Prosciutto and Fontina Panini with Arugula Pesto

October 22, 2009
3 Ratings
  • Serves 4 sandwiches
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. - BigGirlPhoebz —PhoebeLapine

Test Kitchen Notes

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

What You'll Need
  • 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.
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  • PhoebeLapine
Phoebe is a writer, gluten-free chef, culinary instructor, award-winning blogger, and author of The Wellness Project. You can find her healthy comfort food and gluten-free finds on

20 Reviews

Double H. March 4, 2014
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!
SlimBickens August 23, 2011
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.
johndiggity April 1, 2010
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.
Pete November 17, 2009
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!
Experimental C. November 13, 2009
Congrats on the win!! Saw it on Food52 and thought to myself (OH! I know her blog!) :D
epicureanodyssey November 9, 2009
Brilliant!! Kudos to you, BGP!!
PhoebeLapine November 8, 2009
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!
Blanca November 5, 2009
I live in Chile too, and as you already know, we have no fontina. What can I use instead?
ConnieMc November 5, 2009
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???
sweet E. November 4, 2009
I'm so happy for you! congratulations! I love this sandwich.
lastnightsdinner November 3, 2009
I am eating this RIGHT NOW. And it's fabulous. I wish I could vote for it again!
NicoleT November 2, 2009
Oh boy. I've been dreaming of this sandwich since your recipe went up. High time I made one.
PhoebeLapine November 2, 2009
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!
verena November 1, 2009
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.
mariaraynal November 1, 2009
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!
theicp October 30, 2009
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!
Kelsey B. October 29, 2009
This looks fantastic! I love using pesto spreads on sandwiches and this one looks delicious.
Pete October 29, 2009
Looks delicious!
MrsWheelbarrow October 23, 2009
The addition of the pickled shallots is absolutely inspired! Yum. Must make this soon.
MrsWheelbarrow October 23, 2009
The addition of the pickled shallots is absolutely inspired! Yum. Must make this soon.