appetizers and snacks

Breadless Zesty Italian Roll-Ups

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For as long as I can remember, sandwiches have been one of my favorite things in the world. Just to give you all a glimpse into my sandwich-loving back story, here’s a little tale for you:  When my siblings and I were much younger, the wall behind my dad’s desk in his office was always covered in art, crafts and drawings made by each of us. Most of the crafts or pictures were created at school around the holidays, you know, the sort of nice ones that were worth saving. 

There were mystic, crayon-colored sketches of bright, green Christmas trees, construction paper cut-outs of trees, and Easter baskets filled with colorful eggs, large stick-drawings of cats and dogs, pasted randomly all over the wall. And then, somewhere near the center of the collection, there was one crayon sketch on a regular sheet of printer paper that was very clearly titled: “Hot, Ham and Cheese”.  Yep, that one outstanding, original, colorful crayon sketch of a ham sandwich came from none other than moi. 

Back in those days my parents were self-employed and on most days after school we would return with our parents to their small office building and wait for them to finish their work day. Like all other scrawny, elementary age kids, my brother and I were famished at the end of the school day. I drew that picture of a ham and cheese sandwich, my favorite thing to eat at the time, on one such afternoon at my parents’ office. 

I was desperately daydreaming of that sandwich becoming my snack when my dad walked by, noticed me coloring and asked what I was up to. I showed him my artwork.  “A sandwich?!” he said, obviously surprised at the image, and then he laughed. I’m sure he thought it was a random and weird drawing, but hearing him laugh like that made fourth grade me incredibly happy. He tried to hand my picture back to me, but I told him to keep it. So, he did. 

Ever since those bygone days, my love of sandwiches has become quite unconditional. Seriously, I enjoy all-kinds of them: hot, cold, simple and fancy sandwiches will do just fine for me. I also love all kinds of bread. I enjoy baking it and, more importantly, I enjoy eating it! But, I am no longer a scrawny kid. In fact, I’m a proud, forty-something mom of my own two, little kids. And unfortunately, I am also that typical woman that gains two pounds simply by being in the same room with an aromatic loaf of sourdough bread for too long.  

Now, I don’t follow a low-carb or Paleo diet regimen at all, although I have tried both diets before and failed, dismally. However, nowadays my diet consists of consuming every sort of food, but in calculated moderation (Okay, I use measuring cups and stuff). In my daily routine, I limit myself to three reasonable servings of carbs and sugary treats, and that rules out eating bread at every sitting like I used to. 

Breaking my immense bread habit wasn’t so horrible once I discovered these sorts of breadless wraps. Seriously, now I regularly use Romaine lettuce to replace tortillas on our family’s weekly taco night because I genuinely prefer it. My family, of course, still rejoices in their favorite taco night flour tortillas.  

One of my favorite takeout lunch meals is a submarine sandwich loaded with peppery, Italian cold cuts, cheese, red onions, olives and tangy, pickled banana peppers. Not too long ago, I had already reached my carb and sugar limits for the day and I had a really intense craving for my favorite, Italian-style sub. I broke down and bought all of the necessary ingredients to make it, except for the bread. Once I got home, this delicious, breadless, zesty, Italian roll-up was born! I keep these ingredients around now, because it truly is one of my favorite quick bites.

These roll-ups are made with my favorite things, but you can customize your breadless sandwiches to suit your tastebuds, of course. I’d love to see your style of breadless roll-ups!

Breadless Zesty Italian Roll-Ups 

  • 1/2 – 1 pound of thinly sliced deli meat. (I used brown sugar ham)
  • Romaine lettuce leaves, rinsed, dried with paper towels and cut in half (crosswise)
  • several slices of hard salami
  • package of pepperoni slices
  • jar of pickled, sliced banana peppers (or your favorite peppers…if you like peppers)
  • thinly sliced red onion
  • fresh, thinly sliced tomato
  • whatever other toppings you like on your favorite sandwich
  • 1 can of whole, large black olives 
  • 1 jar of Manzanilla stuffed green olives
  • standard round toothpicks
  • your favorite Italian, balsamic vinaigrette or other dressing, for dipping

1.  Place 1 or 2 slices of thin sliced deli meat on a plate. Proceed to lightly layer the remaining toppings. Layering the fillings too high will make the rolling difficult or impossible. 

Gently fold in half, tuck the filling toward the bottom, apply a bit of pressure and roll tightly!

2. Using both hands (my other hand was taking a picture here), carefully make your sandwich rolls. Use a toothpick to secure your roll-ups once you have them done.  Decorate with the whole olives, if you want.  

3.  Serve with a ramekin of your favorite dressing, dip, and enjoy!


  1. Hi Marcelle, I have had to limit my carb intake as well, my mom always told me life is not fair, oh well. Love your presentation, this sandwich is one that my husband would probably eat too, very nice.

  2. Oh my, I love these and how nice that you'be been able to eliminate the bread. I adore sandwiches and bread, but I do try to watch it. Very pretty presentation with the olives by the way.

  3. Hi, Cheri! They really are good! Thank you and thanks for visiting ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Hi Sam! Thank you and and thanks for stopping by! ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. These are brilliant, Marcelle! And they would make a great addition to a tapas dinner! Thanks, David

  6. Thanks, David! I think so too! ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Thanks, David! I think so too! ๐Ÿ™‚

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