You often see them on the menus of cute cafes and bistros. A panini. It took years for me to pluck up the nerve to order one, as I really wasn’t sure what they were. Then I found out that they were a sandwich. So, a panini is just a sandwich, right? Wrong! A panini is far more than just a sandwich.

Panini is an Italian word meaning little or small bread. Anyone with even just a smattering of Italian will realise this is the plural. The correct word would be panino; however, panini is generally accepted.

Whatever its origins, a panini has become a sandwich made from a rectangular roll. It is then toasted. You can be as creative as you like with the fillings.

Panini Press

A panini is a great meal but they can be very expensive when you eat out. For the more frugal amongst you, therefore, this is a great meal to cook for yourself at home.

Although they can be grilled, the best way to cook it is by using a panini grill or press. You would be surprised how many types of panini press there are. Make sure you buy one with the features that you need. Think about the size of the sandwich you will be cooking. Will you want to use it to cook other foods too? If you want to know what features you should be looking out for, try Panini Perfect where they will help you to find your perfect sandwich maker.

Choosing Your Panini Press

Before you buy a panini press you need to decide if you will use it once you have bought it. Then you need to decide what features you want.

  • Ensure it is not too big that you must put it away after use because then you won’t use it.
  • Ease of cleaning.
  • Adjustable heat settings.
  • Type of hinge.

Can I Use a Panini Press for Other Things?

You may be keen to make a range of panini, and buy a panini press, however, you don’t want it to be yet another gadget that you barely use. Are there other things you can make with a panini press?

  • As well as panini, you can grill normal sandwiches using sliced bread.
  • Cook breakfast. You can cook bacon and even make hash browns using a panini press.
  • Grill vegetables. Your panini press makes grilling asparagus a breeze. Tastes lovely with that char-grilled tinge. You can also grill courgettes, peppers and mushrooms. Spray them with some olive oil first to prevent them sticking. I like to add some Mediterranean dried herbs too.
  • Chicken breast. You can grill a chicken breast in about 5 minutes. This works well if the chicken has been marinated beforehand. I like to flatten the chicken breasts a bit more before grilling.
  • As above, you can also grill some salmon on your panini press. Make sure you clean your press well afterwards.
  • Hamburger or steak. You can grill your burgers or steaks on the panini press. Depending on the style of your panini press, you may want to tilt it slightly. Ensure you have something to catch the juices.

Panini Fillings

There are no set rules to what should go in a panini. Really any filling that you like to eat, works well. Unlike a grilled or toasted sandwich, wet fillings work very well in a panini. Probably due to the quality and thickness of the bread. Although not mandatory, both mozzarella and basil work very well in a panini. Here are some of our favourite suggestions.

  • Mozzarella cheese with tomato and pesto or basil.
  • Brie, cooked bacon and red onion.
  • Chicken, bacon, lettuce and tomato.
  • Minute steak, cheese and Dijon mustard.
  • Minute steak and fried onions.
  • Cold roast beef, horseradish sauce and red onion.
  • Mackerel, horseradish and rocket.
  • Cheese and marmite!

As you have probably noticed, a panini is viewed as a posh sandwich. However, they are certainly easy enough to make at home and very affordable too. Don’t let the glamour surrounding it put you off! Unlike something like grilled cheese, the bread is the most important part of the panini. Ensure you have quality bread and your panini should be a winner.