Prosciutto and Fontina Panini with Arugula Pesto

By • October 22, 2009 20 Comments

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Author Notes: I ate many variations of this panini in Italy, but when it came time to create comfort sandwiches in my own kitchen, I always returned to the classic combination of prosciutto and fontina cheese. Sometimes I would add peppery arugula to give it some bite. But I found that the ultimate compliment was a smooth, creamy arugula pesto that leaks into all the notches of the bread, and a scattering of sweet pickled shallots to give the sandwich some acidity without overpowering the delicate ham and cheese. - BigGirlPhoebzPhoebeLapine

Food52 Review: A sophisticated sandwich with a couple of extra steps that are simple and totally worthwhile. BigGirlPhoebz has you make an arugula pesto (she calls for baby arugula but good, meaty leaves from the Greenmarket worked well, too) that's garlicky and nutty, and pickle some shallots. Together these condiments add depth and brightness to the rich fontina and prosciutto. - A&M
The Editors

Serves 4 sandwiches

For the Sandwich

  • ¼ cup cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large shallot, thinly sliced
  • 1 loaf ciabatta, sliced lengthwise
  • 1/3 pound prosciutto (about 10 slices)
  • 1/3 pound fontina, thinly sliced

For the pesto

  • ¼ cup toasted pine nuts
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 cups baby arugula
  • ½ lemon, juiced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  1. Make the pickled shallots: bring the cider, sugar, and salt to a boil in a small saucepan over a medium flame. Simmer for a minute, until the sugar has dissolved, then pour the hot liquid over the shallots in a small bowl or jar so they are fully submerged. Allow to sit for 20 minutes, then place in an airtight container until ready for use. This can be done up to a week before.
  2. Make the pesto: in a small food processor, pulse the pine nuts and garlic until coarsely chopped. Add the arugula, lemon juice, and salt and pulse to combine. Stream in olive oil and continue to blend until all the ingredients are finely chopped and the pesto is smooth and creamy. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if necessary.
  3. Preheat the broiler. Place the two slices of bread crust side down on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 3-5 minutes, until beginning to crisp but not totally browned. Slather the bottom half of bread evenly with pesto and arrange the cheese slices in a single layer. Return just this slice of bread to the oven and continue to toast until the cheese has melted, about 3-5 minutes.
  4. Slather the other slice of bread with the remaining pesto and arrange the pickled shallots on top, followed by the prosciutto. Sandwich the halves together.
  5. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Depending on the size of your pan and the size of the ciabatta, you may have to cut the sandwich in half. Set the sandwich top side down in the pan and weight it with a smaller skillet and/or a heavy bowl so the bread is crushed and flattened as it toasts. When the bread has browned, repeat on the other side. When finished, the panini should be browned, crisped, and flattened, and should have cheese oozing from it. Toast the remaining half (if necessary), and then cut it again to create four sandwiches.

More Great Recipes: Pesto|Pork|Sandwiches|Cheese & Dairy|Olive Oil

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Comments (20) Questions (1)


over 1 year ago Double Helping

I made this and eating it as I comment! Really yummy sandwich. I would make this arugula pesto again and put it on everything! Next time I make it I may cut down on the cheese and add more pickled shallots!


about 4 years ago SlimBickens

This is a great sandwich paired with a homemade Tomato Soup I made. Great comfort food.
I cut down on the sugar for pickling the shallots because I find cider vinegar to be a bit sweet too. Great stuff.


over 5 years ago johndiggity

try slicing (lengthwise) about 1/2" of crust off the top of the ciabatta loaf. it prevents the bread from getting too hard when grilling and you get a better proportion of bread to filling.


almost 6 years ago Pete

To be honest, I never cook, I leave that up to my amazing wife Sonali (a fellow Food 52 member and previous winner). However the other night she was working late, so I figured I'd try to suprise her and give this recipe a whirl. It was a smashing success, the paninis were delicious! Not only did I impress her, but I also gave myself a big confidence boost in the kitchen. Who knew I could make pickled shallots and arugula pesto! Thanks for the great recipe!


almost 6 years ago Experimental Culinary Pursuits

Congrats on the win!! Saw it on Food52 and thought to myself (OH! I know her blog!) :D


almost 6 years ago epicureanodyssey

Brilliant!! Kudos to you, BGP!!


almost 6 years ago PhoebeLapine

Regular sliced mozzarella would work as well (not buffalo, the harder variety that is great for melting). Gruyere would certainly work, though it is a little overpowering for me, and less of a perfect match for the Italian flavors. I would stick with something relatively mild, like a young white cheddar, jack, or muenster. Anything that melts really well! Hope it works out!


almost 6 years ago Blanca

I live in Chile too, and as you already know, we have no fontina. What can I use instead?


almost 6 years ago ConnieMc

I imagine this is fantastic, but I live in Chile, and there is no fontina to be found! Tragic but true. What is the next best thing? We've got gruyere, this very mild (i.e. bland) but gooey Chilean cheese, and, from the country, a nice "dry" goat cheese. I ache for fontina. Suggestions???


almost 6 years ago sweet enough

I'm so happy for you! congratulations! I love this sandwich.


almost 6 years ago lastnightsdinner

I am eating this RIGHT NOW. And it's fabulous. I wish I could vote for it again!


almost 6 years ago NicoleT

Oh boy. I've been dreaming of this sandwich since your recipe went up. High time I made one.


almost 6 years ago PhoebeLapine

Thanks for all the comments and support! Thrilled you like the sandwich. I seriously encourage you to make many a pickled shallot--I've taken to tossing them on anything and everything!


almost 6 years ago verena

arugula pesto is brilliant. and great that it doesn't have cheese because there's already cheese in the fontina. there's a really original brain behind this one.


almost 6 years ago mariaraynal

This recipe elevates the grilled ham and cheese to something truly special, plus it uses some of my favorite ingredients (prosciutto, shallots, arugula and so on). To echo Mrs. Wheelbarrow - inspiring!


almost 6 years ago theicp

The pickled shallots are a really nice touch - I'm going to use this for some sliders I'm serving at a Halloween party. Thanks for the recipe!


almost 6 years ago Kelsey Banfield

This looks fantastic! I love using pesto spreads on sandwiches and this one looks delicious.


almost 6 years ago Pete

Looks delicious!


almost 6 years ago MrsWheelbarrow

Cathy is a trusted source on Pickling/Preserving.

The addition of the pickled shallots is absolutely inspired! Yum. Must make this soon.


almost 6 years ago MrsWheelbarrow

Cathy is a trusted source on Pickling/Preserving.

The addition of the pickled shallots is absolutely inspired! Yum. Must make this soon.