I have a soft spot in my heart for Italian cuisine. Afforded my first opportunity in management at an independent Italian restaurant, I learned to appreciate the family aspect of service and dining. Coming from a home that loved to indulge in different culinary arenas, I also developed an affinity for the techniques and flavors used in Italian dishes. Subtle, yet complex, they have a way with layering ingredients and flavors to create an incredibly diverse range of fare.
When asked to create a recipe for panini (panino, singular, meaning small bread, bread roll), my mind was immediately transported to my inspiration of old. A well-put together sanguich as we used to refer to them years ago, is a thing of beauty. For this variation, I used simple store bought, easy to find ingredients. As usual, when buying for taste, spending a bit more will afford you quality and immense depth of flavor, comparatively. Roasted red pepper, pesto aioli, sopressa, salame, coppa, arugula, Roma tomato, Provolone cheese, and a good, crusty Italian bread come together to create something much more than the sum of their parts. Enjoy!
• Red bell pepper
• Mayo (preferably one with olive oil)
• Pesto (homemade or store-bought)
• Roma tomato
• Cured meats (coppa, sopressa, etc.)
• Italian bread
• Provolone cheese
Preheat your panini press and a small skillet. In a small bowl, mix 2 parts mayo and 1 part pesto. Remove the top, seeds, and inner membrane from the pepper, leaving the outer structure intact. When your skillet is nice and hot, place the pepper directly onto it, searing/charring one side at a time. Don’t worry about it being “too black.” The char wipes off easily and adds to the flavor. Slice the bread about ¼ to ½ inches thick. Meanwhile, prepare your meats, layering them apart from the bread. To achieve even heat throughout your panini, I recommend grilling the meat and bread separately (approximately 2 minutes per), then assembling the sanguich and heating to melt the cheese. After wiping the majority of the char from your pepper, grilling your meats, and toasting your bread, spread the aioli on both sides, and layer the remaining ingredients. Finish by heating through for approximately 1 minute and then slice and serve. Let us know what you think by sharing your finished product on Evansville Living’s Facebook page.