A good sandwich can be one of the tastiest, most filling meals of the day. You’ve got some soft bread, crisp vegetables, and delicious cheese all rolled into one complete package.
Ask anyone who lives in Philadelphia, however, and they may say that Italian hoagies rank among one of the best sandwiches in the world.
Let’s take a look at what hoagies are, how to make a hoagie, and how to make both authentic Italian hoagies and Philly hoagies down below.
What is a Hoagie?
A hoagie is basically a sandwich made on a long type of bread or roll (itself called a “hoagie”). The sandwich is typically filled with a wide variety of meats, cheeses, condiments, and vegetables.
The term “hoagie” is mainly used in Philadelphia, though in other parts of America, it may also be referred to as a submarine sandwich or a grinder. There are several different origin stories for this iconic sandwich, all of which claim to be the right one.
The Italian hoagie was said to have originated in Italian-American communities across the Northeastern United States in the late 19th to mid-20th centuries.
The term “hoagie” was first coined in Philadelphia, but there are conflicting origin stories here as well. In 1953, the Philadelphia Bulletin reported that Italians working at Hog Island, a World War I-era shipyard, commonly compiled various meats, cheeses, and lettuce between two slices of bread for their meals.
This eventually became known as the “Hog Island” sandwich, which was later shortened to “Hoggies” and, finally, the “hoagie.”
Dictionary.com, on the other hand, states that the sandwich, originally known as the “hoggie”, was named for Big Band songwriter Hoagland Howard “Hoagy” Carmichael. However, the word itself was regularly used before he became famous.
The modern spelling of the word “hoagie” is said to have been derived from his nickname.
The Philadelphia Almanac and Citizen’s Manual offers yet another explanation entirely. They claim that the sandwich was first created by early 20th-century street vendors called “hokey-pokey men,” who sold antipasto salad, meats, cookies, and buns.
“Hokey-pokey men” would also cut long loaves (called pinafores) in half, stuff it with their antipasto salad, and sell them as the world’s first hoagies.
Others claim that the word “hoagie” grew in popularity in the late 19th to early 20th century among the Italian community in South Philadelphia. Deli owners there would give scraps of cheeses and meats, wrapped in an Italian bread-roll called a “hokie,” to poor people.
The popular phrase “on the hoke”, meaning someone who is destitute, may have inspired the term, but Italian immigrants would always pronounce it as “hoagie”, thus giving birth to the modern pronunciation.
How to Make Hoagies
The term “hoagie” can refer to both the sandwich itself and the type of bread it’s made on. Before you get started on the sandwich ingredients, you should know how to make a hoagie loaf.
Choosing the right bread to use is just as important as what you fill your hoagie with. The hoagie roll needs to be stable enough to hold ample meat, cheese, veggies, and other toppings, so it can’t be too soft or too small.
Some people prefer crustier rolls, while others will want a chewier one. Overall, chewier rolls tend to sell more in sandwich shops than crustier ones—and for good reason.
Crusty bread is harder to control, meaning your ingredients may slide around when you try to get a full bite. Hoagies are best when they can be filled to the brim without any problems.
After you make your hoagie loaf, you can choose to brush the finished roll with an additional egg wash, as well as sprinkle sesame or poppy seeds on top.
- 1 cup of warm milk (needs to be between 100 to 110 degrees).
- 1 tablespoon of instant dry yeast.
- 2 tablespoons of sugar.
- 1 teaspoon of salt.
- 3 tablespoons of softened butter.
- 1 large egg.
- 3 to 4 cups of all-purpose flour.
- Knead your warm milk, dry yeast, sugar, salt, butter, egg, and three cups of flour together in a large stand mixer (on low), until you form a smooth dough ball. Add about a 1/4 cup of flour to the mix until you get the texture you want. Remember, your dough should be tacky, not sticky.
- Transfer the dough ball to a lightly greased bowl and cover it with a towel. Let the dough rise for one hour, or until it doubles in size.
- Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Roll your dough out into a rectangle about 1/4 of an inch thick and 24 inches wide.
- Cut this rectangle into four strips, each about six inches wide.
- Roll each strip up until the ends and seams are pinched tightly together.
- Put these rolls on lightly greased baking sheets and allow them to rise for about 30 minutes. You’ll know they’re ready when you can poke the dough and have it spring back up again.
- Before you put your rolls in the oven, use a paring knife to cut a 1/4-inch-wide slash down the center of each roll. This will create an impressive, professional-looking part once your bread bakes.
- Bake them for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the bread is lightly browned.
- Finally, put your hoagie loaves on a wire cooling rack. Leave them to air out until you’re ready to cut them in half and make your hoagie sandwich.
Can You Make Hoagies in a Bread Maker?
If you want to save time, you can make hoagie rolls in a bread maker.
- Put your wet ingredients in your bread machine per the manufacturer’s instructions. Next, place in your dry ones and, finally, your yeast.
- Turn your bread machine to its dough kneading setting. The dough should form a nice dough ball that doesn’t stick to the sides of your machine. You can also help this process along by scraping at the sides of the machine with a silicon spatula.
