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4.82 from 38 votes

Portillo's Italian Beef Hack

Most major cities in the U.S. have a sandwich that locals proudly claim as their own. For Chicagoans that sandwich is the Italian Beef. Thin-sliced roast beef is dunked in herbed gravy to soak up the flavor, then it's stacked on a warm Italian sandwich roll and topped with sweet peppers or spicy hot Giardiniera. The recipe may seem like a simple one, but if any component of this iconic sandwich isn't faithful to the Chi-Town original, true beef fanatics will cry "foul" quicker than bleacher bums at Wrigley field.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Total Time30 mins
Servings: 4
Author: Todd Wilbur



  • 1/4 pound beef fat trimmings
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 Knorr beef bouillon cubes (double-size cubes, or use 4 standard size)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Kitchen Bouquet Browning & Seasoning Sauce
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • Pinch of MSG

Rolls and Beef

  • 4 Turano, Gonnella, or Amoroso sandwich rolls
  • 1 pound roast beef, London broil or Italian style roast beef, sliced very thin

Optional Topping

  • Marconi hot giardiniera --or--
  • Cooked sweet peppers


  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Render the beef fat by chopping it into small bits (about the size of peas) with a food processor. Be sure the fat is very cold--it will chop better. If you don't have a food processor, you can chop the fat by hand. Use a sharp knife and cut it as small as you can. Heat up the fat in a sauté pan over medium heat until the bits are browned. Strain the solids from the fat and measure 1/4 cup of fat for the gravy.
  • Make the beef gravy by combining all of the ingredients, including the beef fat, in a medium saucepan over medium heat. When the mixture begins to boil reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes, then turn the heat to low.
  • Make the sandwiches by heating up the rolls in the hot oven for 3 minutes.
  • For each sandwich, drop 1/4 pound of sliced beef (separate the slices) into the gravy for 2 minutes. Make sure the gravy isn't boiling. It should be around 180 degrees F. After the beef has soaked in the gravy, use tongs to arrange the beef on a warmed sandwich roll and top with your choice of hot giardiniera or sweet peppers. Or both. Spoon on some extra gravy just before serving.


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