Movies – Yes, that’s right, I hate movies. Movies in general. I hate how loud they are. I hate cinematic scores. I hate going to the movies. And sitting in one spot, doing nothing else but watching a movie is just torturous to me.
Greek Yogurt – Stop telling me how thick and creamy it is. I don’t care. I will never eat it. “Thick and creamy” does not make up for “sour and fetid.”
Greeting Cards – Unless and until someone comes out with a line of cards for emotional cripples like me (“Hey, you’re alright. I don’t hate you. Cordially, Kiersten”), greeting cards just aren’t my bag.
Fresh Tomatoes – Not only do I not like fresh tomatoes, I’ve never even tried one. I just know I don’t like them.
So let’s talk about that last one. Fresh tomatoes. You might find it odd that my favorite sandwich at Panera is the Tomato & Mozzarella Panini, considering that it has the dreaded fresh tomatoes on it. But as soon as I get it, I take it apart and carefully pick off the fresh tomatoes before I start eating. And let’s be real, it’s not like vegetarians have a ton of other options at Panera. So the Tomato & Mozzarella Panini it is.
Unfortunately, we don’t have a Panera in our town, so what used to be a fairly frequent lunch stop in between weekend errands has now become a rare occurrence. I started really missing that panini, so I had the brilliant idea of trying to make a copycat recipe, fully knowing that most of my attempts at copycat recipes are unmitigated disasters. But this seemed simple enough!
The first thing I had to do was deconstruct Panera’s Tomato & Mozzarella Panini. What makes it so delicious? Well! There’s a tomato pesto spread on the ciabatta bread. Then that’s topped with oven-roasted tomatoes and (my hated) fresh tomato slices. There’s fresh mozzarella on top of that and a few basil leaves–not many!
You’ll have to make this and tell me what you think, but I kind of think I nailed it. Is it an exact replica of the Panera sandwich? Okay, maybe not. But it’s really, really close! Unlike the Panera one, which only comes grilled, you can do this one cold too. If you’re a fellow fresh tomato hater (SOLIDARITY!), you can make yours without. And if you love fresh tomatoes, you can add extra. Everyone wins.
A grilled panini topped with tomato pesto, fresh tomatoes, and oven-roasted tomatoes. It's not a Panera copycat, it's an homage.
- 2 Roma tomatoes, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
- 1/4 tsp. Italian seasoning
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 c. sun-dried tomatoes (the kind that come in a jar of oil)
- 1 tbsp. oil from sun-dried tomato jar
- 2 tbsp. shredded Parmesan cheese
- 5 basil leaves
- 1 large loaf of ciabatta bread
- Tomato Pesto
- Roasted Tomatoes
- 1 tomato, thinly sliced
- 1/4 c. basil leaves
- 4 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 8 slices
- olive oil to brush grill or panini press
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place tomato slices on a rimmed baking sheet that's been lined with parchment paper. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, then sprinkle with Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until softened and beginning to brown.
- Combine all ingredients in food processor and process until smooth.
- Preheat panini press or grill to high.
- Cut ciabatta bread into 4 equal sections and then cut each section in half lengthwise. Spread tomato pesto onto the bottom of each ciabatta section. Top with roasted tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, basil leaves, and mozzarella.
- Brush grill with olive oil. Place panini onto press and heat until cheese has melted, about 8-10 minutes (depending on the brand and type of press you use).