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours before serving.

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  • Carroll
    June 28, 2021 at 6:30 pm

    This really looks good! In your opinion, would the spread hold up if made a few days in advance, or would it be worth a try?

    • Kelly Djalali
      June 28, 2021 at 6:53 pm

      Hi Carroll, I think the spread would hold up just fine for a few days in the fridge. Let me know how it goes! xo Kelly