I Spent A Full Day Cooking A Philly Roast Pork Sandwich

By on Friday, February 9th, 2024 at 5:37 pm

the Philly Italian pork sandwich with roast pork and broccoli rabe

The Philadelphia Italian Roast Pork sandwich doesn’t get as much attention as the Philly Cheesesteak, but it probably should. This Italian American hero–sorry, I mean hoagie–combines slow roasted pork, provolone cheese, and bitter greens like broccoli rabe on a crusty bread dripping with meat juices.

Over at Red Sauce America, I have a full write up examining the sandwich history. Researching and writing about the pork sandwich was a bit of an inspiration, and it seemed like the ideal type of thing to make on a cold winter day (trick, it was actually kind of warm for February).

I picked up pork loin at the store the night before. Pork butt or shoulder are better cuts for the sandwich, but also come in much larger pieces. The smaller loin is a bit more expensive, slightly less fatty, but a tender substitute.

I looked at a handful of recipes to get the flavors right, but mostly followed this one. The first thing I didn’t do was marinate the meat overnight. I knew it would take a few hours to braise, but only started cooking in the early afternoon and I didn’t have time to wait another day. I slathered on some herbs and oil and salt and let it sit for about two hours before putting the meat into the oven.

The pork after the first thirty minutes of cooking with onions and herbs

The pork is cooked without any broth for the first thirty minutes.

Since I was working with a smaller piece of meat, it was cooking up pretty well after about thirty minutes when I added in the broth, wine, and tomatoes. I used the whole tomatoes that I crushed in my hand as I dropped them into the pot. The stove backsplash can attest to how messy this can be, but the consistency and texture is better than canned crushed tomatoes.

The braising liquid is built with whole tomatoes, wine, and broth

The braising liquid made with whole tomatoes, Chianti, and beef broth

The oven hummed along all afternoon. It was pretty warm trying to work since my desk is just a few feet away, but at least the apartment smelled great.

A little over three hours later, the meat was tender enough to be pulled apart with a fork. It’s more common to chunk the meat or slice it, but I’m not serving this at a Philly sandwich shop. Pulling it apart with a fork worked well for me and maybe is even better than trying to slice it since the juices all stayed in the pot. The slicing station at DiNic’s sandwich shop is a mess.

The consistency after pulling the meat apart was a bit dry so I added in a little more stock. The meat absorbed it well, and there was enough residual heat to integrate it.

DiNic's in Philadelphia has dedicated carving space

At Dinic’s, a whole counter is dedicated to carving the meat for the sandwiches.

Next I need to cook the greens. I had roasted a few peppers earlier that afternoon–sliced with olive oil, salt and garlic powder, but what makes this sandwich special is the marriage of bitter greens and savory meat. In this regard, the flavors are actually very similar to Italian Wedding soup, so named because of the marriage of bitter greens and meatballs.

Early versions of the Italian pork sandwich use spinach, like the sandwiches from John’s Roast Pork, the original shop that invented the sandwich. However, I think the sandwich benefits quite a lot from the strong bitter flavor of the broccoli rabe, the more modern way the sandwich is made at places like DiNic’s. Most sandwich shops today use broccoli.

I started thick slices of garlic in the pan with oil and I cut my broccoli up into small chunks. Usually if I’m making a side dish, I’ll just cook broccoli rabe nearly whole since it wilts down so much. The larger pieces are easier on forks. However, for the sandwich, I wanted smaller pieces to make it easier to bite, and to keep the vegetable a bit more rigid. I chopped it small so it would cook through quickly without wilting too much. I also threw in a big pinch of red pepper flake.

With the meat rested and the broccoli ready, it was time to assemble the sandwich. My wife had brought home some Italian bread from the local bakery and I sliced open the whole loaf to build the sandwich. South Jersey and Philadelphia would call this type of sandwich bread a hoagie. I layered sliced provolone down one side of the hoagie roll. When I sliced it, I left just a bit of bread holding it together to make it easier to fold shut.

I added the meat and topped it off with the broccoli. There was enough heat to melt the cheese and the meat juices began immediately soaking into the bread. I sliced the finished sandwich bread into four sandwiches. These were thick and heavy and filling.

The philly Italian roast pork sandwich looking down

A cross section of the  Philadelphia Italian pork sandwich showing layers of bread, cheese, meat, broccoli rabe, and more bread


Pork Loin
Garlic powder
Pinch of Fennel Seeds (crush in your fingers)
Fresh Parsley
Beef Stock
½ cup Chianti
Large can of Whole Peeled Tomatoes

Italian or Bell Peppers

Broccoli rabe (or Spinach)
4 to 6 garlic cloves
Red pepper flakes

Loaf of Italian Bread

Sliced provolone cheese


Coat pork in oil, salt, garlic powder, fennel seeds, oregano and thyme.
Let sit for a few hours or overnight
Chop onions into pieces
Cover the pan with onions
Place pork on the onions
Loosely chop the parsley
Toss in parsley

Slice Peppers into large pieces
Toss peppers with oil, salt, garlic powder
Arrange on a baking sheet
Roast peppers for about 30 minutes on lower rack while pork is cooking

PORK (Continued)
Cook pork at 425F for 30 minutes
After 30 minutes, added wine, beef stock, and whole tomatoes
Crush the tomatoes with your hands as they are added
Continue cooking pork at 425F for 15 minutes
Remove peppers!
Cover pork with lid and lower temperature to 325F
Cook for about 3 hours
Pull pork apart with fork.
Add more stock if too dry

Slice 4 to 6 garlic cloves
Heat in oil.
Chop broccoli rabe
Toss with garlic
Add a splash of water
Toss in red pepper flakes
Cover until just tender

Sandwich Assembly

Slice Italian bread in half leaving one edge attached
Lay out sliced provolone cheese
Add pork
Top with broccoli
Add roasted bell peppers to taste


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