Entrees/ Recipes/ vegetarian recipes

Panera-Style Tomato and Mozzarella Panini

Panera-Style Tomato and Mozzarella PaniniI love Panera’s Tomato and Mozzarella Panini so much that I decided to make it myself. This vegetarian recipe comes pretty close to the original!

Things I Can’t Stand

There are a lot of universally loved things that I can’t stand:

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.

Tomatoes and Basil
So let’s talk about that last one. Fresh tomatoes. You might find it odd that my favorite sandwich at Panera is the Tomato and 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 and 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!

How to Make a Panera-Style Tomato & Mozzarella PaniniAbout the Recipe

The first thing I had to do was deconstruct Panera’s Tomato and 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 leavesβ€”not many!

Cold Tomato & Mozzarella Panini
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.

Print

Panera-Style Tomato and Mozzarella Panini

Grilled Tomato and Mozzarella Panini

A grilled panini topped with tomato pesto, fresh tomatoes, and oven-roasted tomatoes. It’s not a Panera copycat, it’s an homage.

  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Cook Time: 35 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 4

Ingredients

Roasted Tomatoes

  • 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

Tomato Pesto

  • 1/2 cup 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

Sandwiches

  • 1 large loaf of ciabatta bread
  • Tomato Pesto
  • Roasted Tomatoes
  • 1 tomato, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup basil leaves
  • 4 oz fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 8 slices
  • olive oil to brush grill or panini press

Instructions

Roasted Tomatoes

  1. Preheat oven to 400Β°F.
  2. 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.
  3. Bake for 20–25 minutes or until softened and beginning to brown.

Tomato Pesto

  1. Combine all ingredients in food processor and process until smooth.

Sandwiches

  1. Preheat panini press or grill to high.
  2. 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.
  3. 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).

This post was originally published on 2 July 2012.

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81 Comments

  • Reply
    Kathy
    July 2, 2012 at 9:51 am

    Yummy, I have been looking for more lunch ideas… going to pin this one!

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      July 2, 2012 at 7:02 pm

      I hope you like it if you make it!

  • Reply
    [email protected] eco friendly homemaking
    July 2, 2012 at 9:56 am

    Oh this just looks so delicious. Right up my alley for an awesome sandwich.

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      July 2, 2012 at 7:02 pm

      You can use some of that basil you’re growing in these! πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    Sarah
    July 2, 2012 at 11:03 am

    This looks like one delicious panini! Mmm…

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      July 2, 2012 at 6:57 pm

      It was really good–tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil are such a classic combination.

  • Reply
    Jennifer
    July 2, 2012 at 11:18 am

    this is definitely something I’m going to be making! And I seriously cannot get enough of your pictures!

  • Reply
    Laura (Got Chocolate)
    July 2, 2012 at 11:24 am

    YUUUUUUUUM! I want this now! I’m not a bread person, but I do eat GOOD bread. I’d totally eat this, bread and all. YUMMERS!

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      July 2, 2012 at 6:53 pm

      You are not a bread person?! That’s like saying you’re not a water person! Or an air person! Or a sleep person! Although I guess perhaps I shouldn’t judge after admitting to disliking movies and fresh tomatoes…

      • Reply
        Laura (Got Chocolate)
        July 3, 2012 at 9:18 am

        Nope! I only like GOOD bread, like you used in this recipe. I know, I’m in the minority. It’s ALL about the sugar for me! Not necessarily a good thing. ACK!

        Oh, and I don’t care for movies either. I’ll even go one step further. I NEVER watch TV!!!

        Your recipe ROCKS!!!

        • Reply
          Kiersten
          July 3, 2012 at 4:55 pm

          Oh, I love TV. I’m trying to cut down on my reality TV habit. Stuff like that is perfect for my gnat-like attention span–I don’t have to pay attention and it’s only 30-60 minutes.

  • Reply
    Kelly @ Texas Type A Mom
    July 2, 2012 at 11:58 am

    I’m not a fresh tomato person either. I love ketchup and salsa and other tomatoey things just not the way they are. My mom can eat them plain with salt but I just can’t do it. Your recipe looks really, really good though!

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      July 2, 2012 at 6:51 pm

      Chris eats them plain too–ick! But like you, I love ketchup and salsa and tomato sauce.

