My panini press is a very well used kitchen tool. It’s fast and convenient because it heats the sandwich from both sides and the pressing really helps you jam pack the sandwich with delicious ingredients. Some nights when time is rushed, almost anything pressed between two slices of bread can become a fabulous gourmet sandwich – even pizza toppings.
A pizza panini is a healthier way to satisfy your pizza cravings and usually well received with children, unless you’re like me and have one of the few children on earth who doesn’t enjoy eating their food by the slice. You’ll have the ability to control the quality and quantity of your ingredients. You want whole grain “crust?” Use whole grain rustic bread. In the end, you have complete control to create a healthier option than take out. It will probably take you less time as well. Next time you or your child are craving pizza, try out this panini instead.
Taking a familiar food, like pizza, and making it with a twist, in this case a sandwich, is a great way to introduce new foods to children and help them broaden their palate. Don’t be afraid to experiment either. You can always mix it up with different topping combinations to create panini versions of your favorite gourmet pizzas.
Supreme Pizza Panini
2 links Italian Sausage, sweet or hot – you pick
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 small red onion, sliced thin
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon fennel seed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 pinch each of oregano and basil
1 1/4 cup mushrooms, sliced
1/2 each of red and green bell pepper, sliced
1/4 cup sliced olives
8 ounces mozzarella cheese, sliced
8-10 slices bread, depending on the size*
2 1/2 cups your favorite marinara sauce, for dipping
Remove the sausage from casings. Discard the casings. In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil and then brown the Italian sausage while crumbling it with the back of a wooden spoon. When cooked through, add the red onion and sauté for 3 minutes. Add the garlic, fennel seed, salt, pepper, oregano, and basil to the sausage and onion mixture. Mix well and sauté 1 minute. Next, add the mushrooms and bell pepper and sauté for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the olives.
Preheat panini press. Place one slice of bread on a plate or cutting board to assemble the panini. Add 2-3 slices of cheese (depending on bread size) in a single layer. Add approximately a half a cup of the topping mixture followed by 2-3 more slices of cheese in a single layer.
Spray the preheated panini press with spray oil. Place the sandwich inside the press, lower the lid, and gently press. Cook until bread has reached your desired crispness and cheese is melted inside. About 3-5 minutes. Cut panini across into two triangles. Serve with a bowl of marinara for dipping.
*Bread should be something sturdy, not inexpensive sandwich bread. Rustic loaves sliced into sandwich thickness slices work well. Experiment with different flavors and textures such as: whole grain, roasted garlic, and sourdough.