A super simple Italian panini that’s filled with fresh ingredients, melted mozzarella cheese, and a tasty lemon basil mayo.
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Break out the sandwich maker – it’s time for another panini. This one is super simple to make and full of flavor. Paninis are definitely one of my go-to meals. They don’t require a lot of advance planning and you can experiment with the ingredients and honestly I’ve never met a panini I didn’t like. I went the Italian route with this one. Some roasted red peppers, fresh mozzarella, spinach, and a lemon basil mayo. Mozzarella is one of the best cheeses to stick in a panini. The melt factor is stellar.
The first thing you want to do is to prepare the lemon basil mayo. That way the flavors can sit and marry for a bit. This is kind of an ‘all-purpose’ mayo. I use it on all kinds of sandwiches. It’s great on BLT’s, but that’s a post for another time. This sauce contains 1/3 cup mayo, 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice, 8 basil leaves, 1-2 cloves garlic, and a pinch of kosher salt. Stick all of the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until combined. I find that a small food processor works perfectly for this recipe, but a larger one could be used as well. The recipe could also be doubled for a larger quantity of sandwiches.
Next, you can prepare the other ingredients. I use fresh mozzarella for this sandwich. It’s the kind that comes in a ‘ball’ versus the kind that comes in a ‘block’. That kind of mozzarella would work as well, but the fresh mozzarella melts so nicely. And it’s available at most grocery stores nowadays. Just cut the mozzarella ball into slices. The other ingredients include roasted red peppers and fresh spinach. I used jarred roasted red peppers to save time. Roasted red peppers are one of those products that tastes equally delicious whether it is jarred or fresh. The jarred ones have a little more ‘tang’, which I find pretty tasty with this sandwich. Just take them out of the jar and cut into large slices.
Paninis are all about the bread and for this one I used ciabatta made by my friend Aaron. Aaron runs a local bread baking business and his stuff is out of this world. He focuses on European-style bread – ciabatta, foccacia, baguettes, fougasse – breads that I wouldn’t even begin to know how to make. I feel pretty grateful to know someone who truly loves making bread and doesn’t mind sharing it with carbaholics like me. Ciabatta really does lend itself to paninis, but any kind of bread would work just as well. Feel free to use whatever kind you have on hand. Just slice it in half and cut sandwich size portions.
After you have heated your panini-maker to medium high heat, spread a good amount of the lemon basil mayo onto one (or both) sides of the bread. Place a layer of mozzarella and a couple slices of roasted red pepper onto the bread. Stick the two sandwich slices together, make sure to spray the panini-maker with a non-stick cooking spray, and place the sandwich in the machine. In about 5-8 minutes, the melt-y goodness should be ready.
The cooking time will vary depending on the machine, but I like to wait until you get the grill marks on the bread and the cheese is all sticky. At this point, I open the sandwich and add the fresh spinach. This ensures that the spinach stays nice and crisp, as opposed to getting kind of wilty in the machine. This panini makes a great lunch or quick dinner. Serve it with a side, some chips, or just eat by itself. Try to eat just one – I bet you can’t.
Bread by Wenzel Baking.
- 1/3 cup mayo
- 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 8 leaves basil
- 1-2 cloves garlic
- Place all of the ingredients in a small food processor and pulse until combined.
- Cut the cheese and roasted red peppers into large slices.
- Spread lemon basil mayo on one or both sides of bread.
- Place cheese and roasted red peppers on bread.
- Place sandwich into pre-heated panini-maker. Spray with cooking oil first to prevent sticking.
- Cook sandwich on medium high heat for 5-8 minutes.
- Add fresh spinach to sandwich and cut in half.