Melty, toasty cheese is one of my weaknesses. It’s a big part of why I’m not a size 2. Genes play into that, as well, but things like cheese are definitely also a huge (pun intended) factor. But when I have a “desperation” lunch that turns into something like this caprese panini that I made, I’m ok with that.
The ooey, gooey fresh buffalo mozzarella combined with the sweetness of the heirloom tomatoes and the bite of the balsamic reduction, plus the crunch of the perfect panini bread are worth any price. This was not a one time meal, folks.
Interestingly, it did start as a desperation lunch. I was hungry and didn’t have any leftovers. When I pulled open the fridge, I noticed that I did have a buffalo mozzarella ball left after having made pizza for the family two days earlier that needed to be eaten. As I pondered what to do with it, my eyes fell on the gorgeous heirloom tomatoes I’d picked up at the local produce market that had been significantly reduced and were within a day of being made into sauce.
I pulled out some ciabatta from my freezer and let it defrost while I prepared my balsamic reduction. Pro tip: set your frozen bread on the stove near where you’re cooking something else to speed the defrost time.
From there, it was a no brainer, and in 15 minutes, I was enjoying just a little bite of heaven. I didn’t include any fresh basil in the version I made because I didn’t have any in my house, but it is a traditional part of a caprese salad and would pair nicely with caprese panini.
How to Make a Caprese Panini
To start, slice your tomatoes thinly. I used heirloom tomatoes because they have a lot of great flavor, but choose your favorite tomato that isn’t too full of seeds (a Roma would work well). Once your tomato is sliced, sprinkle the slices with salt and let them rest. This will help draw moisture from the tomatoes so they don’t make your panini mushy when you cook it.
Once your tomatoes are sliced, start on your balsamic reduction. In a saucepan, add balsamic vinegar and turn the heat to medium low. Bring it to a boil, then turn it to a simmer, stirring periodically by swirling the pan. Let it reduce to a little less than half the original volume, then remove from the heat.
While your balsamic is reducing, heat your panini maker and slice your buffalo mozzarella into slices about an eighth to a quarter of an inch thick. Slice your bread in half so you’re ready to go as soon as your balsamic has finished reducing.
Place the first piece of bread crust down on the panini maker. Layer the fresh mozzarella atop it and then the tomatoes. Drizzle the balsamic reduction over the tomatoes, then finish with another layer of mozzarella to provide “glue” to your caprese panini on both sides.
Place the top of your bread over the sandwich, crust side up. Close your panini maker and cook for 3-5 minutes.
Serve your caprese panini immediately, and enjoy the mouth watering goodness!
- 2 ciabatta rolls
- 1 ball buffalo mozzarella
- 1 heirloom tomato
- 1/2 c balsamic vinegar
- basil leaves, optional
- Slice your tomato thinly and sprinkle with salt to draw out the moisture. Let rest while your balsamic reduces.
- Place your balsamic vinegar into a saucepan over medium low heat. Bring to a boil then turn down to a simmer. Simmer, stirring periodically, until the vinegar has reduced by half, about 7 minutes, then remove from the heat.
- While your balsamic is reducing, slice your rolls in half to create the sandwich. Slice your buffalo mozzarella into thin slices, and preheat your panini maker.
- Once the balsamic is reduced, add the bread with the crust side down. Place a layer of mozzarella over it, then cover with a layer of tomatoes. Drizzle the balsamic reduction over this. Add the basil leaves next if you choose to use them, then finish with a second layer of mozzarella. Place the top of your sandwich, crust side up, and close your panini maker.
- Cook for 3-5 minutes until the outside is toasted and the mozzarella is melty. Serve immediately.