Enjoy the flavors of an Italian sub finger-food style with Italian pinwheels! With pepperoni, salami, Provolone, and more, these easy to make sandwiches make a great lunch or prep-ahead party appetizer.
I like to zhush up classic American party food with slightly less-expected flavors. You know those warm ham and cheese sliders? Absolutely delicious, but roast beef sliders with horseradish, cheddar, and sautéed onions are a favorite in my house.
Next up are pinwheel sandwiches. These Italian pinwheels take their inspiration from an Italian sub (and pinwheels sold in the Publix deli case) for a seriously tasty take on these lunchtime or party favorites. Scroll down for lots of variations so you can make them your own.
Reasons to Love This Recipe
- Italian pinwheels are versatile. Whether in a lunchbox or on an appetizer tray, this recipe is tasty, easy-to-eat finger food.
- Speaking of, they're a great make-ahead party option in that they can be served chilled or at room temperature.
- There's not too much cream cheese in each pinwheel sandwich that it gets messy. You get just enough for the basil, Parmesan, and peppers to stick, and it helps everything roll up and hold together.
- And last but not least: let's not forget about that Italian-style sub flavor - yum.
- Tortillas: Use large (at least ten-inch diameter) tortillas, usually called "burrito-size".
- Cream Cheese: You can use reduced-fat cream cheese (Neufchâtel) here really without any negative flavor impact. Go with a block versus a tub of whipped cream cheese spread.
- Parmesan: Freshly-grated provides SO much more flavor than a shelf-table canister. A great second choice would be a tub of high-quality pre-grated from the refrigerated deli case.
- Mayonnaise: Just a little bit to help this spread become even more creamy.
- Meat: Genoa salami and large pepperoni slices (often called sandwich-style). Smaller, regular-sized pepperoni can also be used, though it may be a bit harder to neatly roll up.
- Cheese: Provolone is a classic in an Italian sub-inspired recipe.
- Soften the cream cheese to room temperature and add all spread ingredients to a mixing bowl.
- Stir/mix until everything is evenly combined. You can take a taste to see if you'd like to add anything else. Keep in mind you want this cream cheese spread to be pretty bold in flavor so it stands out flavor-wise in the finished Italian pinwheels.
- Spread evenly onto each of the tortillas, leaving at least a half-inch of buffer space around the edges to keep things less messy. Use about 3 tablespoons per 10-inch tortilla.
- Arrange three slices of Provolone horizontally in the center of the tortilla, having them overlap as little as possible.
- Arrange four slices of salami along the center section, situating them a bit higher and lower than the cheese to cover more space. Next do the same with five slices of sandwich-style pepperoni (it will resemble the Olympic rings).
- Pat lettuce leaves dry and place them over top of everything.
- Starting from the bottom (with all fillings oriented horizontally in front of you), tightly roll up the tortilla.
- Wrap the rolled pinwheel sandwiches with plastic wrap. Repeat for all tortillas, then refrigerate for at least one hour to help everything solidify.
- Using a serrated knife, carefully slice sections from the tortilla about one-inch thick. They should hold together well, but if some pieces need help (such as the end pieces), place a toothpick in them. These Italian pinwheels are ready to serve, or can be refrigerated on a plate until needed.
Tips and Tricks
- Alternate the arrangement of the meats and cheese as best you can so they're as evenly dispersed as possible. This provides even filling around the spiral once rolled.
- But do leave a bit of empty space with just cream cheese spread along the last edge, as this will help seal the end and hold its shape.
- To roll neatly around the filling area, lift up the tortilla a tiny bit and tuck it over snugly as you roll. Lifting it up gives the filling some space to remain in its place and won't get pushed out of the tortilla.
- Tortillas - Regular flour, whole wheat, green spinach wraps and other flatbreads work well for Italian pinwheels. Soft lavash bread is also pictured in this post (above). Its large size works well for roll-up sandwiches.
- Meats - Sub in or add tavern ham or sliced Italian cured meats: capicola, prosciutto, mortadella, etc.
- Cheeses - Some other sliced varieties can work (like low-moisture sliced mozzarella) but Provolone is a classic for an Italian sub. And while the flavor would certainly mesh well, something like moist fresh mozzarella wouldn't be a great choice as it can make these pinwheels soggy.
- Peppers - Add heat by choosing hot banana pepper rings, or use or add in peperoncini, chopped giardiniera, sun-dried tomatoes, or roasted red peppers, blotted dry.
- Lettuce - Romaine or green leaf lettuce are two good varieties, but fresh spinach or baby kale can work, too.
Frequently Asked Questions
I would say these would be okay to make the night before serving, but much longer than that you'd risk the tortillas becoming a bit soggy. It's not a big deal (I've certainly enjoyed them just fine a day or two after that!) but something to be mindful of if serving to guests at a party.
Yes, they can be frozen for up to 2 months, however the lettuce won't retain its crispness once thawed, so I would leave it out when assembling if you plan to freeze from the start.
More Sandwich Recipes
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- 8 ounces cream cheese softened
- 6 Tablespoons fresh basil finely-chopped
- 6 Tablespoons banana pepper rings finely-chopped
- ⅓ cup shredded Parmesan or Pecorino Romano
- ¼ cup mayonnaise
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- Ground black pepper to taste
- 6 10-inch flour tortillas or lavash or other flatbread wrap
- 18 slices Provolone cheese
- 24 slices Genoa salami
- 30 slices sandwich-style pepperoni or more slices of regular size
- 12 large lettuce leaves romaine or green leaf
- Prepare the Spread: Add softened cream cheese, chopped basil, chopped banana peppers, Parmesan, mayonnaise, garlic powder, and black pepper to a mixing bowl and mix well until evenly combined.
- Assemble the Ingredients: Lay one tortilla on a clean work surface and evenly spread about 3 Tablespoons of the cream cheese mixture onto it, leaving at least a half-inch of buffer space along the outer edge of the tortilla.
- Arrange three slices of Provolone in a horizontal line along the center to cover the width of the tortilla. There will be some overlap.
- Next add four slices of Genoa salami on top of the Provolone, arranging them in an alternating up and down pattern to cover as much of the surface (while still touching) as you can.
- Add five slices of pepperoni in a similar fashion (or more slices if using small, regular-sized pepperoni). Lay two leafy lettuce leaves horizontally across everything.
- Roll: Working with the tortilla in front of you with the cheese and meat arranged horizontally, start rolling up the tortilla from the bottom in a snug manner. When you get to the meat and cheese section, it helps to slightly lift up the tortilla as you roll upwards so as not to displace all of the filling ingredients. Tightly wrap each rolled-up pinwheel in plastic wrap. Repeat the process for the remaining five tortillas.
- Chill: Refrigerate wrapped pinwheels for at least one hour before slicing as this helps them hold together.
- Slice: Unwrap and use a serrated knife to slice each pinwheel into sections at least one-inch thick.
- Storage: Store in the refrigerator if not serving right away. The pinwheels are best served the same day or the day after preparing, as the lettuce can begin to wilt after that.
Nutritional information is provided as an estimate. As it can vary due to many factors (brands used, quantities, etc.), we cannot guarantee its accuracy.Food Safety and Nutrition Disclaimer