Have you ever had a food, when you ate it or even thought about it, the remembered smells and taste transported you to another place? For me, that food is the caprese panini. When I was in school in Florence, Italy, every day in between classes I would walk down the labyrinth of medieval streets and pop into a nearby, tiny, paninoteca (Italian sandwich shop) – quite literally what one would consider a ‘hole in the wall’. This became my daily ritual while in school until one weekend, I decided to recreate them at home in my modest Italian kitchen. Since then, I have made this sandwich countless times. It's quick, easy, and totally delicious! —Kathleen | Hapa Nom Nom
loaf focaccia bread
fresh basil leaves, packed
1/2 to 2/3 cups
extra virgin olive oil, divided. Plus extra for brushing.
Place sliced mozzarella in a single layer between several paper towels. Place a cutting board on top of the covered mozzarella and add 2 pounds of weight for 15 minutes, unopened soup cans work well. Doing this will remove the excess moisture and will prevent your Panini from becoming soggy while in the press.
While the mozzarella is being lightly pressed, make the pesto. Add to the bowl of a food processor, the basil, garlic, pine nuts, and parmesan. Pulse while slowly adding 1/2 cup olive oil to start. Add more if needed until smooth and desired consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste and pulse a few more times to incorporate.
Using a sharp bread knife, slice your focaccia loaf down the middle vertically and then down the middle horizontally, creating 4 servings. Slice each section in half to create a top and bottom of your sandwich and lightly brush the outside of each piece with olive oil. Oiled side down, liberally spread the pesto on the inside of each half. On the bottom half, add the sliced mozzarella, tomato, and arugula. If desired, add a little extra salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Place the tops of the bread on each sandwich and place in the Panini Press. (If you do not have a Panini press, you can heat a heavy skillet over medium-high heat and cook each side for several minutes, using a lid or another skillet to press the sandwich while cooking).
Cook 3 to 5 minutes, or until the cheese has melted and the bread is golden brown. Transfer the Panini to a cutting board and cut in half. Serve immediately.