Spinach and Three Cheese Panini, Italian Flag Panini and Pizza Panini
Serves 4 (3 half-sandwiches per person)
Panini is what Italian kids call sandwiches. Sometimes the sandwiches are hot like grilled cheeses. They are really good and make a fast dinner when no one wants to cook. In this recipe, you will build two panini of each kind, for six panini total. When they are all made, a grown-up helper (GH) can cook them up and help you serve them. Each person can have one half-sandwich of each kind.
- 2 cloves garlic, in skins
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
- 1 box frozen spinach, defrosted in the microwave
- 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan or Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
- 4 slices provolone cheese from the deli
- 1 large round loaf crusty Italian bread, sliced at bread counter
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup store-bought pesto sauce
- 2 small plum tomatoes, seeded and diced by a grown-up helper (GH)
- 1 pound fresh mozzarella, chopped by your GH into small cubes
- 1/2 cup pizza sauce, any kind
- 6 slices salami
- 12 slices pepperoni
- Start by putting garlic cloves on a cutting board. Hit each one with a small, heavy skillet and give the garlic a good whack! Throw the skins into a garbage bowl.
- Add the garlic to the EVOO in a microwave safe bowl and put in the microwave. Cook it for 25 seconds on high and let it sit there until you need it.
- For the spinach and cheese panini, put the defrosted spinach into a kitchen towel and squeeze out all of the juice to make the spinach dry. Mix the ricotta and parmesan together in a small bowl.
- Line up the spinach, the cheese mix, and the sliced provolone.
- Get a pastry brush and the sliced bread. Get the garlic oil from the microwave. On a cutting board, brush one side of four slices of the bread with garlic oil and put the oiled side down on the cutting board.
- Place half the drained spinach on each of the two slices of bread, pulling it all apart and spreading it out. Season with salt and pepper.
- Top with cheese mix in equal amounts on each slice and two slices provolone.
- Put the other two pieces of bread on top to make a sandwich with the oiled sides facing up.
- For the Italian flag panini, start out the same way, painting 4 slices of bread with the garlic oil. Spread the pesto sauce on two slices of bread and top with tomatoes and half of the diced mozzarella. Season the fillings with salt and pepper.
- Top the sandwiches with the other two slices, keeping the oiled side up.
- The pizza panini sandwiches are the same. Start by painting your bread with the garlic oil. Then spread the pizza sauce on two slices.
- Put three slices salami and six slices pepperoni on top of the sauce, then add the rest of the mozzarella to the two sandwiches and put the tops in place.
- Hand off the rest of the work to your GH. If you have a panini press, just press your young chef’s panini in batches until toasted and melted. If you do not have a press, cook panini on a nonstick pan over medium heat using a brick, covered in foil, or a cast iron skillet to weigh and press them. They cook 2-3 minutes on each side.
- Cut each sandwich in half and pile on a huge platter to serve.