Sunrise Chef Robert Kowalske Serves Up Delicious Vegetarian Option Portabella Mushroom and Pesto Sandwich

Sunrise Senior Living  |  January 29, 2013

Everyone loves a good sandwich, but unfortunately, most have way too many carbohydrates to be considered a healthy option, and almost all of them contain meat. These were the factors involved in the predicament of chef Robert Kowalske, who was working on a fresh new menu at Sunrise at River Road in Tucson, Arizona.

Kowalske, whose dining team had been looking for a delicious and nutritious vegetarian option to add to the menu, delivered exactly that with his Portabella Mushroom and Pesto Sandwich. In addition to eliminating meat to cut down the saturated fat in this dish and appeal to vegetarian residents, Kowalske also trimmed down the bread, serving the sandwich open-faced to save on calories and carbs. 

The portabella mushroom makes a perfect stand-in for beef with its meaty texture. Unlike a hamburger patty, which has about 235 calories, 16 grams of fat and 76 milligrams of cholesterol, one portabella has 30 calories and no fat or cholesterol. The extra virgin olive oil used in this dish also ramps up the healthy, monosaturated fats that curb cholesterol while adding to the rich Mediterranean taste. The arugula brings even more flavor with a healthy dose of vitamins A, K and C as well as fiber, folate and other vitamins and minerals.

As residents of Sunrise at River Road would agree, this sandwich makes a perfect lunch!

Portabella Mushroom and Pesto Sandwich


1 portabella mushroom
4 ounces extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
salt and pepper
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 ounces arugula
3 ounces sun-dried tomatoes, softened
4 thick slices of red onion
4 ounces basil pesto
1 slice sourdough or focaccia bread
1 slice provolone cheese


Start by de-stemming the mushroom and cutting out its gills. Place the mushroom upside down on a baking sheet, then pour olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper over it. Roast in the oven for about 14 to 18 minutes, or until it's cooked. Heat a flat-top griddle on the stove and place the mushroom on it. Drizzle the remaining olive oil on the slice of bread and toast it on the griddle until crispy.

While the mushroom is still on the griddle, top it with sun-dried tomatoes and provolone, cooking until the cheese has melted. Smear the pesto on the toasted piece of bread and place the bread on a plate. Add the arugula and onion and then the mushroom. Drizzle the sandwich with balsamic vinegar before enjoying.