The Fabulous, Legendary Fried Provolone and Tomato Sandwich

October  4, 2022
5 Ratings
Photo by Armando Rafael
  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Makes 2 sandwiches
Author Notes

I was not a hugely adventurous eater in my grade school years until my friend Leah came along. Her parents were college professors and were both avid, adventurous cooks. Her dad had a lush garden and grew the most beautiful heirloom tomatoes—the first I had ever seen. I had eaten tomatoes before, but I never really loved them until I tasted these. And I’ll never forget the day he served them up in this sandwich.

We stood in his sun-dappled kitchen, cutting slices from a sturdy Italian loaf and slathering them with mayo as he stood at the stove, frying thick slices of provolone cheese in olive oil. It bubbled and sputtered and got a beautiful golden brown crust, giving off an almost bacon-y aroma. The fried cheese was carefully lifted from the pan, blotted gently on a paper towel, and then placed on the waiting bread slices. We then added slabs of salted tomato, then the top slices of the bread, and sat down at the table to eat. I think my toes curled—I’d never had anything like it.

Thirty-five years later, I still swoon over this sandwich, though I typically only make it once a year—fried cheese is a bit of an indulgence, after all. You really want to wait for great tomatoes, too—the ones at the farmers market in late summer are perfect for it, and if you can pluck a sun-warmed tomato from your garden, even better.

Test Kitchen Notes

WHO: Lastnightsdinner is a recovering picky eater who makes up for her refusal to bake with her cooking skills.
WHAT: Another good excuse to eat tomatoes off the vine.
HOW: Add pan-fried provolone cheese and salted tomato slices to mayonnaise-smeared bread. Take a moment to rejoice in the return of summer produce.
WHY WE LOVE IT: When heirloom tomatoes start returning to our local farmers market, we'll jump for joy, then set to making this sandwich immediately. The fat from the mayonnaise, oil, and cheese allow the natural sweetness of the tomato to shine without overpowering it. Our only advice: Buy another tomato and double the recipe. You won't be able to get enough. —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • 2 to 4 1/4-inch slices provolone cheese
  • 1 splash Olive oil for frying (doesn't have to be your best bottle)
  • 4 tablespoons your favorite mayonnaise, plus more as needed
  • 4 1/2-inch thick slices sturdy, country-style bread
  • 1 medium-sized ripe tomato, preferably heirloom
  • 1 pinch Flaky salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
  1. Add a thin layer of olive oil to the bottom of a heavy-bottomed skillet and heat until shimmering. Carefully add the slices of provolone and let them fry until crusty and golden on the outside but still gooey in the center, about 2 to 3 minutes total, carefully flipping them halfway through. (Flipping them is tricky and messy, and you'll probably curse my name, but it can be done—just be careful not to splatter yourself. Using a nonstick pan is also helpful.) Once it's done, carefully remove it from the pan, allowing any excess oil to drip back into the pan, and blot it gently on a paper towel.
  2. Spread the mayonnaise evenly across four slices of bread, adding more as desired. Core the tomato and cut it into 4 slices. Place the fried cheese on 2 of the slices of bread, layer 2 tomato slices on each piece of bread, sprinkle with salt and pepper, then top with the 2 remaining slices of bread. Grab lots of napkins and dig in.
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14 Reviews

Jacob C. August 27, 2016
You should try Scamorza cheese with this recipe, it fries better in opinion. You can find it in a good Italian deli.
Courtney C. August 11, 2015
This was very tasty, but the provolone seized up after frying and was difficult to chew. I bought an aged provolone, which was likely the issue, so next time I think I'll sub with a softer deli provolone. Still, a very delicious sandwich.
Hermione May 28, 2015
Amazing! I love doing this with Halloumi cheese!
bluelizzy May 28, 2015
I've been doing this for years. If you use a nonstick pan you don't need any oil, just start it slowly and the fat in the cheese melts out. I even pat with a paper towel as I cook it so it does not wind up deep frying. It will get nice and crispy. The stronger the provolone, the better.
Sue O. May 27, 2015
love the idea of frying the cheese separately and then adding to a sandwich! Awesome here and congrats!
lastnightsdinner May 27, 2015
WHOA... wow!!! Thanks, for the Wildcard win, and for all of your kind words!
inpatskitchen May 27, 2015
YUM!! Congratulations on the Wildcard Win!
healthierkitchen May 27, 2015
Wow! So simple and so delicious!!
EmilyC May 27, 2015
Can't wait to try this -- congrats!
cookinginvictoria May 27, 2015
Fried provolone? Can't wait to make this, but I will wait for local, vine ripened tomatoes. Congrats on the Wildcard, Jen!!
JanetFL September 10, 2014
I think my toes will curl, too!
mrslarkin September 8, 2014
Oh, my. This is happening. Like right now. In my kitchen.
mrslarkin September 12, 2014
FYI i made these the other night and they were divine!! Loved by all.
fearlessem September 8, 2014
Holy moly, this sounds amazing. Yes please!