Recipe | Panera-Style Tomato & Mozzarella Panini

Panera-Style Tomato and Mozzarella Panini
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 & 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!

How to Make a Panera-Style Tomato & Mozzarella Panini
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!

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.

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Tomato & Mozzarella Panini (Panera Style)

Prep Time

25 minutes

Cook Time

35 minutes

Total Time

1 hour




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 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


Roasted Tomatoes

  1. 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.

Tomato Pesto

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


  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).


For future reference, you can let the people at the register know you dont want fresh tomatoes and you can ask for no meat on anyother sandwhich or pretty much do whatever you want to any sandwich

I’m afraid that calculating points that way wouldn’t work–since Weight Watchers’ points calculator would likely have nutritional information for store-bought tomato pesto and mine is homemade, it wouldn’t give you an accurate number. The best way to do it would be to enter each ingredient individually in the recipe builder. I was a member of WW for 7 years, so I speak from experience. 🙂

As a southern-raised girl, I can’t see how anyone within tomato-growing distance hasn’t yielded to the summer delight of a warm-from-the-sun, just-plucked tomato eaten exactly like an apple. But I won’t judge you, mainly because I understand the aversion to Greek yogurt…I eat it sometimes, mostly plain– no “flavored”– and mixed with other things (honey, fresh cherries, in a recipe like smoothies or as sour cream substitute) for the protein benefit. I hate regular yogurt, too. 🙁

I have been making a similar sandwich for years now, but never used roasted tomatoes or a tomato pesto! Duh!! Why did I not notice how amazingly better this could have been– I’d just being doing the basic tomato slice, basil leaves, fresh mozz– slap it together and BAM– even using regular basil pesto. Also: TOMATO PESTO IS WHERE IT’S AT, YO. So. Much. Better.

I also *love* to find a take-and-bake loaf of ciabatta at the grocery and heat it those last few minutes up at home for the airy, crackly, doughy pull of a warm ciabatta slice. Heaven.

Anyway, thanks!

P.S. Greeting cards = overrated social convention

I know, I am completely abnormal for not liking fresh tomatoes! I really want to like them, but I have some weird mental block about them. I grow a ton of them in my garden, which makes it even worse, right? What is wrong with me?!

Glad someone else agrees about the greeting cards. 🙂

Hey can you tell me how the basil leaves that are placed on top of the mozzarella are prepped? Like, is it 1/4 cup sliced or chopped basil leaves or whole basil leaves? I love the Panera Bread panini and really want to make this for my family! Thank you so much for posting this!

I really dislike it when people comment without having tried the recipe they’re commenting on, but here I am doing it myself! I took my sandwich apart just a few days ago to see exactly what the jammy type stuff was, so I’ve been looking up recipes for tomato jam, but after seeing the ingredients for that, I knew it couldn’t be right. I’m so glad you have found the secret, since this is my favorite sandwich at Panera also. I always order a whole one and a bowl of soup, knowing I can’t eat the whole sandwich but will enjoy it even more the next day for lunch.

Now if you could just figure out the secret ingredient for Summer Corn Chowder! I’ve been making corn chowder from a “copy cat” recipe, but there is a missing ingredient that makes Panera special, and I can’t figure out what it is. The last two times I’ve gone to Panera, they’ve been out of corn chowder since it is the end of the season and they’re not ordering as much…so I really need to figure this out soon!

From a fellow vegetarian, thank you! (although, sorry, I can’t join you on the tomatoes–I love them!)

Ahh, I love that corn chowder too! I’m writing a cookbook and I tried coming up with something similar, but no dice. 🙂 It’s a good corn chowder, but it’s not the Panera corn chowder. They also used to have an amazing mushroom soup every spring that was vegetarian and my husband and I still miss that one. And their mushroom panini! I miss that too.

Right after posting above, I went in the kitchen and made the recipe. As soon as I tasted the tomato pesto, I knew it was the right taste! I used tomatoes I had dried myself and I had to use homemade whole wheat bread since I was anxious to try the sandwich and had no ciabatta, but all the tomatoes were just right! Thank you!

At our house “the rule” was that you were allowed to not like something, but only after you had tried it. The reason being that when I was young that was not “the rule” and I didn’t like many things because of how they looked, but when I grew out of being a spoiled brat kid, I tried these dreaded things and not only did I like, most of them, but several became my favorites!

Hi! I just saw this recipe and it looks amazing, but being a newer veggie for the first time (2 weeks, yo!) I wanted to if you abstained from animal rennet or no? The pesto includes Parmesan cheese and I’m trying to keep away from it, but I couldn’t think of a suitable replacement. I love these paninis.

There are rennet-free Parmesan cheeses–you’ll want to avoid anything that’s imported, but domestic Parmesan cheese doesn’t have the same labeling restrictions that they have in the EU, so many are made with microbial enzymes instead of rennet. I usually use the Organic Valley brand.

Look for Parmesan cheese that is certified kosher. By definition, kosher cheeses are always free of animal rennet. You can find a list of symbols to look for on packaging that indicate a product is certified kosher at this website:

First of all, let me start by saying you are my new BFF. I have yet to meet someone else that hates going to the movie theater. I LOATHE movie theaters, and will do everything in my power to avoid having to go to one. However, being that I have an 8 and a 5 year-old, this poses quite a challenge. Why on earth would you want to sit in one, dark, confined spot for two hours eating crappy, overpriced JUNK, while the loud noise blasts all around you? I have to hold it if I want to go to the bathroom, and even if I don’t hold it, I have to disturb everyone on my row, and then hear upon my return that I “missed the best part” of the awful movie I have been forced to watch. Secondly, Greek yogurt may be healthy and all that, but it’s still disgusting. Thirdly, THANKS for the Panera version of the tomato mozzarella panini thingie. It’s soooo good. You made my night, as I sit enjoying my panini, in front of my television in my comfy living room, without a bunch of strangers coughing behind me, spreading their germs all over the place. Life is good.

Just made this for dinner! I’m a huge fan of the Panera version and this was a great at home alternative! Thanks for sharing 🙂

I have just been to a Panera bread restaurant and the sin is that the panini is no longer served. They now have an awful flat bread with minimal mozzarella. Not any where near the original panini mozzarella and tomato sandwich. Very disappointed. Please, Panera, bring it back or you lose one customer, at least.

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