Panini: fast food, Italian-style

OK, algebra lovers, here’s an equation for you:

3x + 3y + (1z /8) = 4p. When x = peppers, y = mushrooms, and z = bread, what does p =?

Give up?

Panini!

Panini is the Italian version of an American grilled cheese sandwich (or a French croque monsieur): two pieces of bread, filling, grilled or griddled to warm/melt what’s inside.

I.e., comfort food at its best.

While we don’t generally think of grilling sandwiches (beyond cheese) in this country, it’s a fairly commonplace practice in Italy, where panini are offered in versions as basic as tomato, basil, and mozzarella; or as deluxe as yellowfin tuna, olives, artichokes, baby greens, and tapenade.The panino is Italy’s favorite fast food, available 24/7 in bars, trattorias—even on the Autostrade, Italy’s superhighway.

While panini haven’t caught on in this country to the degree that pizza has, they’re gradually becoming more well-known. A panini craze several years ago spiked consumer interest in the panini grill, a ridged sandwich press designed to produce panini’s signature grill marks. While a panini grill makes panini easy, it’s certainly not a necessity; you can grill panini in a frying pan or on a griddle as you would any grilled sandwich.

So now, while farmers’ markets are swinging into gear and beautiful weather (plus long evenings) make quick and easy dinners enticing, consider panini. Once you’ve got your ingredients assembled, panini are faster than burgers—and much more versatile.

Speaking of nice weather, let’s get outside and grill some veggies for Grilled Summer Vegetable Panini.

img_6872.JPG

This recipe should start with a trip to the farmstand, or your favorite produce market. I picked up some good-looking bell peppers, and a few Portobello mushrooms.

img_6875.JPG

Next step: light the grill. I don’t bother scraping the gills out of the mushrooms, as most recipes ask you to do. Just spray whatever veggies you’re grilling with olive oil spray, and lay on a hot grill. Any smoke the veggies generate adds extra flavor.

img_6879.JPG

Turn the vegetables frequently, especially the peppers; you want them to char all over (the peppers, not the mushrooms). These mushrooms are ready to come off the grill…

img_6882.JPG

…but the peppers need a bit longer. Ah! Now they’re ready.

img_6893.JPG

Remove the peppers from the grill, put them in a bowl, and cover tightly with plastic wrap. They’ll create their own steam bath.

img_6894.JPG

When they’re cool enough to handle, remove the plastic wrap. The steam will have made their skins loosen up a bit.

img_6895.JPG

Skin the peppers; the skin will come off in shreds and, when you’re lucky, in sheets.

img_6898.JPG

Discard the skin and seeds. What you have left is tasty roasted pepper.

img_6899.JPG

Slice the roast pepper in strips, and cut the mushrooms in strips, too. A scissors is a handy tool for this.

img_6903.JPG

Now there’s a good-looking melange of smoke-roasted veggies, eh?

img_7273.JPG

Add salty capers…

img_7274.JPG

…and pitted Kalamata olives, which you’ve cut into coarse pieces. There’s that scissors again…

img_7275.JPG

Toss everything together with chopped garlic.

img_7282.JPG

And there’s your sandwich filling. This can be made ahead and refrigerated.

img_7284.JPG

Next, the bread. I’ve chosen a Rustic Sourdough. It’s a nice size and shape of loaf for panini.

img_7285.JPG

Cut two slices, and brush one side of each slice with olive oil.

img_7286.JPG

Pick your favorite cheese. I’ve chosen a nice Vermont herbed goat cheese; it just feels right to me, with the sourdough and roasted vegetables.

img_7287.JPG

Cut slices…

img_7289.JPG

…and spread (or layer) on the non-oiled sides of the bread.

img_7295.JPG

Spread roasted vegetables on one slice of bread…

img_7297.JPG

…and baby spinach, or your favorite greens, on the other.

img_7298.JPG

Sandwich together. Make sure the oiled sides of the bread are on the outside. Repeat the process to make more sandwiches; you’ll get 4 or 5 sandwiches out of this amount of filling and cheese.

Now you’re ready to grill. A panini press generally only takes a few minutes to preheat, so you don’t need to worry about planning too far ahead.

img_7303.JPG

If you have a panini grill or press, use it. If not, you can accomplish the same thing on a stovetop griddle or in a frying pan; you just won’t get the nice grill marks.

img_7307.JPG

Close the press, and grill till the interior of the sandwich is hot, the cheese is melting, and the bread is hash-marked and toasty.

img_7310.JPG

Like this.

img_7320.JPG

Cut sandwiches in half to serve.

img_6887.JPG

So, since the grill was on anyway, and I had some fresh asparagus, I decided to throw it on. Drizzle with olive oil first.

img_6889.JPG

Next, place on the grill, spread out as much as possible, so each piece is lying directly on some hot metal.

img_6891.JPG

Turn frequently. If your grill has a cover, use it; the asparagus will cook a bit faster.

img_6892.JPG

Remove when limp and beginning to brown. Salt to taste, and enjoy.

Read, rate, and review (please!) our recipe for Grilled Summer Vegetable Panini.

New to sourdough? Find the help you need for all of your sourdough baking at our Sourdough Essentials page.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel was born in Wisconsin, grew up in New England, and graduated from Brown University. She was a journalist in Massachusetts and Maine before joining the King Arthur Flour Company in 1990, where she's been ever since. Author or co-author of three King Arthur ...

comments

  1. Eve

    I do love the pastry/dessert recipes I read here, but I also really love the meal posts. This looks fantastic.

    Reply
  2. Mark

    The sandwich part of this post looks and sounds just heavenly.

