Every cuisine that bakes bread has developed some variation on the sandwich, and Italian cuisine is no exception. However, only the Italian panini has become such a hit that it now rivals classics like spaghetti and meatballs in popularity on restaurant menus. What makes the panini so special?
Pressed to Perfection
Pressing a sandwich concentrates its flavors. Cheese melds with meats and vegetables. Herbs release their flavor into the surrounding sandwich fillings. Bread becomes toasty and crisp. It’s almost as magical a transformation as turning plain carbon into a sparkling diamond through pressure, albeit with much less force. A compact panini is also easier to eat than a thick sandwich, making it a great choice for a quick and hearty lunch. You want to eat your sandwich, not wear it, and a panini’s the perfect portable meal.
The secret to a great panini lies in the pressing; the chef must press firmly enough to blend flavors, but not so firmly that juices leave tender fillings like homemade sausage or roasted chicken. More delicate ingredients like eggplant, broccoli rabe and portobello mushrooms take a lighter hand with the press than stacks of sliced ham and provolone cheese. Knowing how far to go with the panini press is as much an art as a science, but a great panini is worth that attention to detail.
Some Like It Hot
Heat is another vital element to making the perfect panini. Without it, you’d just have a flat sandwich. It’s heat that toasts the bread, adding another layer of flavor to the rich assortment of tastes that comprise a well-made panini. That heat melts cheese, releases the volatile flavors in herbs and adds savor to meats. Hot food feels more satisfying, yet a panini still feels light enough to enjoy for lunch.
While its outer surfaces turn crisp in the heated press, the inner surfaces of the bread become infused with flavors from the meats or vegetables in the sandwich. Heat keeps the bread from softening under pressure, creating a crunchy crust around the sandwich that makes it easier to eat while adding flavor. Thick slices of Italian bread do more than hold a panini together; they’re an important element in the sandwich’s taste too. Toasting in the panini press brings out the full flavor of a robust Italian loaf.
Fillings and Flavors
Like any sandwich, the panini is incredibly versatile. Fill it with saucy meatballs, homemade sausage or a juicy chicken cutlet, and it becomes substantial enough for a hearty dinner. When it’s stuffed with roasted vegetables or grilled shrimp, it’s a satisfying lunch. Confirmed meat eaters, vegetarians and vegans may not share many favorite dishes, but they can all agree on one thing: a panini is always welcome. Whatever you’re looking for, you’ll find it in a panini.
Come to Carlino’s for lunch or dinner and tell us how you’d like your panini today. We’ll make it to order. After one bite, you’ll know what’s so special about a great panini.
Carlo, Wali and all your friends at Carlino’sTweet