Melty Pesto Paninis

Melty Pesto Paninis

This recipe is a double header—you’ll end up with a top-notch sandwich and you’ll learn to make pesto, with enough left over from lunch to dress a pound of pasta for dinner. In the summer, add fresh tomato slices and make it a caprese— a traditional Italian salad (and now sandwich) of mozzarella, tomato, and basil.

You will need: Measuring cups, measuring spoons, knife, food processor, rubber spatula, small bowl, small sauté pan, aluminum foil, paper towels, small skillet, spatula



  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 bunches basil (about 1 ½ cups leaves, lightly packed)
  • ½ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon coarse salt
  • ÂĽ cup grated Parmesan cheese


  • 8 slices fresh mozzarella cheese
  • 1 sprig basil
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons pesto
  • 4 thick slices bread
  • 1 ½ teaspoons olive oil
  • Coarse salt‍
  • Ground black pepper



  1. Peel and chop the garlic. (Remember to use “the claw” to protect your fingers.) Pull the basil leaves from their stems(discard the stems).
  2. In a food processor, combine the garlic, basil, parsley, olive oil, and salt. Turn on the processor and count to 20. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the processor and then replace the lid and pulse again, for another count of 20. Repeat until the ingredients are blended into a paste. The pesto won’t be completely smooth; it will still have pieces of herbs roughly the size of ants, but the garlic should be completely mashed.
  3. Transfer the pesto to a small bowl and stir in the Parmesan cheese. The pesto will keep in a tightly sealed container in the freezer for up to 1 month.


  1. Cover the outside bottom of a small sauté pan with aluminum foil so that the foil wraps up the sides and over the lip of the pan. Then, line a cutting board with two paper towels.
  2. Arrange the mozzarella cheese slices on the prepared cutting board and pat them dry with another paper towel.
  3. Pull the leaves from the basil sprig and then chiffonade (roll into a pencil shape and slice thinly them).
  4. Spread the pesto (add more if you area big fan!) over two of the bread slices. Spoon ÂĽ teaspoon of the olive oil over each of the other two slices. Arrange the cheese on top of the pesto, drizzle with the remaining 1 teaspoon olive oil, and add a pinch of salt and pepper and a sprinkle of prepared basil. Close the sandwiches.
  5. In a small skillet over medium heat, toast the sandwiches for about 2 minutes. While the sandwiches are cooking, take the foil-covered pan by the handle and press the bottom down firmly onto the sandwiches to flatten them. Flip the sandwiches over with a spatula and flatten the other sides. Cook until the bread is toasty and the cheese begins to melt.
  6. Move the sandwiches to plates and eat them while they’re warm and melty.


Smell impacts taste more than you might think. From our taste buds, we really get only basic sensations of sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and savory (the rich, round flavor of things like butter). While you eat, odor molecules escape from the food and rise up with your breath to your nose. On the way, they hit your brain’s “smell” messengers that allow you to experience complex flavors. This explains why it’s hard to “taste” food when you have a stuffed-up nose!

Excerpted with permission from New Favorites for New Cooks, Ten Speed Press (2018).

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