If you’re looking to sink your teeth into a sandwich that is simultaneously crunchy, gooey, fresh and herby (is that a word?), then this Caprese panini sandwich just might be exactly what you’re looking for. It was inspired by the simple classic Italian salad that is usually nothing more than fresh mozzarella and basil sitting on a bed of tomatoes and simply dressed with salt and olive oil. It doesn’t get any easier than that. Plus it’s a flavor combination that works.
This summer I decided to grow my own herbs to save money and always have fresh herbs handy. I started with basil because it’s so tasty in so many things, plus, fresh pesto anyone? I’m still learning how to be a successful gardener, but if you would like to read some helpful articles about how to propagate basil from cuttings and how to grow pest-free, healthy basil then I suggest you pay Chris and Scott a visit over at The Cafe Sucre Farine. I first discovered their blog when I was looking for tips for growing basil a few months back and I just pretty much stuck around because their blog is so wonderful. I hope you will pay them a visit and say hello!
If you don’t have a panini press, no worries! I made my sandwich in a grill pan that I picked up at my local thrift store for just a few dollars. To make a panini in a grill pan, heat your pan on medium heat, lay your sandwich down in the pan, cover it with a fresh piece of aluminum foil and place a heavy skillet or dutch oven on top to weigh it down. Let cook for 3-4 minutes. Turn sandwich over and repeat. Easy peasy. A few words of caution: do make sure you wipe out the pan after grilling the tomatoes and before grilling the sandwich. If you don’t wipe out the pan, your sandwich may burn.
I love this recipe because it makes just enough to serve two people. It’s perfect for smaller families – young couples just starting out, single people, empty nesters. Simple and satisfying, this panini sandwich delivers on both taste and presentation. It makes for the perfect summertime lunch!
Caprese Panini Sandwich
- 1/2 cup Spanish olives
- 1/2 tsp. minced garlic 1 clove
- 2 tsp. sundried tomato pesto
- 1/4 cup pine nuts lightly toasted
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 2 tomatoes cored and halved
- 2 tbsp. olive oil extra virgin
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1/8 tsp. pepper
- 4 slices crusty bread 1/2-inch thick
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
For olive tapenade:
- Spread pine nuts on a cookie sheet and toast under broiler for 1-3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add olives, garlic, pesto and pine nuts to food processor. Pulse until chopped fine.
- With the food processor running, slowly add olive oil. Set tapenade aside.
- If you do not have a panini press preheat a grill pan over medium heat for 1-2 minutes. (Droplets of water should just sizzle when flicked onto pan.)
- Toss tomatoes, 1 tbsp. oil, salt and pepper together.
- Place tomatoes cut side up in pan, cover with fresh aluminum foil and weigh down with heavy skillet or pan. Cook until tomatoes are softened and browned on first side, about 4 minutes.
- Transfer tomatoes to a plate and wipe pan clean.
- Spread olive tapenade evenly over one side of each slice of bread.
- Assemble two sandwiches by layering ingredients as follows between prepared bread, with olive tapenade on the inside of sandwich: half of mozzarella, cooked tomatoes, basil, and remaining mozzarella. Press gently on sandwiches to set.
- Reheat the pan over medium-high heat for about 1 minute. Brush the outside of sandwiches lightly with remaining olive oil. Place sandwiches in pan and weigh down with a heavy skillet or Dutch oven. Cook sandwiches until bread is golden brown and crisp on both sides and cheese is melted, about 3-4 minutes per side. Serve and enjoy!