  • Reply
    Jackie @ The Beeroness
    July 2, 2012 at 1:53 pm

    You are hilarious, but I may change your mind about greeting cards once you take a look at these ones: http://www.baldguygreetings.com/servlet/StoreFront which are only for the sick and twisted who laugh at birthday cards that say things like this:
    http://www.baldguygreetings.com/servlet/Detail?no=174

    As for tomatoes, roasted are way better than raw. In all instances.

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      July 2, 2012 at 6:50 pm

      Ha! Yeah, cards that are funny I can do, but the ones that are sentimental make me feel so uncomfortable. I’m more into the whole suppressing of feelings type thing.

  • Reply
    Shelly
    July 2, 2012 at 2:44 pm

    I am so happy I found your website! I’m not a vegetarian but most of the time I lean towards vegetarian dishes, especially in my kitchen. This recipe looks so good! I’m sorry you don’t have a panera near you! I have one about a mile from my house and I would much rather make this recipe then take the trip! Nothing like making your own panini!

    Thanks!

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      July 2, 2012 at 6:46 pm

      Thanks for the kind words! It’s funny, I never really thought about Panera much until we moved far away from one and now I’m constantly wishing it was closer. It’s one of those things like Starbucks that you just take for granted because they seem to be everywhere!

  • Reply
    Emily
    July 2, 2012 at 6:08 pm

    YUM! This looks delicious. I love fresh tomatoes!

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      July 2, 2012 at 6:44 pm

      You can have them! I’ll take the roasted ones. πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    Mary @ Fit and Fed
    July 2, 2012 at 6:16 pm

    Figs and fresh tomatoes both? My youngest doesn’t like the seeds in fresh tomatoes and figs have a lot of seeds, too, maybe that’s what you find unappealing. Speaking of my youngest, he makes himself a less-fancy teen version of this often, I’ll send your recipe along in case he wants to add the tomato pesto to his standard ciabatta sandwich. I try to stay stocked on ciabatta, fresh tomatoes, basil and mozzarella for him.

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      July 2, 2012 at 6:43 pm

      Ha! Well, figs I just haven’t tried. Fresh tomatoes, I have an aversion to. I can’t explain what it is about them that makes me not want to taste them! I love that your son makes TBM sandwiches–I think I could barely pull of a grilled cheese back then. πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    April Decheine
    July 2, 2012 at 7:34 pm

    OMG now that looks incredible! Beautiful photos! I hate sitting at the movies myself!

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      July 3, 2012 at 5:02 pm

      I’m glad I’m not alone! If I do watch a movie, it has to be at home where I can do other things too. It’s so hard for me to sit in one place and focus on one thing.

  • Reply
    BKWilliams
    July 2, 2012 at 8:44 pm

    These sound really good and the photos are awesome. Loved this blog! You make me laugh!

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      July 3, 2012 at 5:02 pm

      You’ll have to make some tomato & mozzarella sandwiches with the tomatoes you’re growing!

  • Reply
    Rikki
    July 2, 2012 at 9:22 pm

    This is one of my favorites from Panera! I LOVE the tomato pesto with the mozzarella and ciabatta bread. It’s one of the best combinations mankind has made. I think you nailed this too. [:

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      July 3, 2012 at 4:59 pm

      It’s totally the pesto that makes the sandwich! Sometimes they don’t put much on there, so when I made these myself, I totally slathered it on. πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    Carol @ Always Thyme to Cook
    July 3, 2012 at 12:11 pm

    Looks so good, I’d love one of those right now for my lunch!

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      July 3, 2012 at 4:52 pm

      They make a great lunch, especially when you have them cold!

  • Reply
    Genevieve
    July 3, 2012 at 12:27 pm

    That definitely looks like a restaurant-worthy sandwich – so cute how you served it! I love the combination of mozzarella, tomatoes and basil – I don’t mind when that’s the only vegetarian option!

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      July 3, 2012 at 4:49 pm

      I love that combination too, but I do wish some restaurants would branch out beyond that. πŸ˜‰ But most of the time, I’m glad there’s at least something I can eat on the menu!

