Caprese Panini

Perfectly golden and gooey, a Caprese Panini makes the most of summer flavors with fresh mozzarella, thick slices of tomato, and basil pesto. With just 10 minutes of prep and 10 minutes to cook, this is an easy, comforting, 20 minute meal that’s great for lunch or dinner!

Stack of Caprese Panins on a gray plate.

During the very specific window of summer when tomatoes are so plump and juicy it verges on ridiculous, my goal is to make as many sandwiches as I can.

Sometimes we keep it simple–just plain white bread, a thick smear of mayo, a slice of tomato, and a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper.

Other times, we load up our tomato sandwiches with the rest of summer’s best produce and make The Best Veggie Sandwiches.

Heck, tomatoes even make their way into our breakfasts, sitting atop a Classic Scrambled Egg Sandwich.

But our biggest summer sandwich go-to is the Caprese Panini–a creation so simple but so divinely satisfying it deserves its own hall in the Sandwich Hall of Fame.

The classic flavors of caprese are all here: fresh mozzarella, tomato, and basil, but we’re upping the ante by adding bread and grilling the whole thing up into a buttery, gooey panini.

Today, we’ll show you how to make this simple summer sandwich. If you’re anything like us, you’ll make it all summer long (and dream about it all winter!).

Ingredients in a Caprese Panini

Sandwich ingredients on a baking sheet- sliced tomato, mozzarella, butter, pesto, bread, and balsamic vinegar.

This sandwich is designed to showcase the best summer flavors, so it’s best to keep it simple.

  • Start with good bread. I prefer a Country White, Italian, or Sourdough bread. Save the wheat-y breads for a Turkey, Avocado, and Sprout Sandwich.
  • Mozzarella- For the best flavor, look for fresh mozzarella (the kind that comes in logs or balls, not blocks or slices). If you’re in a pinch, the other kind is good too, but you really can’t beat the creaminess of fresh mozzarella.
  • Tomatoes- Quality matters here! Get the best tomatoes you can find! Garden tomatoes are great, but farmer’s markets and even supermarkets often have great options during the summer months. Heirloom tomatoes are a great option, but any very ripe, flavorful tomato will do.
  • Basil Pesto- I prefer using Homemade Pesto in this recipe, but store bought will also work. 
  • Balsamic reduction adds a final hint of sweetness and tang that pulls the sandwich together. Store bought reduction is fine, but it’s also very easy to make at home.

How to Make a Tomato Mozzarella Panini

A grilled Caprese panini shown stacked on a white decorative plate.

This sandwich comes together much like any other grilled cheese.

First, butter the outsides of two pieces of bread. Be generous here! You want the butter to cover every surface of the bread.

Next, load up the sandwich! Spread the insides of the bread with pesto, then layer it with thick slices of mozzarella and tomato. Season the tomato with salt and pepper. Add a little balsamic drizzle, and sandwich it together.

To make in a panini press (<<here’s a good one):

Grease the press with oil, close the lid, and preheat. Most presses have an indicator light to let you know it is preheated. If yours doesn’t, wait about 5 minutes for it to preheat.

Place the sandwich in the press and lower the lid, applying pressure with your hand. Cook for about 5-7 minutes, checking periodically, until the bread is evenly golden and cheese is melted.

How to cook a panini without a press:

I recommend using a non-stick grill pan (like this one) to get the classic panini marks, but you can use a flat pan as well.

Place the pan on the stove top and heat to medium heat. Add the sandwich. Cook about 3 minutes on the first side. When it’s golden, flip over.

To mimic the “press” of a panini maker, place a piece of heavy cookware on top of the sandwich while the second side cooks, another 2-3 minutes. A cast iron skillet, large heavy mixing bowl or even a baking sheet and the pressure of your hand works great for this.

A halved Caprese Grilled Cheese shown with mozzarella melting out the center.

Serve and eat!

It’s time to enjoy your golden, gooey panini! That first bite, with the crisp buttered bread giving way to strings of melty mozzarella, is the absolute best!

This Tomato Mozzarella Sandwich is quite filling, especially for being vegetarian! I recommend serving it with a light garden salad or cucumber tomato salad. It’s also excellent paired with Fresh Tomato Soup with Basil (another great way to make the most of in-season tomatoes!).

Or, give yourself the Panera experience at home, and serve it with a hunk of sourdough bread and an apple!

Caprese Panini halved and stacked on a white plate, with mozzarella melting down the front.

Caprese Panini

Yield: 2 sandwiches
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes

Golden and gooey Caprese Paninis combine fresh mozzarella and tomatoes with basil pesto for a sandwich that's perfect summer comfort food.

Ingredients

  • 2 Tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 4 slices Italian or sourdough bread
  • 4 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced
  • 1 large tomato, sliced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 Tablespoons homemade pesto
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic reduction

Instructions

  1. Butter the outsides of two pieces of bread. Be generous here! You want the butter to cover every surface of the bread.
  2. Spread the unbuttered sides of the bread with pesto, then layer it with thick slices of mozzarella and tomato. Season the tomato with salt and pepper. Add a little balsamic drizzle, and sandwich it together.

To make in a panini press:

  1. Grease the press with oil, close the lid, and preheat. Most presses have an indicator light to let you know it is preheated. If yours doesn’t, wait about 5 minutes for it to preheat.
  2. Place the sandwich in the press and lower the lid, applying pressure with your hand. Cook for about 5-7 minutes, checking periodically, until the bread is evenly golden and cheese is melted.

To cook on the stove top:

  1. I recommend using a non-stick grill pan to get the classic panini marks, but you can use a regular pan as well.
  2. Place the pan on the stove top and heat to medium heat. Add the sandwich. Cook about 3 minutes on the first side. When it’s golden, flip over.
  3. To mimic the “press” of a panini maker, place a piece of heavy cookware on top of the sandwich while the second side cooks, another 2-3 minutes. A cast iron skillet, large heavy mixing bowl or even a baking sheet and the pressure of your hand works great for this.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 2 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 444Total Fat: 36gTrans Fat: 0gCholesterol: 77mgSodium: 539mgCarbohydrates: 11gProtein: 16g

Please note nutritional information for my recipes is calculated by a third party service and provided as a courtesy to my readers. For the most accurate calculation, I always recommend running the numbers yourself with the specific products you use.

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16 Comments

  1. If you have excess basil, make and freeze pesto to use all winter long. I freeze it in ice cube trays and then store the frozen cubes in zipper lock freezer bags. One or two cubes will be plenty for whatever you want to make.

    I also try different nuts if pine nuts are too expensive. We especially like walnuts.

  2. that sandwich looks AMAZING!!! I do believe I will be eating that at least once a week for the rest of the summer! thanks for sharing 😀

  3. I just made this sandwich for lunch. It is delicious!! Just as it says in the description…”like eating summer!” I used a 7 grain bread. Definitely a winner! (I could have eaten the pesto all by itself!)

  4. Can I come eat at your house? 🙂 Seriously, thank you, because I have a whack of basil growing in my veggie-bed, and beyond putting it (whole-leaf) on sandwiches or chopping it coarsely for herbal accent to sauces, etc., I’ve been stumped what more to do with it. I am eating this sandwich TODAY!

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