Thursday, June 4, 2015

Caprese Paninis With Prosciutto and Garlic Basil Aioli

Have I ever mentioned that we're a family of lovers? Lovers of pretty much all food that the Italian people have graciously introduced to the rest of the world, that is. When it comes to tomatoes, basil and mozzarella, we love it in every form that we know of. Whether it's on a crispy thin crusted Pizza Margarita, a stacked (or layered) salad and now, or technically since last Summer, in the form of a toasty, golden brown and buttery grilled sandwich.

I'd seen similar sandwiches before, but you know me, right? I couldn't just "let it be". Nope. I had to add just a little more to the "classic" ingredients to make the sandwich even more decadent. Trust me. It might not be quite the time for those juicy garden ripe tomatoes from the back yard, patio or local Farmer's Market... But, if you can get your hands on a few good organic vine ripened tomatoes at your local grocery store, I wouldn't hold off on making this sandwich. Although I try not to be so bold as to toot my own horn, I can't help but have the feeling that you'll come back here later and thank me for my inability to leave well enough alone. :)

You don't have to have a fancy panini press to make these. You'll find a video from Howcast that shows a couple of different methods, at the bottom of this post and you'll see in the photos I've posted, how we do it sometimes too!

Oh...and please excuse the photo quality in this post. I hadn't planned to put this recipe on the blog at first, but at the last minute I had a feeling it might be a good one, so I grabbed my phone and snapped a few shots here and there.

Caprese Paninis With Prosciutto
Serves 4
  • 8 Slices Rustic Peasant, Tuscan or Sourdough Bread
  • 2 to 3 Lg Ripe Tomatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 16 oz Fresh Mozzarella Cheese, sliced 1/8 inch thick
  • 1/2 Lb Prosciutto, sliced paper thin
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Butter for Pan Grilling

Garlic Basil Aioli (Mayo) ***see note below
  • 1 Cup Real Mayonnaise (no "sandwich spread" please!)
  • 2 Lg Cloves Garlic, finely minced
  • 5 or 6 Lg Basil Leaves, finely chopped
1. Start by making the garlic basil aioli. I didn't take photos of the process because, well... I wasn't really thinking about posting this until I had all of the ingredients ready to go. Not to worry, though... It's not like it's rocket science. lol

***Just put all of the ingredients in a small mixing bowl and combine thoroughly with a fork or a whisk. Set aside while you prep your other ingredients.

2. Lay out all of your slices of bread on a large cutting board or any surface where it's easy to assemble the sandwiches.

3. Spread a generous amount of the Garlic Basil Aioli onto each slice.

4. Lay down enough tomato slices to cover from end to end, on 4 of the slices of bread, trying not to overlap them too much.

4. Drizzle a little good Balsamic Vinegar over each layer of tomatoes. It doesn't have to be a top-shelf $30/bottle Balsamic, but you can get pretty good brands of imported vinegar these days in your grocery stores that don't cost a fortune. Just make sure to look for the words "Product of Modena" on the bottle.

If you want to learn more about Balsamic Vinegars, they have a fantastic post over on Serious Eats that will tell you just about anything that you'd want or need to know. You can check that out by clicking HERE.

5. Place enough of the sliced Mozzarella on top of the tomatoes, to cover end to end. Again, no matter how tempted you are to add more cheese, try not to overlap the cheese too much, because you don't want the ingredients to slide all over the place or fall out of the sandwich while grilling or pressing.

Besides, I can tell you from experience that this sandwich is as just as gooey and cheesy as anyone could want, just the way you see it here!

6. Sprinkle each sandwich half with a bit of kosher or Himalayan pink salt. (you can also add a bit of fresh ground black pepper if you like, but I didn't feel like this particular sandwich needed it. The fresh basil in the aioli already adds a bit of a peppery note)

7. Take 3 or 4 slices of the Prosciutto and pile them up loosely along the length of the sandwich.

As with the vinegar, you don't have to buy the most expensive Prosciutto out there for a sandwich like this. Our local grocery store carries a brand of Italian deli meats called Corando and they make a lovely Prosciutto that costs about 1/4 of the price of Prosciutto di Parma. I know that I've seen the Corando brand in other chains located in other states.

Do have your deli counter person slice the prosciutto as thinly as possible. It is a dry cured or aged meat and can be a bit chewy when it's sliced too thickly. If you've never purchased prosciutto from the deli before, it helps to know that there is a right way and a wrong way for it to be packaged. Because it's sliced so thinly, it's done a bit differently than other deli meats.

So, don't be surprised if the deli person rolls his/her eyes at you when you order it. I'm sure they already know that the proper way to slice and pack up prosciutto, is to separate each piece with a sheet of deli paper and that takes a bit more time and effort on their part. I've had my fair share of "eye daggers" thrown at me by new deli workers in training.

Now, if I'm just ordering 8 to 10 slices, I'll often give my deli person a break and tell them to just pack it like any other meat. You could let it slide even if you're ordering more than that, but be prepared to have it take a bit more effort to get the slices apart when it's time to make your sandwiches.

8. Place the top slice of bread on each bottom slice and liberally butter both sides of each sandwich.

9. Place a large non-stick or cast iron skillet on your stove over medium-high heat. If using a large griddle or grill pan that fits over two burners, obviously heat both of them equally.

10. Add your sandwiches (as many as will fit) to the pan and cook for about 3 or 4 minutes, then flip them over and place whatever kind of weight you're using on top and press down a bit. The key is to keep the pressure heavy enough to press the sandwich together a bit, but not so hard that it causes any of the ingredients to squeeze out the sides

11. When you're really "pressed" for time (hee hee - pun definitely intended!) you can also use a good sturdy spatula and a husband with some awesome sandwich squishing skills (that's a professional culinary term, right there) and just press the sandwiches down as they're cooking.

OK, So they might not get quite as flat using this method as a bona fide panini, straight out of a fancy press. But the true goal here is for the bread to get all nice and golden brown and crispy - which it certainly will - and for the mozzarella to get all gooey and melted - yup... mission accomplished!

12. Once the sandwiches are done, cut them in half on the diagonal, place them on some pretty plates (or on paper plates - if it's just the two of you and it's too danged hot to even load the dishes in the dishwasher) and serve!

I promise you... if you love Caprese salads and you adore prosciutto, then you'll be making these sandwiches all Summer long! They're an easy, delicious supper on a hot muggy night, a lovely luncheon to serve to the gals in the book club, or a great snack for the guys when they come over to have a few pops and maybe play a little poker. And the kiddies will love them too! Just tell them that they're like "pizza sandwiches" and they'll dive right in!

Not the best photo, I know. But in my defense, I really hadn't planned to photograph the making of these sandwiches and I just grabbed my phone at random intervals and snapped a pic here & there.

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  1. Absolutely love this sandwich looks delicious! Living in Staten Island NY I'm accustomed to Italian cold cut hero's so you know i'm a fan!

    1. Thanks, Bobby! It really is a yummy sandwich and it's so simple to throw together for an easy supper in the Summer... Especially when everyone's garden tomatoes are ripe and ready for picking! And if you're lucky enough to be able to get some authentic Buffalo Mozzarella, it takes it to a whole different level! Thanks so much for stopping by. It's always great to hear from you! Blessings to you and your family! (and that new grandbaby of yours!!!)


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