My grand kids and I drove down to my mom and dad’s house this weekend to help decorate for Christmas (it’s impossible to be ready for Christmas too early). On the menu—Panini. In Italy Panini, or Italian sandwiches, are usually served in small eateries or food bars. The ingredients of Panini reflect local culinary preferences. You can have anything you want on Panini, and we do.
We didn’t make our own Panini until after we returned from a trip to Italy several years ago. We were walking around the streets of Rome sight-seeing and eventually stopped for lunch. We usually ate pasta or pizza for lunch while in Italy that week, but we had Panini that particular day. I had a Panini Pomodorini—slices of mozzarella and thinly sliced tomatoes slightly toasted on Italian bread. We’ve made Panini ever since we returned from vacation.
My dad is the Panini chef in our family. He begins with loaves of fresh-baked bread, adds basil and sliced fresh mozzarella, followed by two or three slices of thinly sliced meat, and tops it off with a final layer of mozzarella. When it’s all assembled, he presses the Panini until the bread is toasty and slightly brown. We never have leftovers.
- One long loaf of Italian, Cuban, or French bread or baguette
- 18 slices fresh mozzarella
- 12 slices of either pepperoni, prosciutto, hard salami, speck ham, capicola, or tavern ham
- 2 vine ripe tomatoes (nine slices), thinly sliced
- basil herb blend (comes in a tube and is usually sold in the market produce section)
- Salt and pepper
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- Slice bread in thirds and then slice each third in half. Brush olive oil on the inside of each slice of bread.
- Spread about ¼ teaspoon of basil herb blend on each slice of bread. Add three slices of mozzarella, four slices of meat, and three slices of tomato. Add salt and pepper to taste then add three slices of mozzarella on top of the tomatoes. Top with bread. Brush top and bottom of sandwich with olive oil.
- If using a panini press, add two or three panini, close lid and press until bread is toasty, about 7-9 minutes. You can also press panini using a cast iron grill with a press. Let panini cool slightly and cut each sandwich into thirds.