Achieving widespread US popularity, the ‘panino’ or Italian sandwich is known, more commonly, in English by its plural form ‘panini’. The difference between a panini and a regular sandwich is that it’s grilled, has ridges and the sandwich ingredients melt or fuse together, giving delicious flavor and texture to the filling. Panini sandwiches do not need additional butter or oil for grilling and a panini does not need to be turned over, the press does the work.

Panini are easy to make and can be made with any variety of food desired. Served with a salad or soup, a panini can make a complete, fast and healthy meal, eaten any time of the day.

The Panini Grill

A panini grill is very much like a waffle iron, where heat is applied from the top and bottom to cook both sides evenly. Unlike a waffle iron, the panini grill has a larger hinge to accommodate thick bread or flat buns. A panini grill usually has ridges on the top and bottom grilling surface and this creates the signature grilling lines.

If you do not have a panini maker, a George Foreman Grill will make a great panini, but make sure the grill is heated prior to using.

On the stove: Preheat a skillet with butter or oil to medium low. Add your sandwich, then press a heavy pan on top to weigh it down. Cook until golden and crisp, 3 to 4 minutes per side.

Here is how to make your own panini:

There is no one traditional type of bread used for panini, but generally the most popular are ciabatta, focaccia and sourdough. The most important requirement is that your bread be sliced thick enough so that the sandwich can be grilled.

You can use whatever filling you’d like, but here are some suggestions:

  • Italian cold cuts, peppers, mozzarella cheese, anchovies
  • Chicken, cheese, spinach
  • Cooked bacon, scrambled eggs, cheese
  • Leftover turkey or chicken, mayonnaise, cranberry sauce, Monterey-jack cheese
  • Sliced ham, provolone cheese, tomatoes, Dijon mustard
  • Sliced tomatoes, basil, mozzarella cheese
  • Grilled vegetables (red pepper, zucchini, mushrooms, onions) cheese
  • Brush one side of the bread with fig jam or jam of choice. Fill with sliced apple and manchego cheese.
  • Dijon mustard, shredded gruyere cheese, sliced roast beef, caramelized onions

Basic Directions:

Slice or use pre-sliced cheese.

Spread bread with condiments, if using.

Lay cheese on one bread slice.

Slice any other ingredients and place on top of the cheese.

Cover with another slice of bread spread with coniment of choice.

Place onto a preheated panini grill. Grill for 2 to 4 minutes.

Open the panini maker and check to see if the ridges are well-formed, the cheese is melted properly and the bread is toasted.

Remove the sandwich from the panini machine and cut in half.

Here are some panini for you to make. After that – use your ceativity.

Turkey Breast with Roasted Peppers and Mozzarella 

Makes 4 sandwiches

Ingredients:

  • Kosher salt
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless turkey breast
  • 8 slices sourdough bread
  • 1/4 cup basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup jarred roasted peppers
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella or buffalo mozzarella, sliced

Directions

In a large saucepan, bring 8 cups water to a gentle simmer. Generously salt water. Add thyme, rosemary, bay leaves and black pepper. Add turkey and simmer until breast registers 160 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer. Remove from heat and let turkey cool in liquid. Store turkey in liquid, covered and refrigerated, until ready to use.

Preheat a panini press according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Remove turkey breast from poaching liquid and thinly slice; divide evenly among 4 slices of bread. Top with peppers, basil leaves and mozzarella.

Sandwich with remaining 4 slices of bread and place on the panini press. Close the lid and apply slight pressure; cook until bread is golden and cheese is melted, 5 to 8 minutes. If bread is sticking to the press, continue to cook and bread will unstick itself. If press is generating more heat from the bottom, flip the sandwich halfway through cooking.

Remove sandwich from press and cut in half before serving.

Steak and Cheese Panini

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 lb flank steak
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large vidalia onions, cut into 1/2 inch slices
  • 6 focaccia rolls or bread
  • 12 slices white cheddar cheese

Directions:

Sprinkle steak with salt and pepper on both sides. Place in a sealable plastic bag. Add garlic, lemon juice and olive oil. Seal bag. Shake until ingredients are evenly distributed. Place in the refrigerator for a 1/2 hour.

