We received a panini press as a wedding gift (in December of 2005) and it sat there for years before I decided to break it out and actually use it. It’s a bit of a pain to clean, but it heats up very quickly and gets the bread nice and crispy with gorgeous grill marks on it. It’s the perfect tool for a cool day when a warm sandwich is just the thing to hit the spot. I love making paninis because you can use so many different combinations of ingredients and everyone thinks they are fun. The girls get very excited when the panini press is heating up on the counter. They don’t even ask what I’m putting inside, they are just excited that paninis are on the menu.
For this sandwich, I took a combination of grilled chicken that I marinated in a balsamic vinegar/olive oil combination and Caprese salad, which is just tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, basil and balsamic vinegar. Let me tell you, it’s a winning combination! It’s great for entertaining, especially if you have both vegetarians and meat eaters coming over. For the vegetarians, just omit the chicken.
I decided to roast the tomatoes to soften them and add that delicious roasted flavor to the sandwiches. I just took some Roma tomatoes (my favorite variety for Caprese salad) and put them on a cookie sheet and drizzled them with olive oil and sprinkled with course salt and freshly ground black pepper.
I roasted them in the oven at 450 degrees for 8 minutes just until they were softened.
For even more flavor, I marinated the chicken breasts before grilling. I put them in a marinade of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic salt and black pepper about 4 hours before I grilled them. I used an indoor grill pan, which gives them the most beautiful grill marks.
Before I assembled the sandwiches, I drizzled a little extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) on the Ciabatta rolls so that they wouldn’t be too dry. Between the roasted tomatoes and the cheese, they really don’t need any “sauce” to speak of, but the olive oil keeps the bread a little moist.
Time for assembly! Each panini gets two thin slices of mozzarella cheese, three tomato slices and 4 large basil leaves. Add one chicken breast for the meat eaters.
I have a large panini press, so I can fit two at a time. About 5 minutes on the panini press is just right to melt the cheese and crisp up the rolls.
These are substantial. No sides are necessary! The fresh basil, roasted tomatoes and marinated chicken breasts are bursting with flavor and the crispy Ciabatta roll holds everything together. Try them at your next party. You can even slice them into quarters and serve them as an appetizer.
I hope you will try them at home! Come back and leave a comment and let me know how you like them and tag #ketchumkitchen on social media to show me a photo.