How to Make Panini Sandwiches Like a Pro

You'll recognize Italian-style panini sandwiches by the telltale grill marks seared into the bread. This classic sandwich is pressed between two hot grill plates, which sear the bread while smooshing ingredients into a semi-union of melty deliciousness. And while there are many tasty ways to put a panini together, you'll typically find some combination of meat, cheese, and veggies sandwiched between two slices of Italian bread. Delizioso! Is your mouth watering yet? To achieve panini pro status (whether you have a panini press or not), check out our tips and top-rated recipes.

Steak and Cheese Panini
Photo by Meredith.

Panini Like a Pro

From assembly to cooking, follow these easy tips for panini success.

  • Start with the right bread. We recommend using a bread that can take the heat. Literally. Italian breads like focaccia, ciabatta, and baguettes are usually heartier than, say, sourdough, and they hold up better to grilling.
  • Bring the heat. Be sure to get your grill nice and hot before putting your panini on—it'll make for better grill marks.
  • For maximum crunch. Brush melted butter or olive oil on the outside of the bread, and if you're including "wet" ingredients like tomatoes, layer them in the center of the sandwich with meats and/or cheeses on either side so they don't drown the bread.
  • Keep the goods contained. Though you'll want to keep the fillings to a respectable minimum, if you're worried about things spilling out while cooking—particularly if there's a good dose of cheese in there—wrap your panini in parchment paper to keep everything together before putting it on the grill.
  • No panini press? No problem! If you have a grill on your stove top, you can grill one side at a time. Mimic a traditional press by placing something heavy on top of the panini like a couple stacked plates or a heavy pan. You can do the same thing on an outdoor grill, or even in a frying pan—even without the grill marks, you're still in for a delicious meal. Another great way to panini without a press? Use a waffle iron! Place the sandwich in the waffle iron, close the lid, and press it down with a heavy skillet.

Cast Iron Skillet Pressing Panini Sandwich
Photo by Meredith.

Top-Rated Panini Recipes

Now that your brain is primed with pro tips, let's work on putting paninis on your plate with these tasty recipes:

1. Ham and Pear Panini

Savory meets sweet in this unique panini recipe. ZenChef says, "The combination of ham, mustard, and pears gives it a very flavorful and fresh taste!"

Ham and Pear Panini
Photo by lutzflcat.

2. Turkey and Bacon Panini with Chipotle Mayonnaise

Adobo sauce gives this recipe a spicy kick that recipe-submitter chefmommy says is "also excellent as a vegetarian sandwich if you leave out the turkey and bacon."

Turkey and Bacon Panini with Chipotle Mayonnaise
Photo by Christina.

3. Chicken Pesto Paninis

This recipe only takes five minutes to prep and is ready in just twenty. Other home cooks suggest using rotisserie chicken as a convenient option.

Chicken Pesto Paninis
Photo by Jarek Jermier.

4. Turkey Avocado Panini

To make this easy, light panini, spread avocado mayo onto ciabatta rolls, then layer on provolone, mesquite smoked turkey, roasted red peppers, and fresh spinach.

Turkey Avocado Panini
Photo by Kim's Cooking Now!.

5. Tuna Panini Melt

A traditional tuna melt is given the panini treatment in this recipe, which serves two and is done in less than 15 minutes.

Tuna Panini Melt
Photo by bd.weld.

6. Deluxe Pizza Panini

It's two classic Italian favorites in one! Recipe-submitter Raquel Teixeira says this "grilled pizza panini is a creative way to jazz up the boring sandwich and predictable pizza. Great to heat up as leftovers also for lunch the next day!"

Deluxe Pizza Panini
Photo by Raquel Teixeira.

Check out our collection of Panini Recipes.

Was this page helpful?
You’ll Also Love