One of my favorite sandwiches at Jason’s Deli is their chicken pesto panini sandwich, but the bread is a little better than so-so and the pesto lacks the brightness and freshness of homemade pesto like the Basil Pesto that I make at home. There is nothing like homemade and why go out to eat when you can cook at home and save money as well as have full control off all of the ingredients you’re preparing?
We got a panini press for our wedding and I love to make different kinds of paninis. I shared my Chicken Caprese Panini (which can also be made vegetarian if you omit the chicken) on the blog and wanted to share my Chicken Pesto Panini with you today. One of the keys is to use good, hearty bread. For this panini, I like to use an herb focaccia. We are fortunate enough to have a large selection of artisan breads at our local grocery store, so it’s not difficult for me to find good bread. You can use a ciabatta roll with this sandwich if you can’t find a good focaccia. I just like the herbed bread for the extra flavor.
If you prepare the pesto in advance, you can just store it in the refrigerator and all that you need to prepare before placing the paninis on the panini press is the grilled chicken. I buy chicken breasts in bulk at Costco for a significant cost savings and just store them in the freezer so I always have chicken on hand. Grill the chicken breasts on a George Foreman Grill for quick cooking and easy clean-up.
Once the chicken is fully cooked, assemble the paninis. Coat each side of the focaccia roll with fresh pesto, then layer a slice of provolone cheese, the chicken breast and fresh spinach. That’s it! The cheese will melt, creating a “glue” that holds the sandwich together and the fresh spinach adds bright color and loads of nutrition.
If you don’t have a panini press, you can just use a cast iron skillet to cook the paninis. Just place another skillet over them and weigh it down with something heavy, such as a can of beans so you can press it down. I do recommend a panini press if you don’t have one if you’re a big panini fan, because you can make them at home anytime and add whatever ingredients you choose, rather than staring at a menu and trying to customize to your liking.
This sandwich can also be modified for the vegetarian in your life. Just omit the chicken and add some tomatoes, eggplant or whatever veggies you like. It’s a great sandwich for a hot summer day when you don’t want to heat up the stove or the oven and is also great for a busy weeknight.
I hope you’ll give this recipe for chicken pesto paninis a try and come back and leave me a comment and let me know how you like it! Also, snap a photo and tag #ketchumkitchen on social media. I love seeing your creations!
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