Pan Bagnat, or ‘Smashed Tuna Sandwich’

July 7, 2013



Long ago on The Splendid Table I heard a lovely story from a lady about how her family would visit the beach and take a picnic lunch. Her favorite part of the trip was the sandwich her mom made, which involved tuna, chopped olives and other stuff, then putting in on the bread, wrapping it up, and then she (as a kid) would sit on it in the car to smash it. That was hilarious to me!

Well, I had a hankering to make it. I briefly looked up what I could remember, and then made a wrong-ish version. Apparently this would be more true-to-form if the ingredients were more separate, but I don’t care. I liked it, so I’m going to write down what I did so I can maybe make it again sometime.

Dear Lauren:

One can of tuna makes half a loaf. Go ahead and make two, since you have all the stuff out anyway. You can eat it tomorrow.

In a cup, squirt about a tablespoon of basil paste (they didn’t have fresh basil), a couple tablespoons of olive oil, a tablespoon or two of red wine vinegar, some salt & pepper, some garlic powder (you’re out of garlic), and a dab of mustard. Stir it all together.

Drain the tuna and give the cats the juice. Call it ‘soup’. Open up the kalamata olives. Notice that there is a bit of fuzz on the top of one. This was a bum jar, but Lloyd says ‘just toss out the gross one and proceed’. If you wake in the night with stomach cramps, this is totally his fault.  Also open the roasted red peppers. Marvel that you have never before bought these two ingredients and declare that this better be a dang good sandwich or this is some expensive garbage. Chop some up. Also chop up some red onion, and some sugar snap peas since the recipes recommend cucumber and you don’t have any. We’re going for some crunch.


Ok. Mix all that together with the vinaigrette.  Is that really how you spell vinaigrette? Huh.

Cut the bread and hollow it out a bit. Spread the mixture all over, wrap it in foil, then mash it down.


To clean the bowl, use some bread guts to mop up the bits. Declare it delicious! It’s slightly sour, which is my favorite.


I let it sit on the counter for a half-hour, then put it in the fridge for the afternoon.


The bottom gets kind of soggy and soft, but it’s ok! You are strong and brave, and if you cut the sandwich into narrow strips, you barely have to handle that part.


About Lauren

Lauren Sommerer is a preschool teacher who likes to build prototypes, grow cats, cook things once, save money, reduce, reuse and recycle.

View all posts by Lauren

3 Responses to “Pan Bagnat, or ‘Smashed Tuna Sandwich’”

  1. Brad Said on:

    I had to go to the internet to see why you would smash a sandwich. It seems to go against all the rules of sandwich-making. The internet said that since the ingredients are all small and chopped up, smashing the sandwich helps them stick all together so the sandwich doesn’t fall apart while you’re eating it.


  2. Peggy Said on:

    Thanks for looking that up Brad because I was wondering the same thing. Now would that work for a Sloppy Joe sandwich….I always have trouble with that staying together….but dang, I don’t think so.

    The men in my house do make grilled cheese sandwiches by using the smashing method. They’re too lazy to get out a pan etc. so they just toast bread, put the cheese on & smash it down with the palm of their hand.


  3. Jane Sommerer Said on:

    I think I would like it better unsmashed but if it brought back memories that would be different.


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