Raise your hand if Italian Dunkers day was like totally your favorite lunch in school growing up (Sarah raises both hands); me too guuuyys! I knew we were meant to be friends.
What is there not to love about this lunch? Warm, melty, garlic laced, cheese-buried bread dipped in sweet & spicy marinara sauce; you are my food dreams come to life. The truth is, while I love pizza something fierce, all I really want when we order it is the garlic bread. Gimme alllll the cheese laden bread. You can keep your fancy toppings and circular pies, I just want crunchy bread loaded with garlic and cheese thank you very much.
Real-life check in: (I hope you guys are cool with how often I veer onto personal tangents…) I turned 29 on Monday, my twenties are almost over – crazy right?
I don’t think being 29 has fully sunken in yet, especially when I consider that this time next year I’ll be 30 – what?! 30 sounds like such a legitimate grown-up age; it feels like yesterday that I was just an idealistic college kid, and not too long before that when I was a confused teenager eating Italian Dunkers in the good old Minnetonka High School cafeteria. (Go Skippers anyone? Least intimidating High School mascot ever.)
I hope recreating my favorite school lunch doesn’t look like denial rearing its ugly head, I’m not really that stressed about getting older, it’s mostly just dumbfounding to consider the kind of milestones I’ll (hopefully) be encountering in the next decade of my life, things like: buying our first house, starting a family and then attempting to raise quality little people, finally paying off my student loan debt (hallelujah!)… legit. adult stuff people.
So no, I’m not Peter Panning my escape from adult responsibilities with this cozy childhood lunch. I’m just growing nostalgic for the days when this time of year meant things like picking out a new backpack or breaking into a fresh set of makers, and I can think of no better cure for a bout of nostalgia than heart warming food. What we eat is one of the most basic ways that we connect ourselves to experiences, and I think cooking is the quickest way to recreate and remember the people, places, things, and feelings that we might miss.
Okay, I think that’s enough waxing poetic for today, let’s get down to this versatile and simple recipe. It’s essentially just the childhood version you remember with elevated ingredients to really let it sing. Please feel free to customize this dish to your heart’s content; add meat to the sauce or bread, top with veggies, mix some spinach in with the cheese, go crazy!
This meal should be an easy weeknight winner, throw together the sauce, as it simmers assemble the bread, then do your best to wait patiently for dinner as the kitchen begins to smell like sweet tomatoes, baking garlic, toasted bread and melted cheese.
Embrace some nostalgia my friends and whip yourself up some Grown-Up Italian Dunkers, then you can join me in forgetting about actual grown-up stuff for a little while – or in the least, for just one meal.
- 1 Baguette (I like to use the 'take and bake' kind)
- ¾ C Mozzarella cheese
- ¾ C Asiago/Parmesan cheese blend
- 3 Tbsp Unsalted butter
- ⅓ C Mayonnaise
- 2 Cloves of garlic (minced)
- 1 Tbsp Chives (chopped or dried)
- Salt & pepper to taste
- 15oz Can tomato sauce
- 15oz Can whole plum tomatoes
- 1 Tbsp Brown sugar
- ½ Tsp Garlic powder
- ½ Tsp Onion powder
- ½ Tsp Dried oregano
- ½ Tsp Dried basil
- Salt & pepper to taste
- Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees; cut the baguette in half, then slice each piece in half again and place on a baking sheet.
- Bring the whole tomatoes and sauce to a boil over medium heat, as they warm use a potato masher to break up the plum tomatoes. Add the sugar, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, basil, salt, and pepper to the sauce.
- As the sauce simmers for 20 minutes put together the cheese mixture; begin by softening the butter for about 45 seconds in the microwave and mincing the garlic.
- Stir together the butter and mayonaise, then mix in the garlic, chives, salt, pepper, and cheese.
- Spread the cheese over each baguette half and bake until it is melted and golden around the edges (about 5-7 minutes). Serve warm with the marinara sauce on the side for dipping.