Big Game Week: Pastrami and Aged Cheddar Football Panini

It’s that time of year again – Big Game Panini Week! Each year I create sandwiches in honor of each of the teams playing in the Super Bowl. A reader, Joanne, suggested on the Panini Happy Facebook community that since this year’s matchup between the New York Giants and the New England Patriots is a “chowder showdown” the sandwiches should pair well with Manhattan and New England clam chowder, respectively. It sounded pretty logical to me!

Tomato-based Manhattan clam chowder can definitely hold its own alongside the bold flavors in these Pastrami, Aged New York Cheddar and Peperoncini Panini. You can’t help but think “deli” when you think about New York City sandwiches. One of the city’s most famous is Katz’s Deli, where they’ve been serving their prized, enormous hot pastrami sandwich for decades. Here, I’ve matched pastrami with some sharp aged New York cheddar, tangy peperoncini (aka sweet Italian peppers) and a bold homemade horseradish sauce on pumpernickel. For fun, I decided to cut the bread into football shapes and decorate them with more of the horseradish sauce. I’m strongly tempted to invite people over to watch the game on Sunday just so I can make these again.

New England fans: get ready to see what I grilled for your team later this week!

Draw a football-shaped template on a piece of paper and cut the shape out of bread with kitchen shears

Pastrami and Aged Cheddar Football Panini with Peperoncini and Horseradish Sauce


Pastrami, Aged Cheddar and Peperoncini Panini

Prep time: 10 minutes | Cook time: 8 minutes | Total time: 18 minutes

Yield: 4 panini


Horseradish Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise, regular or reduced-fat
  • 1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt and pepper


  • 8 slices pumpernickel bread
  • 1/4 pound thinly sliced pastrami
  • 2 tablespoons sliced peperoncini*
  • 4 ounces shredded sharp aged cheddar cheese


  1. Whisk together the horseradish sauce ingredients in a small bowl, seasoning it with salt and pepper to your taste. Refrigerate the sauce until you’re ready to use it.
  2. Heat the panini maker according to the manufacturer’s directions.
  3. For each sandwich: Spread a few teaspoons of horseradish sauce on one slice of bread (see advice below for cutting the bread into football shapes). Top it with a few slices of pastrami, a few slices of peperoncini and a few tablespoons of cheese. Close the sandwich with a second slice of bread.
  4. Grill the panini until the cheese is melted and the bread is toasted, 3 to 4 minutes. Serve them immediately, with a bowl of Manhattan clam chowder, if you like.

* You can find jarred peperoncini in the condiments aisle at the grocery store, near items like olives.

If you’d like to make football-shaped panini: Draw and cut out a simple football-shaped template for yourself out of paper (you can make it as large or as small as you want, depending on the size of your bread). Then just lay your template on top of each slice of bread and cut around it with kitchen shears or a sharp knife.

After the panini are grilled, let them cool slightly for about a minute. Meanwhile, spoon the remaining horseradish sauce into a small plastic bag and make a small snip at one of the bottom corners. Gently pipe the sauce into a football laces design on top of the panini.



KathyPanini Happy, online since 2008, is more than just a sandwich blog. Here, you'll find hundreds of my original panini recipes, my guide to choosing a panini press and a whole lot of other creative uses for the panini press.
~ Kathy Strahs
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  1. Jenny wrote:

    These are really cute!

    Posted 1.30.12 Reply
  2. Jeanette wrote:

    What a cute idea – you are so clever!

    Posted 1.31.12 Reply
  3. What a clever idea! Love it =).

    Posted 1.31.12 Reply
  4. Adorable! And this New Yorker who now lives in New England loves pastrami (especially from Katz’s).

    Posted 1.31.12 Reply
  5. Very cute 🙂

    Posted 1.31.12 Reply
  6. These are SO cute, Kathy! Love, love, love them!!!

    Posted 1.31.12 Reply
  7. Eliana wrote:

    Love that you made these into footballs. They look so darn cute.

    Posted 1.31.12 Reply
  8. Kalyn wrote:

    How do you do it year after year? Very impressive.

    Posted 1.31.12 Reply
    • Kathy wrote:

      I cross my fingers that a new set of teams are playing each year, lol. 🙂

      Posted 1.31.12 Reply
  9. How cute, these look absolutely perfect for the super bowl!

    Posted 2.5.12 Reply
  10. Kathy, I just wanted to let you know that I made these last night for Super Bowl for my family and they LOVED the sandwiches! Loved them! Even my picky-eater son gobbled his up. They really are so easy (say that b/c I sometimes get intimidated by complicated sandwich prep) but I think the combo of flavors was just perfect. Thanks for a fun and tasty recipe!

    Posted 2.6.12 Reply
    • Kathy wrote:

      That’s so great to hear, Brenda! I’m glad you made them and that you all enjoyed them. 🙂

      Posted 2.6.12 Reply