Classic Italian panini are made with prosciutto and fresh mozzarella. Other ingredients that can be added to the sandwiches are basil, tomatoes, eggplant, anchovies and capers.
To make panini, take one 12-ounce French loaf, and cut it in half lengthwise. Hollow out the bread, leaving a 1/2-inch-thick shell. Spread 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise on each half.
Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of fresh basil over the halves, and add 1/2 cup of shredded mozzarella. Top with 2 ounces of very thinly sliced prosciutto, 2 plum tomatoes thinly sliced and the remaining 1/2 cup of shredded cheese. Cover with the top half of the loaf, and cut into 4 pieces. Heat a grill pan coated with cooking spray over medium heat. Add the sandwiches, and place a cast-iron skillet on top to flatten. A panini press can also be used. Grill for 3 minutes on each side or until the cheese is melted.
A variation on this recipe is to add eggplant slices and substitute smoked mozzarella. Another variation can be made by adding a chopped anchovy filet and a sprinkle of capers to the basic recipe. Pesto may also be substituted for the mayonnaise along with sliced turkey breast.
Panino means “small bread” or “bread roll” in Italian. It is a grilled sandwich that uses breads other than sliced breads. In the 1970s and 80s, panini became trendy in New York restaurants, and as of 2015 they continue to be popular.