Wednesday, March 9, 2011


Once in a while I take a batch of leftovers and some things out of the pantry and make something so much better than the original meal - tonight was one of those nights. 

In the back of the fridge I rescued a small container of meatballs and sauce that I made a week or so ago.  It was on the verge of hitting the trash since I'd run out of pasta with the last meal and the meatballs were just so-so (I'd purchased a package of frozen ones to try out).  Sitting on the counter was a fresh loaf of 3-Cheese bread that I brought home from Panera over the weekend and it struck me that this combo might make a pretty good sandwich.   I was very, very right.

First, a word about what I lovingly call "stuff on bread".   Sandwiches, tartines, paninis, open-faced - whatever, a good piece or two of bread and some great ingredients will make a meal for a king if treated correctly.  Tonight I decided upon a Panini that would crisp up the bread, melt any cheese inside to an ooey squish and make it all taste wonderful. 

My grill pan and panini press
Basically a Panini is an American take on an Italian Panino, a sandwich-like food item.  Generally on this side of the big pond we tend to heat our Panini and press them semi-flat.  I'm not sure of the science behind this technique, but something about added heat and pressure makes everything between the two pieces of bread just...well, better.  This is an example of the sum being so much better than the total of its parts.  Lots of people have panini presses at home and this would be one time to drag it out from under the counter, but if you don't have one never fear. A heavy skillet and a heavy pan to set on top of the sandwich will generate the same effect. 

I have a grill pan and a heavy panini press that I use for these tasty morsels.  You'll find I make pressed sandwiches a lot - especially in summer when we have fresh tomatoes and basil in the garden and I snag some fresh mozzarella from the local Italian market.  Caprese is wonderful cold as a salad but even better pressed into a hot sandwich.

In any case, if you like meatball subs, this meal is for you.  Not as smothered in red sauce as a sub you might find at the local sub shop, but definitely oozing with cheesy goodness, this was a terrific way to use up these leftovers.

Using leftover meatballs that still have some red sauce clinging to them is really good here.  The sauce lends a good flavor and some moisture to the sandwich.

You may also notice that I seem to have a LOT of meatballs on my sandwich but it's an optical illusion, the meatballs were only about an inch around rather than the typical 2 inch meatballs you find most places.

2 slices of good bread
meatballs, cut in half or sliced (depending upon their size), enough to cover one slice of your bread and heated till warm
1 teaspoon pesto
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
olive oil to drizzle on the outside of the bread

Heat your skillet or panini press to a medium-high heat.  I don't own the real deal here, my grill pan and press will do the job.  Thus the instructions are for this type of gizmo.  If you have a real press, follow your regular cooking instructions.

Slice the meatballs and cover one slice of bread with them.  Cover with the cheese.  On the other slice of bread, spread the pesto.  Put the sandwich together.  Drizzle the top with olive oil and flip oiled side down onto your panini grill or skillet. Press with heavy pot or panini press and heat until cheese begins to melt and bread is toasted golden brown on the bottom. 

Remove the press, drizzle the top with olive oil and flip to grill the other side.  Top with the press and let heat until the bread is browned and the cheese is beginning to melt. 
Once the cheese is melted and both sides are crispy brown, remove from the pan, slice and serve.

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