The Perfect Pesto Panini

A good panini is worth paying for, but I also have found that a good panini can be easily made at home!

Before you begin making the best sandwich, there are some things to think about:

First, you need to decide what kind of panini you’re in the mood for. Smoky? Savory? Zesty? This will determine picking the best deli meat and cheese. Advice: get to know the meats at your local grocery store. I always go to Stanley’s.

Next, spreads. Remember, this also will go with the overall flavor you’re trying to achieve. If you’re making your own, like we do with pesto, consider using specialty ingredients like smoked salt flakes to up the complexity.

Then, add-ons. Fresh tomatoes, cucumber, peppers, or any other vegetable that sounds good and balances out the other flavors.

Finally, bread. If you don’t have good bread, it doesn’t matter what you put in the middle. Go for thicker slices and a sturdier bread like sourdough, challah, or brioche. For this recipe, sourdough is your best choice.

It’s a lot to think about, but it pays off – and then you can impress all your friends with the best sandwich. Ever.

Ingredients for the Pesto Panini:

For the pesto:

  • Basil leaves
  • Pine nuts
  • 2-3 tablespoons (more or less) olive oil
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1/2 cup (more or less, depending on preference) grated Parmesan

In the sandwich:

  • Sourdough bread
  • Pesto
  • Honey ham, sliced thin
  • Smoked chicken breast, sliced thin
  • Prosciutto, sliced thin
  • Sharp cheddar
  • Tomato slices

Making Pesto:

In a small skillet, heat the pine nuts to brown them and bring out the best flavor – just lightly roast them.

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In a food processor, pulse the basil leaves with about a tablespoon of the oil. Once ground, add the pine nuts and pulse again. Add another tablespoon or so of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pulse.

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Taste and then add salt or oil as necessary for flavor and consistency. Most likely the mixture won’t be super green, depending on your ratio of pine nuts and basil leaves.

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Transfer the mixture to a small mixing bowl and fold in the grated Parmesan cheese with a rubber spatula. Use as a spread for sandwiches or mix with chicken in pasta! Remember – you can easily add more olive oil to create a more “sauce like” mixture, rather than a paste, and pretty much everything can be measured differently according to your taste! Have fun with creating your own recipe!

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Making the panini:

Use the pesto to “glue” the tomato slices in place, and keep your cheese in the middle so that it doesn’t go too much over the edge. Heat a cast iron skillet to medium, lightly oil and then place the sandwich in the middle. Use a smaller skillet as a panini press to get even grilling. When the first side is brown, flip the sandwich and lightly press the other side until brown.

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Serve with a pickle or your favorite chips!

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Have a go-to sandwich you always make? Share!

Lydia Jane


In My Kitchen:

Food processor

Stainless mixing bowls

Rubber spatula

Cast iron skillets

Basting brush

8 thoughts on “The Perfect Pesto Panini

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