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The Perfect Panini

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Kelley Grant is a contributor on Work it Mom, and owner of The Grant Life

Paninis because they are like grilled cheeses for adults, only better. Way better. They are also a great meal to experiment with different flavors for your kids. There are only so many nights you can make a basic grilled cheese! Why not switch it up a little?

Paninis originated in Italy and were sandwiches made on sliced bread with deli ingredients and served warmed. Today the paninis we know and love are bursting with flavor and are made with a wide variety of ingredients. They are a great way to incorporate a bunch of random ingredients you have lying around in the fridge. The best part is they are simple to whip up, just follow these four steps.

Bread Selection
Bread type is important. Find a bread that stands on it’s own like focaccia, ciabatta or a whole grain baguette, for example. Avoid light, airy bread such as sourdough. It doesn’t grill as well and may become flattened and dry.

The second most important part of your perfect panini is your cheese.  Again, you can use any variety of cheese but make sure it compliments the bread and other ingredients.  Swiss, mozzarella and provolone are always great choices.  But if you want to kick it up a notch try a pepper jack or a muenster.  Or maybe your perfect panini has both!  The cheese is the starting point for your flavor combination that will happen on the inside of your panini.

More Ingredients, Please

So you’ve picked your perfect bread and cheese for your panini, now its time to add more filler with your other ingredients.  Common extras are meat and vegetables, like one of my favorites - the turkey, Swiss and avocado panini.  Its a great blend of flavors has all the basic ingredients.  Once you’ve mastered the more common fillers, its time to work on your panini masterpiece.  Add fruit, pesto or herbs, spreads or exotic jams to your sandwich.  There is no wrong way to create a panini, you just have to find a flavor combination that you love.

Let’s Press It Up
The great part about this last step in the perfect panini process is that its easy!  You can use a panini press if you have one or if you don’t there are other options in your kitchen.  I use my electric grill to toast my sandwich.  I have also used a griddle and just flipped it like a grilled cheese while pressing down on it with a spatula.  The main goal is to toast both sides of the bread and warm the inside of the panini.  Whatever you can find that does that will be good enough for the perfect panini!  Just don’t forget to butter your bread before you toast it!

And there you have it - the perfect panini.  Its a delicious, ooey gooey, flavor explosion of bread, cheese and careful selected ingredients all pressed and toasted to perfection!

Need some inspiration? Check out some of my favorites!

Caprese Panini With Prosciutto


  • 1 large focaccia bread
  • 1 C. Roasted Red Bell Pepper Tapenade (recipe below)
  • 3 green onions, washed, chopped
  • 1 Tbs. capers, rinsed and drained
  • 1 Tbs. chopped fresh oregano
  • 1/3 C. olive oil
  • 1/4 C. sherry wine vinegar
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 4 large ripe tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
  • 1 lb. fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 24 thin slices
  • 24 large whole basil leaves
  • 12 oz. thinly sliced prosciutto
  • 1/2 C. grated Parmesan cheese
  • Basil sprigs for garnish
Cut the focaccia in half horizontally and then into 6 equal squares. Remove the top 6 squares, leaving the focaccia in its original shape. Brush the inner sides of the top 6 squares with the tapenade. In a medium bowl whisk together the green onions, capers, oregano, olive oil, sherry wine vinegar, salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle the mix evenly over the bottom squares. Alternately layer the tomato slices, mozzarella, basil leaves and prosciutto, overlapping them on top of the bottom squares of focaccia. Top with the Parmesan cheese. Replacethe top squares of the focaccia and, following the cut marks on the top pieces as a guide, cut through the filling of the sandwiches. Separate into 6 individual servings, slice each on the diagonal and garnish each with a sprig of fresh basil. Serve immediately.
More Recipes:

Southwestern Cheese and Veggie Panini

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