This pesto chicken panini sandwich is crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside, full of flavor, and oozing with melty cheese. Need I say more?
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Hi y’all! So, it’s been a little while. Where’ve I been?
Well, Mike called me at work one day a couple weeks ago to say he had some bad news and that the circuit breaker had flipped on the A/C and wouldn’t stay on when he flipped it back.
While he assumed it would be the worst, I assumed it would be no biggie and encouraged him to be optimistic. We’d call the A/C people and have it fixed by tomorrow.
Two weeks (and thousands of dollars) later, we’ve replaced our whole HVAC system, gotten brand new ductwork installed, and are in the process of scheduling a mold abatement guy to come spray down our crawl space and repair a big moldy section of subfloor under our kitchen cabinets that rotted due to a poorly planned vent in the toe-kick.
On the bright side, our air conditioner has never worked better and actually — get this — turns on, cools the house to the target temperature, and then turns off, rather than running constantly and only reaching the temperature on the thermostat when the actual outdoor temperature drops.
Who knew an A/C system could do that?!
Plus, I can control the new thermostat ON MY PHONE. FROM MY BED. So if I wake up hot, I can kick on the system through my app without ever getting my lazy butt up.
Am I living in the future, or what?
Anyway, it’s not that I haven’t been cooking.
In fact, I’ve been cooking all SORTS of things that are amazing. Pulled pork, collard greens, this amazing oven “fried” chicken from Jehan Can Cook, fried okra, fried okra again, empanadas, scones — the list goes on. I just have put off writing up the posts and recipes. And I’m going to share a few of those with you later!
For today, I’ve got a glorious pesto chicken panini for you. And not just any pesto chicken panini. It’s layered with juicy, flavorful balsamic roasted tomatoes, inspired by the roasted tomatoes they put on the turkey sandwich at a little cafe down the road from where I work.
If you’d like to save a little time (like 4 hours) on this recipe, you can use fresh tomatoes, but I’d highly encourage you to make some of these slow-roasted tomatoes for the next time. You can keep them in a jar in your fridge for sandwiches like this one or to dress up a simple turkey sandwich, or you can add them into a salad for a burst of concentrated flavor.
I might even roast them for longer next time, like 6 hours, to see if I can get them really chewy and cook out even more of the liquid. Mmmmmm.
The tomatoes are tossed in some olive oil, minced garlic, fresh herbs, salt and pepper, and some of this amazing Italian balsamic vinegar I got in my most recent box from Try the World. They also have flavored ones in their shop like fig balsamic and blackberry balsamic vinegars. I love those on salads!
You then roast them in your oven at a low temperature for a lonnnnng time. Go ahead and put on a movie. This slowly and evenly cooks out the moisture (the slow-roasting, not the movie), concentrating the flavor into delicious little shriveled pouches. Yum!
You can save any extras you don’t use immediately in a jar, with enough olive oil to cover the tomatoes. Then you have them handy for all sorts of uses!
(For more recipes that use ingredients from Try the World, visit my Try the World page! You can also get a 15% discount on Try the World using my coupon code, pinchmeimeating.)
To assemble the pesto chicken panini, you can grill your chicken right on your panini press to save some dishes, or if you’re prepping a big batch of diced and shredded chicken for the week, just leave a couple pieces intact and you can save a little time and effort!
The panini press I have is The Griddler, which I use ALL THE TIME. The grill piece flips over into a flat griddle, so you can use it not only as a panini press, but also as a flat indoor grill or griddle. I use it for pancakes, kabobs, grilled veggies, turkey burgers — you name it — weekly at the minimum. You can even get waffle inserts for it, but I’m not quite that fancy yet.
OH MY GOSH, you guys. It’s only $85 on Amazon for the one I have. Totally worth it. Plus it sounds like a pro wrestler is helping you out in the kitchen. “Yeah, I’m making some turkey burgers with The Griddler. They’re gonna be awesome.”
So the pesto chicken panini is slathered up with some jarred pesto. I used the pesto from the Try the World Italy box — it’s full of fresh basil, cheesy, and extra-tangy, almost like it has capers in it (but it doesn’t, I checked). Slather it on thick, you’ll thank me later.
Then it’s piled with grilled chicken, fresh basil leaves, slow-roasted balsamic tomatoes, and some fresh mozzarella cheese so high you won’t think you can smoosh it down into a nice compact panini – but you can, I promise. It might take a little smashing, adjusting, rotating, and pressing again for a couple minutes, but you can get them nice and flat and crispy.
(Hint: If you are using The Griddler, put the sandwiches closer to the hinge of the press rather than toward the opening, and the top will lay flatter when you close it!)
I’ve estimated about 10 minutes for grilling your pesto chicken panini, but just do it for however long you’d like until the cheese is all melty and the bread feels crispy to the touch and has nice grill lines in it.
It’s truly a decadent sandwich. Once you try this pesto chicken panini with balsamic roasted tomatoes, you’ll 1) want roasted tomatoes on everything, and 2) want to make every sandwich into a panini.
So go ahead, try it! And let me know what you think!
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Pesto Chicken Panini with Balsamic Roasted Tomatoes
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts about 1 lb total
- olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 2 hoagie rolls
- 6 balsamic roasted tomatoes see recipe below
- 6 oz fresh mozzarella
- a handful of fresh basil leaves
- a few tablespoons of pesto
- Preheat panini press (like The Griddler) to high heat. Sprinkle both sides of chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Brush panini press with olive oil, add chicken breasts, and close panini press to grill on both sides at once. Grill for about 15 minutes or until cooked through, flipping once halfway through and rotating slightly to make nice diamond-shaped grill marks, if desired.
- Let the chicken rest for about 5 minutes before cutting. Then, cut each chicken breast in half from side to side (like it's a hamburger bun) so you end up with two very flat pieces of chicken.
- Prepare hoagie rolls with thickly spread pesto on both sides. Arrange two pieces of chicken (1 breast) on each roll to fill up the whole bun evenly. Top each with basil leaves, 3 roasted tomatoes, and mozzarella cheese; then close the hoagie roll.
- Brush panini press with olive oil again and add the sandwiches. Close the press and press the sandwiches down, rotating if necessary after a couple minutes to press evenly if one side is less-smooshed than the other.
- Cook until cheese is melty and bread is nice and crispy, 10 minutes or so. Cut in half and enjoy!
Balsamic Roasted Tomatoes
Adapted from Something New for Dinner.
- 10 roma tomatoes halved lengthwise
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh basil
- Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
- Mix all ingredients in a bowl and toss to coat tomatoes.
- Arrange tomatoes on a baking sheet cut side up. Roast for 4 hours or until tomatoes reach desired level of roasted-ness.