In the United States the term panini has been adopted to refer to pressed and toasted sandwiches. The ‘panino’ or Italian sandwich is known more commonly in English by its plural form ‘panini’ and is achieving widespread US popularity in the new millennium! Traditionally, this sandwich is made by stuffing either a loaf of bread or two slices of hearty bread with meats, cheeses, vegetables, and any other additions that the cook chooses. The difference between a panini and a regular sandwich is that it’s grilled (often with ridges), and the sandwich ingredients melt or fuse together giving a delicious flavor and texture to any combination of foods.
I started with this awesome whole grain bread that is gluten free and made by Udi. It has bold, wholesome flavors. Italian types of this sandwich usually start with strong flavored meats such as salami and prosciutto and are often used with cheeses such as mozzarella, provolone or asiago; but you can really use anything that you like! Try grilled chicken, turkey, or roast beef, but keep in mind that the meat needs to be cooked before being placed in the sandwich because the grilling only heats it through, but does not actually cook anything. Use your imagination to add extra toppings. Some popular additions include spinach, fresh herbs like basil or pesto, soft cheese, roasted red peppers or tomatoes, olives, and or just about anything can be easily customized! Of course I looked around to see what ingredients I had on hand and came up with a couple of varieties for a recent girls night!
Hearty bread, I used udi whole grain gluten free
Butter, soft at room temperature
Honey Mustard (optional)
Cheddar or Colby Jack Cheese
Sun Dried Tomatoes
I just looked around my fridge and found some ingredients that I think would make a terrific sandwich. Honey mustard, left over caramelized onions, basil pesto, sun dried tomatoes, cheese, ham…. Heat the non stick skillet to hot as well as the press. I bought my cast iron “Bacon/Panini Press” off of Amazon. It is a heavy-duty cast iron base that has a unique hammered finish and features a safe “cool-grip” spiral handle. It is really perfect for steaks, burgers and sandwiches, or even pressing bacon. Once heated up, this little gem works perfect with my cast iron skillet grill top and bottom searing simultaneously.
Start by buttering the outside of the slices of bread with butter and/or mayo and season the inside with honey mustard, pesto, or whatever you like.
For this variety, I used slices of black forest ham, caramelized onions, shredded colby jack cheese and honey mustard.
Press the sandwich, butter sides out between the cast iron pan an the press and cook over medium heat until the sandwiches are heated through and the bread is toasted.
I flip the sandwich half way through and once they are browned, allowed them to cool on a rack so that the bread remained crispy.
For another variety, I layered the inside with basil pesto, caramelized onions, drained sun dried tomatoes and goat cheese.
Again, press the sandwich, butter sides out between the cast iron pan an the press and cook over medium heat until the sandwiches are heated through and the bread is toasted, flipping half way through the cook process.
Allow sandwiches to cool slightly and/or serve at room temperature. I sliced into small pieces to share as an appetizer and they were delicious the next day left over cold straight out of the fridge!