Remember the manwich . . . when a sandwich was a sandwich, but a manwich was a meal? Enter panini—the new manwich. Panini (pronounced pah-NEE-nee) means “little breads,” but these toasted Italian sandwiches pack B-I-G flavor.
Originating in Italy as a humble cafe snack, they have crossed the Atlantic to become a complete and easy light meal worthy of dinner. Something about crisped bread with melted oozy fillings elevates the sandwich to a meal.
You can put just about anything on a panini, but hearty breads and pungent fillings work best. Cheese is a must—it melts and holds the other fillings together. You may also want to invest in a panini maker. We’re not big on kitchen gadgets, but we fell in love with the panini grill, whose pressing action makes the sandwich a unified, yummy package–and the fillings stay in, no matter how full you stuff the sandwich.
As most paninni presses are nonsitck, you can skip the oil or butter, although brushing a touch of oil makes them extra crispy. Best yet, you can buy a panini maker almost anywhere.
By Sharon Saunders, CCP, a cookbook author. www.simpleitaly.com