Italian-Style Tuna Melts with Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto, Arugula & Hot Peppers

Hello from sunny and cool New York City! We’re having what a friend deemed “August spring,” but we’re all terrified to talk about it, lest the hellish July temperatures return. To me, it’s Maine weather: in the morning, we wear sweatshirts. At night, we sleep without air conditioning. For dinner, I’m once again okay with turning on the oven.

A good tuna melt deserves the broiler, and today I bring you the best tuna melt I’ve ever had. The inspiration for this melt arrived when Mezzetta challenged me to create a sandwich to share with you, using the fantastic jarred olives, peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, olive oil, and spreads that they make. Sandwiches are pretty much the perfect summer meal–easy to assemble, no big deal to tote along to the beach or on other adventures. Of course I had to mix things up by turning on that broiler, but I don’t think summer will think any less of me.

For this sandwich, I mixed my favorite canned tuna (it’s called American Tuna and is low in mercury) with a simple, Italian-style vinaigrette made with basil, minced onion, olive oil, and vinaigrette. There’s no mayo in there, nor is there any on the sandwich. Instead, I spread the bottom half of the sandwich with one of my all-time favorite pestos, made with Mezzetta’s sun-dried tomatoes, pine nuts, and Parm. For the melt aspect, I chose a fontina-like cheese recommended by my neighborhood cheesemonger. Perhaps my favorite move, though, was studding the top of the cheese with Mezzetta’s sliced hot cherry peppers, which are pickled and add great spice and flavor.

Before I go grab a cardigan to bulk up for this August “spring” morning, I wanted to let you know that you can enter to win Mezzetta’s annual “Make That Sandwich” contest. Create a sandwich using two or more Mezzetta products, enter the recipe here, and you could win the grand prize, $25,000! (There are also two runner-up prizes of $1000 apiece.) See tons of sandwich inspiration here, and good luck! I’ll be back later today with a giveaway of some awesome Mezzetta delicacies.

I wrote this sponsored post in partnership with Mezzetta to let you guys know about the chance to win their sandwich contest. Thanks for supporting the sponsors that help inspire BGSK’s content! 


Italian-Style Tuna Melts with Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto, Arugula & Hot Peppers
Makes 2 big sandwiches

I love how these look and taste on crusty small baguettes. Depending on what you find at your local supermarket or bakery, you can use an Italian roll, a third of a baguette, or regular old sliced bread. Sun-dried tomatoes usually have a bunch of oil in the jar, so you can use some or all of that in place of the olive oil called for in the pesto.


For the sun-dried tomato pesto:
2 large cloves garlic
1/2 cup Mezetta julienne cut sun-ripened dried tomatoes
1/3 cup pine nuts
1 teaspoon salt
½ lemon, juiced
1/4 cup olive oil (you can also use extra oil you drained from the jar of tomatoes)
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

For the tuna:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small shallot, minced (you’ll want to use 2-3 tablespoons)
1 1/2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
about 10 basil leaves, minced
pinch red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 ounces canned tuna in water (or olive oil; I only buy American Tuna, which is low in mercury)
Freshly ground black pepper

For the sandwich:
2 demi baguettes
A few handfuls baby arugula or watercress
6 to 8 Mezzetta sliced hot cherry peppers
4 ounces fontina cheese, thinly sliced or shredded (you can also you

Make the pesto: in a small food processor, pulse the garlic, tomatoes, pine nuts, and salt until coarsely chopped. Add the lemon juice and pulse to combine. Stream in olive oil and continue to blend until all the ingredients are finely chopped and the pesto is smooth and creamy. Add the Parmesan, and pulse to combine. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if necessary. If the pesto seems really thick, add a little more olive oil.

Preheat the broiler.

In a large bowl, combine the olive oil, shallot, vinegar, optional basil, red pepper flakes, and salt. Add the tuna, and toss to combine. Add more salt and some pepper to taste.

Cut each baguette almost all the way open, leaving a hinge. Spread one side with a generous amount of pesto (you’ll have some leftover) and drizzle the other with olive oil. Top the pesto with the tuna and top with the cheese and the hot peppers. Arrange on a sheet pan and broil until the cheese melts and the non-tuna side is golden, about 5 minutes. Pile the arugula on top, press the top half onto the bottom, and cut each sandwich in half. Serve.


  1. ummm this looks amazing. I wish I was at home to make it right now. Also, totally get you about NYC weather right now … we exclaim every time we walk out of our building but I’m afraid the weather gods are going to punish us for this!

  2. Silly question: the tuna you used is already cooked, right? Is it a filet you’re using (I ask because you listed it in ounces). Do you think you could use canned tuna in this as a time/money saver? In any case, it sounds delish, thanks!

  3. This was so incredibly good! I only had the sandwich with the pesto and tuna as I had no cheese or other salad makings at home but WOW, can’t wait to try the full recipe with my leftovers. =)

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