- If your dough still sounds wet or sticks too much to the sides, sprinkle a bit of flour in your machine. If, on the other hand, it doesn’t stick together, just sprinkle in some water instead. Make sure you only put about 1/4 of a teaspoon of either ingredient in at one time.
- Let your dough rise for about an hour and a half.
- Once your dough is done, take it out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll it into a rectangle, about ¼-inch thick and 24 inches wide.
- Now you can follow the above hoagie recipe from Step 5 onward.
Here’s a video showing an example of how to make a hoagie.
How to Fill a Hoagie
While it’s tempting to gut your hoagie roll to reduce calories, do not do this!
The soft bread helps to absorb the oil you add to the roll, as well as keep all the meat, cheese, veggies, and other toppings in place while you eat. If you gut your hoagie loaf, you might as well just eat the oily fillings straight.
That being said, there are many different ways to fill a hoagie, and no two hoagie recipes are alike. For example, Italian hoagie meats are different from those used in a Philly hoagie. Likewise, you may find some ingredients in a big chain store hoagie, but not in an authentic hoagie from a smaller shop.
Here are a couple of great hoagie recipes you can make at home!
Philly Hoagie Recipe
- 1 baked hoagie roll.
- 1 1/2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil (optional).
- 4 slices of Deli American cheese.
- 3 ounces of pepperoni.
- 3 ounces of deli turkey.
- Shredded lettuce (any kind).
- Sweet peppers or roasted red peppers (optional).
- Red or white wine vinegar (optional).
Twists on the Ingredients
- Adding extra virgin olive oil is optional, of course, but if you aren’t watching your calories, then your hoagie will taste so much better with oil than without. Some places will use vegetable or canola oil in their hoagies, but extra virgin olive oil is by far the best tasting option.
- Some people also like to spread mayo on their hoagies, even if it’s not a traditional ingredient. If you want to try this instead of using oil, go ahead!
- Cheese has a lot of moisture in it, and can easily leave your loaves a soggy mess if you put them directly onto hot, oily bread. It’s best to wait for the oil to be absorbed into the loaf itself before placing your cheese slices.
- An authentic Philly hoagie uses American cheese, but if you want a really tasty hoagie, try using slices of Deli American cheese instead.
- The meat you choose to fill your hoagie with doesn’t matter, so long as it’s what you like. While this recipe calls for turkey and pepperoni, you can use any spicy and non-spicy meat combination here.
- As for what kind of lettuce to use, many shops traditionally use iceberg, but you can also use romaine lettuce if that’s what you prefer.
- The type of onion you want to use in your hoagie is up to you, too. Just be sure you slice your onions pretty thin. You may also choose to soak these onions slices in water first to tone down any residual bitterness.
- Oregano is an absolutely essential ingredient! Hoagies aren’t hoagies without it.
- If you’re feeling especially daring, try filling your hoagie with pickled hot peppers, pickles, roasted peppers, or roasted hot peppers. If you are a vegetarian, you can easily take out all the meats in this recipe and make a plain cheese hoagie, too.
The Philly hoagie’s sheer versatility is one of the reasons why it’s a beloved sandwich in the area.
- Cut one hoagie roll in half across its length. Make sure you do not cut all the way through, but just enough to fully open the loaf and stuff it with ingredients.
- Drizzle your extra virgin olive oil lightly over each half of your hoagie loaf. Make sure the oil is properly absorbed into the bread before adding any more ingredients.
- Add enough Deli American cheese slices to cover the inside of each bread half.
- Add the meats of your choice on top of the cheese slices. If you’re making a vegetarian hoagie, just skip this step.
- Add the rest of the ingredients in the order they’re listed above. If you choose to add red or white wine vinegar, make sure to only include a few dashes to your sandwich.
- Close your hoagie up and cut it in half.
Here’s another example of a Philly hoagie recipe.
Authentic Italian Hoagie Recipe
- 2 (12-inch) Italian-style rolls.
- 1/4 pound of boiled ham.
- 1/4 pound of capicola.
- 1/4 pound of provolone cheese.
- 1/4 pound of Genoa salami.
- 2 cups of shredded iceberg lettuce.
- 1 large tomato.
- 1 white onion.
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil or canola oil.
- 4 teaspoons of red wine vinegar.
- Italian oregano.
- Hot and/or sweet peppers (optional).
If you want to make an absolutely authentic Italian hoagie, hold the mustard, mayonnaise, bacon, pickles, and sliced avocado.
Feel free to put in as much meat and cheese as you like, but just know that 1/4 pound of each meat and cheese thinly-sliced will yield two well-proportioned hoagies.
- Slice the rolls horizontally. Much like with a Philly hoagie, you must be careful not to cut the loaves completely in half. Open up the rolls enough so you can start layering your ingredients.
- Layer on four thin slices of ham, capicola, provolone cheese, and Genoa salami – in that order.
- Top it all off with your veggies, one tablespoon of the oil of your choice, two teaspoons of vinegar on each bread half, salt, pepper, and oregano. If you want, feel free to add in some peppers, too.
- Slice and serve.
Whether you enjoy a classic Philly hoagie or a good, old-fashioned Italian hoagie, there’s no denying that these sandwiches are pretty delicious.
What’s your favorite hoagie recipe?