This amazing Italian deli a few minutes from my house is known far-and-wide for its rock star panini. The secret? Aside from using great ingredients, they leave the bread on the grill, undisturbed, until it gets super crispy.
We’re talking 8 to 10 of the longest minutes of this starving lunch-goer’s life.
But it’s worth it – and it’s easy to do at home.
To save yourself the agony of a burned panini that’s still cold on the inside, set up your grill pan over medium heat (not high heat – slow and steady wins the race here), and don’t put any grease on it. Place your sandwich on the grill, weigh it down with a sheet pan and a heavy pot, and let the dry heat work its magic.
The difference between this crispy panini and a golden brown grilled cheese is the dry heat used to toast the bread. We butter the outside of a grilled cheese so that it will crisp up an otherwise soft piece of bread. To get a perfect panini, put crusty bread over dry heat to get an even crispier finished product.
Remember: With the power of this great secret comes great responsibility. Promise me, forevermore, that you’ll go forward and create delicious, crispy panini for as many of your friends and family as possible.
Makes 4 servings
4 crusty rolls, split open
1/4 lb. thinly sliced pepperoni
1 lb. fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
2 vine-ripe or Roma tomatoes
16 fresh basil leaves
Salt and ground black pepper
1. Place a grill pan over medium heat. Do not put any oil or grease on the grill.
2. Assemble four sandwiches by stacking the bottoms of the rolls up with pepperoni, mozzarella slices, tomato slices, basil leaves, and some salt and pepper. Cap the sandwiches off with the tops of the rolls.
3. Place the sandwiches, rounded-side-down, on the grill. Place a baking sheet over the sandwiches and weigh the sheet down with a couple of heavy pots or cans – be sure to distribute the weight evenly so that the sandwiches press down evenly. Cook the sandwiches until grill-marked and toasted, 4 to 5 minutes.
4. Carefully remove the baking sheet. Flip the sandwiches and replace the baking sheet and weights. Cook the sandwiches until the other side is toasted and the cheese has melted, 4 to 5 minutes.
5. Serve the panini warm.