One of my go-to weekly meals is the panini sandwich. It is the perfect combination of a cold sandwich with the added comfort of a little heat. Brush a little butter or oil on the bread to create one of the best food experiences out there. Perfectly crunchy buttered bread on the outside, gooey melted goodness on the inside…need I say more?? Oh, and it is very easy to create, making it one of my easy under 10-minute meals for lunch or dinner.
For this recipe, I will teach you how to create the perfect panini using the Bull grill! By preheating the grill and using direct heat, you give the bread perfect grill markings and allow the cheese to do its magic and “hug” all the ingredients inside, slightly oozing its melted goodness out once taken from the grill and sliced to serve.
The panini in this recipe is one of my favorites, and it is a healthier vegetarian option. Also, if you are looking for a gluten-free version of the panini, use one of the numerous options available for gluten-free bread, like Udis. Otherwise, use the best tasting artisan bread from a local baker. This is the first step to a great grilled sandwich.
I am really excited for this recipe in particular because I will be sharing my pesto recipe that I hold close to my heart. While living in Italy, I decided to work on a cookbook. With this adventure, I was invited into strangers’ homes, people I didn’t even know, just to learn their recipes. It amazed me that they would share family secrets, and I was a complete stranger to them. With this said, many of you are strangers to me. I do not know every audience member who is reading my recipes/blog. Because I have such a passion for food and learning great recipes, I am excited to share my adventures in cooking with you.
While living in Cremona, I learned that making “fresh” pesto is a seasonal dish. I must say, summer basil has an aroma and flavor that are simply devine. In my third-floor Cremona apartment, large planters hung outside of my hundred-year-old windows. It looked like a beautiful bouquet of basil in the summer time. Every time I walked up the cobblestone entryway to my apartment, it was as though the basil were whispering in the warm summer breeze, “Amy….pesto tonight?”
This panini recipe combines my homemade pesto, paired with thick slices of ripe, local tomatoes, topped with fresh mozzarella. Take it up a notch, and add smoked mozzarella for additional flavor. Once summer is at its peak, and your vine-ripened tomatoes are ready to go, there is nothing better to add to the panini. What more could one ask for? The panini is a great way to use leftover ingredients while satisfying your cravings for a warm, delicious sandwich. There are various ways to make a panini/grilled sandwich; in a cast iron pan on top of the stovetop, or the oven combo method when making large amounts, in a panini machine, on the griddle, in the pizza oven, or in this case, on the gas grill bbq. Enjoy this recipe and have fun interchanging the ingredients to make the perfect panini sandwich your go-to meal!
Chef’s note: Use the Bull cast iron rectangular grill press to place on top of the sandwich, which gives it some weight and is also great for creating the perfect grill markings on the sandwich.
- For the pesto: makes about 2 cups
- 4 cups of fresh basil
- ½ pound parmesan cheese, cut up into chunks
- 4 large cloves garlic, peeled
- 4 tablespoons pine nuts
- ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1½ teaspoons sea or rock salt
- For the panini:
- 2 slices of bread (San Luis Obispo, California sourdough preferred)
- 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
- 3 slices Italian-style fontina cheese
- 2 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
- 3 slices vine-ripened tomatoes, about ¼” thick
- 2 tablespoons pesto
- Salt and pepper
- For the pesto: In a food processor, combine the parmesan cheese chunks, garlic, pine nuts and sea salt and process together, scraping down the sides with a rubber spatula.
- Once a textured paste forms, add the basil leaves and place the lid back on.
- While the processor is blending, slowly drizzle the oil in until a spreadable paste forms, pausing to scrape down the sides with the rubber spatula once or twice.
- Use immediately. Leftover pesto can be stored in a container, covered directly with plastic wrap to prevent browning (make sure the plastic wrap makes contact with the pesto). If stored properly, pesto will be good in the fridge for 6 days. To freeze, place in an airtight container for up to a couple of months.
- For the panini: Preheat the grill with medium-low heat.
- Brush the olive oil evenly onto 1 side of each bread slice, dividing evenly. Then place the 2 slices of bread olive oil side down, onto a clean cutting board.
- Spread the pesto onto both slices of the bread.
- Layer the fontina, tomato slices, salt and pepper, and mozzarella on top of one of the slices of bread with pesto.
- Finish by placing the other slice with the pesto bread, olive oil side up.
- Using a wide spatula, transfer the sandwich onto a tray and take it outside to the grill.
- Place the sandwich on the grill and place the Bull cast iron rectangular grill press on the sandwich. Cook until the bottom is nicely browned, about 4 minutes.
- Turn and cook the other side until browned and the cheese is melted, about another 4 minutes. If the heat needs to be adjusted, lower if needed.
- Cut the sandwich in half and serve immediately!