    However, I do have to take issue with your instructions concerning asparagus. If they’re limp when you take ‘em off the grill, they’re overcooked. In my experience, I’ve found that a quick but HOT time spent on the grate is enough to get ‘em both cooked and still crunchy and firm. Anything more than a few (five at max, depending on how hot one’s grill gets) minutes on a piping hot grill is too much time and asking for limp and mushy results.

    Each to his own, Mark. Mine had a nice, crisp bite in the center, and I liked them just fine – PJH

    Reply
  3. Kate

    You can use your panini grill to ‘grill’ those veggies as well. I’ve done everything from asparagus to 1/2″ thick rounds o’ potatoes… I do use salt and olive oil on my non-stick grill because I like the taste.

    Then, when you’re all done with your veggies, you make your sandwich. The juices and extra salt/oil from the veggies makes a nice crust on the bread.

    A good way to remember the joys of summer grilling in the middle of the winter.

    Reply
  4. Sophia

    oh man…oh man….I’m mad abt this sandwich. Fast food style! Love it! All McDonald’s should have this on their dollar menus…

    Reply
  5. cindy leigh

    I love my panini press!
    In addition to sandwiches, I make egg rolls. Use your usual egg roll recipe but instead of frying in oil, brush sesame oil on the press and grill the egg rolls. They will obvoiusly be flatter than the typical egg roll, but they taste the same and are lower in fat. The flattened egg rolls look cool and are easy to eat. Nice and crisp.
    Makes me wonder what else I could put in an egg roll wrapper- maybe a mixture of cooked italian sausage and low fat cheese, with marinara for dipping? Kind of like toasted ravioli?
    You go , girl! What great ideas! Mary @ KAF

    Reply
  6. MaryJane

    SAVE SOME ASPARAGUS! A grilled pizza with caramelized onions, grilled asparagus and Italian sausage is one of the best pizzas you will ever have! Plus, even Miss Manners says it’s okay to eat asparagus with your fingers, so nibble away while your pizza is cooking. ~MaryJane

    Reply
  7. Erika

    The Panini looks great but I was dismayed that it took 20 pages to print it out. Is there a print version someplace that I missed? No recipe should take 20 pages.

    Alas, Erika, yes – you missed the recipe link at the end of the blog post. Go here: Grilled Summer Vegetable Panini – you’ll find an easy printable version, 1 or 2 pages. Sorry ’bout that! PJH

    Reply
  8. Federico

    Great pictures, but just a minor nit: “panini” in Italy may or may not be grilled…of course most people like to have them grilled.

    By the way, I just came back from Italy with what looks like a great baking book (check out the author’s web site, Italian master baker Giorilli at: http://www.giorilli.com/libri.htm) The catch is that all the flours used are rated according to their protein content with a “W” number (e.g. 280W). Is there a conversion or mapping that can be used to guestimate the “W” rating of King Arthur flours? This is apparently how flour is rated in Italy…

    Sorry, Federico, don’t know – please email our master baker, jeff.hamelman@kingarthurflour.com. PJH

    Reply
  9. linda

    About panini in general, last week we saw a book store snack bar employee put the sandwich in a sheet of parchment prior to grilling it in the panini maker. It still came out toasty and browned with the grid marks, but there was no cleanup of melted cheese, etc. Has anyone experience with this? Would the KAF half sheets of parchment work in this way?’

    Great idea, and yes, our parchment would work fine. You’d want to cut it in half or even quarters, I’d guess. Thanks for sharing, Linda- PJH

    Reply
  10. johndanks

    The RSS feed seems to be broken. I haven’t seen any new posts since July 7th.

    It’s because the last three posts have been reposts of older blogs, John, and they wouldn’t appear again in RSS. The next new post that should appear will be next Tuesday – stay tuned… PJH

    Reply
  11. catieartist

    Taught by an Italian neighbor, my mother always brushed the interior of sub/similar sandwiches with oil and even sprinkled, on that, some poppy seed for flavor and crunch. The ingredients didn’t soak in, and kept their fresh flavor when eaten. I noticed the goat cheese is sitting on the bread, not soaked in when melted, and the lettuce looks pretty good even after the grill. It looks mouth watering.

    I love grilled asparagus too, and wanted to ask about the grill you used. It looked electric (easy to use) and just the right size for one person. Can you tell me what brand, size, or type it is, as I am looking for something I can use. You keep it in one place and don’t have to move it in and out? (I hope). Do you use anything (wood chips, etc.) for smoky flavor?

    I gave my expensive Panini maker away as it was too heavy for me to maneuver, and do not have enough counter space to keep it out. But I bet I could toast a sandwich on the grill..hmm?
    That is a good tip about the extra crunch! PJ will have to tell us what grill she used. PJ? Elisabeth

    I used an electric grill – unfortunately, it was so old I have no clue what kind it was, and it’s since bit the dust… sorry! PJH

    Reply
  12. hdamon

    Yummy idea – thanks for the reminder. A couple thoughts – there is really no need to peel the peppers, the skin gets tender and you get the additional fiber. This is also delicious made with eggplant or zucchini slices.
    We have been grilling scallions (green onions) lately, just the way you did the asparagus, absolutely delicious!
    Thanks for promoting veggies with all the other good ideas you have. Hope
    Interesting. I have always peeled my peppers. Maybe not anymore! Thanks, Elisabeth

    Reply
  13. farahsha

    i have recently subscribed to this site .. this is the recipe i have read… it looks delicious … i’ll try this out soon

    Welcome, Farahsha! PJH

    Reply

Post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *