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Thursday, January 6, 2011

Caprese Paninis, Garlic Basil Mayo and How to Make a Panini without a Panini Maker

I love paninis. I’ve written about making them before, and I’m going to write about them again, just to prove my love. Paninis are simple to throw together, the variations are endless, and my girls {almost always} eat them. It’s a tasty, simple dinner option that I frequently turn to. Plus, I’m a sucker for any hot sandwich you put in front of me.

My personal favorite panini is of the caprese variety. On this week’s menu post, Amanda asked if I would share the recipe. So, here we are!

In addition to my “recipe” for caprese paninis (which, by the way, is not really a recipe nor anything all that original…but certainly tasty!), I have another “recipe” for some pretty darn yummy garlic basil mayonnaise, as well as how I make paninis without a panini maker {it can be done!}. This is a whopper of a post. Get ready.

First, Caprese Paninis.

Caprese Paninis, Garlic Basil Mayo and How to Make a Panini without a Panini Maker
Super tasty!
Recipe type: Main Dish, Sandwich
  • Panini bread or any delicious sliced bread
  • Fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
  • Fresh basil, chiffonaded (is that word?)
  • Tomatoes, your favorite variety, sliced
  • Olive Oil and/or Balsamic Vinegar and/or Garlic Basil Mayo (recipe below)
  • Salt & Pepper
  1. Place your sliced mozzarella cheese, basil and tomatoes on a slice of bread. Sprinkle some salt and pepper, then drizzle with a bit of olive oil and/or balsamic vinegar, or spread the bread with Garlic Basil Mayo before putting ingredients on the bread. Top sandwich with second slice of bread and cook in a panini maker or on the stove in a skillet with another skillet on top (see below for my oh-so-fancy technique) over medium heat. When side 1 is lightly browned, flip and cook until side 2 is browned and the cheese is melted.

Second order of the day – Garlic Basil Mayonnaise. The inspiration for this comes from Cafe Borrone. When tomatoes are in season, they have this to-die-for Basil Melt, which is basically an open-faced caprese panini. They use a flavored mayonnaise that really puts this sandwich over the top. Tonight, I attempted to replicate the mayo. I’m certain it’s different, but it was still awesome and made for the best caprese panini I’ve made yet! (Note as of 10/2011: the menu this year says they use a thyme mayo, so next time I make this I’ll try throwing in some thyme!)

Garlic Basil Mayo
  • Mayonnaise
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Fresh garlic clove
  • Fresh chopped basil, a few leaves’ worth
  • Thyme (haven’t tried this yet, but see note in the paragraph above)
  1. For three good-sized paninis, I simply scooped out about three spoonfuls of mayonnaise into a bowl. I threw in some basil, two shakes of salt, two shakes of pepper, and ½ of a garlic clove pushed through a garlic press. Mix together and spread on bread for Caprese Paninis.

Last order of business…what to do if you do not have a panini maker. I’ve thought about buying one. My friend Jen who went to culinary school and is an amazing cook loves her panini maker almost as much as her knives. But, fact is, my non-panini-maker technique works fine, so whatever. Maybe one day I’ll get the real deal, but until then, here is what I do.

I get two skillets that are the same size. (You could also use two different sized skillets and have the smaller one on top, but I’ll continue explaining the technique assuming you’re using two of the same size and explain why I like it.) I heat the pan over medium heat (my stove runs hot, so I actually do one tick lower than medium), with the second pan resting on top. Once the pan is heated, I place my sandwich in the bottom pan, then place the second pan on top of the sandwich and press down until the pans are resting on one another. This is why I like using the same size pans, the top pan just sort of rests in the right spot. I try to make sure the top pan stays parallel to the one below so my sandwich “squishes” evenly.

I used to use two medium sized pans flat pans, but last summer I got two 12-inch Calphalon skillets, one of which is a grill pan. Now I can get those fun ridges in the sandwich. And I can cook two paninis at once. Love it!

There you go, more than you ever wanted to know about how I make paninis. Bon AppΓ©tit!


