Today I thought I’d share how I make paninis, since multiple readers have been asking me about this.
Paninis are a great way to use up odds and ends of food (yay for avoiding food waste!)…you can use pretty much any combination of meats, vegetables, and cheeses and still end up with a tasty sandwich.
I don’t imagine that my method is THE correct panini-making method (if there is such a thing!), but it works for us.
I start with a loaf of homemade French bread.
You most certainly can use other breads, though…I’ve used sandwich bread and whole wheat bread in the past, and the sandwiches were delicious. And if you aren’t inclined to make your own bread, a sturdy purchased bread will work well too. Just make sure that the bread isn’t too soft, or it will squish down into nothingness when you try to make it into a panini.
I don’t actually own a panini-maker…I have a pan with ridges in the bottom that I got as a hand-me-down, so I put my sandwiches in that and I use a cast-iron skillet as a weight to do the, um, squishing.
I am sure there is a better term for that.
Anyway, while I’m prepping the sandwiches, I put both pans on the stove over medium heat.
I cut the bread into slices about 3/4 inch thick.
You can also slice the bread lengthwise, as I did in this older post (scroll down to see the sandwich). This is a little more authentic, I think, but we all kind of prefer our paninis to be made with regular slices of bread.
I lay my bread slices out and put sliced cheese on each piece of bread. You could put cheese on only one side but I find that having it on both sides helps the sandwich to stay together a little better.
After that, I add whatever filling I happen to have around.
Roast beef and mushrooms are my husband’s favorite.
I had sauteed peppers and onions left from our Chicken Tacos, so that’s what I put in mine.
Incidentally, I’m having a love affair with sauteed onions right now. I don’t really love raw onions, but my goodness! When they’re sauteed with a little butter and sprinkled with a bit of salt, they are so, so good.
Cilantro pesto with chicken makes a good filling (I usually add some mayo when I use that combo), and so do ham and cheese. In the summer, I like to combine chicken, fresh, seeded tomato slices, sauteed onion, and basil. And of course, just cheese works very well too.
Anyhow. I close up the sandwich and then butter both sides of the sandwich.
I then place the sandwich(es) into the heated grill pan.
And I put the heated cast iron pan right on top of the sandwiches. This would work a little bit better if I had a larger cast-iron pan, but my other one is so big, it won’t fit into my grill pan.
I cook the sandwiches for 3-5 minutes, or until they look browned, and then I flip them over, place the cast iron skillet back on top, and cook them until the cheese is melted and the underside is browned.
So tasty! I kind of want one for breakfast now (speaking of which, you can make paninis with eggs and cheese for breakfast).
If you don’t own a ridged pan, you can make your paninis in a regular, flat frying pan. Just use something heavy (bricks wrapped in foil work as well as a heavy pan) to weigh the sandwiches down.
Of course, there’s also the option of buying a real panini press (if you want to go that route, Cook’s recommends a Krups version for $73), but since using what you already have is free, I’d recommend giving that a try first.
How do you make paninis? If you’ve got another alternate cooking method, do share! And if you’ve discovered a particularly tasty filling combination, share that too…I’m always looking for new panini ideas.