Love grilled cheese sandwiches? Turn up the flavor dial on that sandwich with this Mozzarella Pesto Panini!
Like much of the country, we’ve been suffering through a crazy heat wave for the past week or so. At one point, the thermometer in my car read over 100 degrees, and for upstate New York…that’s hot. Really hot. I’m from the South, so I understand hot days (although it’s amazing how fast you forget the heat!).
But one good thing that has come from this heat wave is the fact that my garden is now overflowing with fresh herbs. The herbs had been growing pretty slowly up until last week, but now I swear I can almost watch them grow thanks to this heat and sunshine! You may recall me mentioning that I’ve been watching ABC’s food show The Chew every afternoon now, so I decided to check out the hosts’ recommendations for fresh herbs.
Right away, I discovered Mario Batali’s Mozzarella Pesto Panini, and I knew this sandwich would soon be appearing in my kitchen! I’ve always liked Mario Batali, probably because of my
like obsession of all things Italian.
It’s been great to hear all of Mario’s suggestions and cooking tips on The Chew. I’m a huge fan of grilled sandwiches (like this Crazy Sriracha Grilled Cheese), and I found this Mozzarella Pesto Panini to be a delicious addition to my recipe list. Plus, it really highlights the flavors of fresh basil…which I happen to have a ton of in my garden right now!
Mario also recommends making an “adult basil pesto” by throwing some spicy peppers into the food processor with the basil pesto. This was a genius idea as it added a whole new layer of flavor to these sandwiches! (Of course, you can adjust the amount of peppers you add based on your own personal tastes.)
Speaking of herbs, I personally hate to let fresh herbs (either from the market or the garden) go to waste. Carla Hall, one of Mario Batali’s co-hosts on The Chew, recently gave some tips on preserving fresh herbs. Not only do these tips allow you to use herbs year-round, but they also save money since you aren’t wasting any of your delicious fresh herbs!
Carla Hall’s Tips for Preserving Fresh Herbs
- Chop the stems off of the bunch of herbs and store them in a glass with fresh water. Change the water as soon as it becomes cloudy.
- Dry the herbs in an oven at 180F degrees for several hours. (To make this even easier, you can use a microwave to dry herbs like I did in this recent post on making Citrus Sea Salts.) Dried herbs lose their flavor quickly, so try to use them within a couple of months. Also, dried herbs have a more intense flavor, so you should only use about 1/3 of the amount as you would with fresh herbs.
- Freeze the herbs in olive oil using ice trays.
Mozzarella Pesto Panini
- 1 cup basil pesto
- 4 small Ciabatta rolls halved
- 16 oz. mozzarella sliced
- salt to taste
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- extra virgin olive oil to taste
- crushed red pepper flakes to taste
- 2 Serrano peppers chopped and stems removed (optional)
- 1 Jalapeno pepper chopped and stem removed (optional)
- 2 pickled jalapeno peppers optional
- 1 pickled cherry pepper optional
- Preheat a grill (or grill pan) over medium high heat.
- Spread a spoonful of pesto across each of the rolls, and top with a few slices of mozzarella, and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes.
- Place the sandwiches on the grill and place a kitchen brick on top and cook until toasted, about 5 to 10 minutes per side.
- Remove from heat and cut in half to serve.
- For more heat, combine the peppers in a food processor, pulse until finely minced, then add the remaining pesto, and pulse until combined. Serve spicy pesto with adult sandwiches. (Optional)
Disclosure: Compensation was provided by ABC via Glam Media. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of ABC.