  1. caprese is my favorite also.

    and I DEFINITELY use the word chiffonaded… (I think the first time I used it on my blog, it looked like this – I either asked if it was a word, or I declared it! πŸ˜‰

  2. wow. I would eat that sandwich any day of the week!Great post. Now I just have to wait a few months until my kitchen garden starts producing a plethora of basil again!
    I use the george foreman we got as a wedding present to make my paninis…works great, which is a good thing, considering we don’t use that George Foreman for much of anything else! πŸ˜‰

    cathy b. @ brightbakes

  3. Yum! I love anything caprese (I make caprese wraps pretty often). And we make paninis all the time in our house. Yours look beautiful!

  4. You my dear are a genius……and the panini queen hehe! Thanx for sharing. I am definitely in the market for a ribbed pan this year. I made the most awesome homemade basil mayo. Incredibly easy and fast, no slowly dripping oil. When I have edited my photos and get one anywhere near good enough to share I will blog it πŸ™‚ xx

  5. 5

    I have also used a george foreman grill as mentioned above for grilled cheese, tuna, turkey, panini and even quesadillas. Also love this options!

  6. 6

    You do your panini pretty much the way I do mine! I happen to have two very large cast-iron griddle/grill pans — the kind that cover two burners at once, and are a griddle on one side and a ridged grill on the reverse. I use those to make my panini, putting the sandwiches on the grill pan side of one and pressing them by setting the other (griddle side-down) on top. Perfect size, perfect weight, and we can do four panini at a time!

    • Jane Maynard

      that sounds like the perfect set up for a panini factory – wish I had those pans! πŸ™‚

  7. 7

    We love making paninis! I love this combo!

  8. 8

    I recently found your blog and I LOVE IT! Dinner planning is such a simple idea with incredible benefits. You and all your followers have inspired my husband and me to make this a priority! Thank you!!

  9. 9

    Um, that looks absolutely DIVINE. I’ll definitely have to try it on a night when Hubbs isn’t home for dinner; he is not a cheese fan or a mayo fan πŸ™ But I certainly am!!! πŸ™‚

  10. So perfect. I love this idea for my Italian themed birthday party. It’s easy, fresh and vegetarian! All good.

  11. These look delicious.

    Have you ever tried Balsamic Glaze – it’s basically a bottled balsamic reduction. It’s thicker than the regular vinegar and when I use it I feel like I don’t need the olive oil too. I think it would be great with these sandwiches.

    • fishie1066

      If you can’t find balsamic glaze you can make your own. Be warned – your house will smell like balsamic vinegar for a while depending on how well your stove is ventilated.
      In a large non stick skillet pour a bottle of reasonable quality balsamic vinegar. Reduce over med heat until it is a syrup. I bottled this for Christmas gifts a few years ago. One friend commented it would be good on dirt!
      Costs time but not as much as a bottle of it does.

    • Jane Maynard

      I’ll definitely have to try it, fiveunderfive…and fishie, thanks for the tip on how to make it yourself – very cool!

  12. 12
    Nikki CB

    This looks so so good! I really want one for breakfast.

  13. 13

    Thanks for the recipes! I don’t have a panini maker either. But I do have my grandmother’s old castiron iron (is that redundent?), which makes for a great press! Just set it on top of the sandwich and you’re good to go. You can only make one sandwich at a time, but since I’m usually just making one or two sandwiches, it works pretty well.

  14. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe – I see it on your menu often and searched your blog a while back for the recipe. It’s going on my menu this week!


  15. 15

    I’m in love!! This is so amazing!

  16. 16

    This is the first time I’ve ever read the blog and I love it!! I’ll be coming back! πŸ˜€

  17. 17
    DIY Mom

    Yummmy! I am bookmarking this for sure! My favorite coffee shops makes breakfast peninis but I never considered making them before.

  18. 18

    Trader Joes has a balsamic glaze for a very reasonable price!

  19. I was looking for some quick and easy vegetarian meals before heading to the grocery store and stumbled across this post. After a long day of errands, all I wanted was a quick and easy dinner. It was unbelievably quick and simple. The garlic basil mayo is AMAZING. We used it and balsamic vinegar on the bread. We will be repeating this meal again and again. Thank you for sharing the delicious recipe!

    • Jane Maynard

      I am so happy to hear you loved it and I am especially happy that it was quick and easy for you. yay!

  20. 20

    My whole family loved this, tomato averse husband, 3 yr old and 1 yr old included. Thanks for a great fast and delicious recipe!

  21. 21

    This looks amazing!!!!! and your pictures are awesome!!!

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