Preheat a panini grill.

In a large nonstick pan over medium-high heat, heat 1 tablespoon of the marinade from the bag with the steak. Add steak to the pan and saute until medium rare, 5-7 minutes per side. Remove steak from pan and let rest on a cutting board for 10 minutes.

Add onions to the pan with any remaining marinade. Saute until onions are soft and translucent, 8-10 minutes.

Cut the steak into thin slices across the grain. Put 5 to 7 thin slices of steak on each roll. Top each sandwich with onions and cheddar cheese.

Place the sandwich in the panini press and cook until the cheese melts.

Serves 6

Everything or Anything Panini

4 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 large onions, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 slices Swiss cheese
  • 1/2 pound thinly sliced deli ham
  • 1 large tomato, sliced
  • 8 garlic-flavored sandwich pickle slices
  • 8 slices Italian bread (1/2 inch thick)

Directions:

In a large skillet, saute onions in oil until softened. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes or until deep golden brown.

Layer the cheese, ham, tomato, pickles and caramelized onions on four bread slices; top with remaining bread.

Cook on a panini maker for 3-4 minutes or until bread is browned and cheese is melted. Yield: 4 servings.

Chicken Pesto Panini

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 focaccia bread, quartered
  • 1/2 cup prepared basil pesto
  • 1 cup sliced cooked chicken
  • 1/2 cup sliced green bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup sliced red onion
  • 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Directions::

Preheat a panini grill.

Slice each quarter of focaccia bread in half horizontally. Spread each half with pesto. Layer bottom halves with equal amounts chicken, bell pepper, onion and cheese. Top with remaining focaccia halves, forming four sandwiches.

Grill paninis 5 minues in the preheated grill,or until focaccia bread is golden brown and cheese is melted.

Tuna Melt Panini

4 Servings

 Ingredients:

  • Two 6-ounce cans albacore tuna
  • 1/4 cup finely diced red onion
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon minced basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 ciabatta rolls, split
  • Dijon mustard for spreading
  • Eight 1/4-inch-thick slices of Swiss or cheddar cheese (6 ounces)
  • Sixteen 1/8-inch-thick lengthwise slices of kosher dill pickles

Directions:

In a medium bowl, mix the tuna with the onion, olive oil, vinegar, basil and crushed red pepper. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Heat a panini press.

Spread the cut sides of the rolls with mustard and top each roll half with two slices of cheese. Spread the tuna mixture on top of the cheese and cover with the pickles. Close the sandwiches.

Add the sandwiches to the press and grill until the cheese is melted, about 6 minutes. Cut the sandwiches in half and serve.

Red Pepper, Egg and Provolone Panini

2 servings

In the south of Italy, egg and bell pepper sandwiches are a classic. For variety, add some sautéed or grilled red onion slices.

Ingredients:

  • 4 (1/2-inch thick) Sicilian-style sesame semolina bread or Italian bread of choice
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 1/2 cup jarred roasted red peppers, drained and sliced
  • 2 ounces sharp Provolone cheese, sliced
  • 1 ounce Parmesan cheese, sliced

Directions:

Preheat panini grill or stovetop griddle pan.

In a small bowl, beat eggs, oregano, salt and pepper with a fork. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and add a little olive oil. Add egg mixture. Cook, lifting the edges with a fork, 2 to 3 minutes or until set.

Divide eggs, peppers and cheeses between 2 slices of bread. Top with remaining bread slices

Place on panini grill and cover. Grill 5 minutes until golden and cheese starts to melt.

And For Dessert

Chocolate Panini

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 4 slices challah or whole wheat bread or bread of choice
  • 2 ounces Nutella

Directions:

Form 2 sandwiches with the bread and Nutella

Transfer to a hot panini press and cook until the bread is golden and the chocolate has melted, 2 to 3 minutes.

(Alternatively, cook the sandwiches in a hot grill pan, turning once and pressing down frequently.)

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