  • Reply
    Stephanie @ henry happened
    July 3, 2012 at 5:02 pm

    I’ve been wanting to roast tomatoes since I read Gwyneth Paltrow’s cookbook – she raves about them. Plus I spend WAY too much money at Panera – ours has a drive thru and it’s too tempting! Can you do a recipe for their iced green tea? πŸ™‚

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      July 3, 2012 at 5:04 pm

      I don’t think I’ve ever had their iced green tea! Or maybe I have, but it was a while ago and I don’t remember what it tastes like…

  • Reply
    Courtney Rae Jones
    July 3, 2012 at 6:27 pm

    We don’t have Panera here either, but I’ve heard good things! I love tomatoes, so I know I’d love this sandwich. Especially since you serve it on ciabatta – my fav! I’m with you on disliking movies though. *hah* I cannot sit still that long! I’ll watch movies at home, only because I can multi-task. *hah* I get bored easily.

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      July 5, 2012 at 2:58 pm

      I need to multi-task when I watch movies too. Or TV. I can never just sit and focus on the screen without doing something else!

  • Reply
    Shell Fruscione
    July 4, 2012 at 2:00 am

    Okay now I totally have to try this- I LOVE fresh tomatoes!

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      July 5, 2012 at 2:55 pm

      Then you will love this sandwich! πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    gem
    July 4, 2012 at 2:47 am

    Wish we had a panera here! I never used to like tomatoes, but now I love them in sandwiches and salads! Great recipe, as always… =)

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      July 5, 2012 at 2:55 pm

      I guess maybe they’re an acquired taste!

  • Reply
    Rachel @ Rachel's Giveaways
    July 4, 2012 at 12:44 pm

    I used to hate raw tomatoes too – luckily, when I was a kid it was not one of the vegetables that I was forced to eat. I have slowly come around and can eat them when prepared certain ways, but I still don’t like them in salad.

    I probably can’t convince you, but I used to hate Greek yogurt too until I tried different brands. I couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about, but now I love Fage greek yogurt. Voskos is also okay. But after Fage, I will never go back to regular yogurt.

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      July 5, 2012 at 2:39 pm

      See, I don’t like regular yogurt either though! People always tell me that I’ll like Green yogurt even though I don’t like regular yogurt, but what I don’t like about it is the sour taste. And I’ve baked with Greek yogurt and it still has that sour smell, so I’m assuming the taste is there too…

  • Reply
    HilLesha
    July 5, 2012 at 6:34 pm

    Looks really good!

  • Reply
    Courtney
    July 5, 2012 at 10:43 pm

    So yummy! Hubby would absolutely love this!

  • Reply
    Shirley
    July 6, 2012 at 11:48 am

    I’ll admit, I didn’t like fresh tomatoes until my early 20s but I love them now! Actually, before college my only vegetables were potatoes and onions. Sad but true. And I do love Greek yogurt. haha I’ve never ordered this panini at Panera before, but I want one now! Bookmarking this.

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      July 6, 2012 at 5:26 pm

      I loved most veggies growing up, although onions were an acquired taste for me. And you definitely need to order that Panini at Panera! And then make this one and tell me how they compare. πŸ˜‰

      • Reply
        Shirley
        July 6, 2012 at 10:37 pm

        I’m on it! At least the first part, which requires less effort.

  • Reply
    BusyWorkingMama
    July 8, 2012 at 9:31 am

    Love the way you wrapped these up. It would be a perfect snack for the playground or the pool on weekends for us. Yum!

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      July 8, 2012 at 8:13 pm

      You don’t want to know how long it took me to wrap them like that! πŸ˜‰

      • Reply
        BusyWorkingMama
        July 8, 2012 at 8:31 pm

        Got it – so I’ll scrap the idea of making a platter of these wrapped up for a party πŸ™‚

        • Reply
          Kiersten
          July 8, 2012 at 8:34 pm

          Well, just don’t cut your wax paper too wide and your string too short! πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    Erika @ Chic Shopper Chick
    July 9, 2012 at 1:34 am

    Is that a Wusthof knife? We just added those to our wedding registry – I’m SO excited about them!

    • Reply
      Kiersten
      July 9, 2012 at 8:31 am

      Yes! We love ours. We got them as a gift too. πŸ™‚

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