Don’t Be a Meanie, Eat a Panini!

Paninis are said to have originated in Lombardy, Italy, in response to Milanese office workers for a quick lunch without sacrificing flavor and quality. In many English-speaking countries, a panino – translated from Italian to mean “small bread roll” – is a grilled sandwich made from baked roll or anything other than sliced bread.

The first American reference to panini, a ‘pan warmed Italian sandwich’ dates to 1956 in an article about an Italian street fair. Trendy U.S. restaurants in New York began selling paninis in the late 1970s & 1980s. August 11, 2015 was declared the first official National Panini Day in America.

Paninis are the king of sandwiches. With their crunchy crusts and melty insides, they’re a crowd favorite here at Kathey Jo’s Kitchen. Paninis are easy to make at home as a grilled cheese so there’s no need to run and buy one the next time you’re craving a delicious sandwich. You don’t need a panini press. We use a grilling pan and heavy skillet. Or use two skillets!

Not just any old type of bread will work for a panini. You need a sturdy, extra crunchy bread. Ciabatta is our bread of choice, but focaccia, sourdough, or a baguette are exceptional bread choices. View the panini as your dream sandwich and fill it with all your favorite things. Anything goes in a grilled panini so don’t hold back.

Chicken Pesto Panini


  • 4 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 ciabatta rolls
  • 1/4 c. pesto
  • 1 tomato, thinly sliced
  • 4 oz. fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced


  1. In a large cast iron skillet over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons oil. Season chicken with oregano, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Add chicken to skillet and cook until golden and cooked through, 7 minutes per side. Remove from pan.
  2. Build panini: Slice ciabatta rolls in half, then spread about ¼ of the pesto on bottom half of each roll. Top with tomato, chicken, and mozzarella. Spread remaining pesto on the top half of each roll.
  3. Heat a grill pan with remaining 2 tablespoons oil and add one panini. Cook until bottom is golden, and cheese is starting to melt, 5 minutes. Flip then place a heavy skillet on top of sandwich and press down to flatten panini. Cook until golden and cheese is completely melted, another 5 minutes. Repeat with remaining panini.