The chicken pesto and mozzarella panini recipe is actually a revision of a much older post. Same recipe but a slightly different method. About a month ago someone found their way to my site by Googling “chicken pesto panini without the grill” No idea who they were but it inspired me. I see you, chicken pesto panini without the grill! So I said to myself…GIVE THE PEOPLE WHAT THEY WANT. So here we are.
So how would I make a panini without a grill? CAST IRON. The only way to go. So whoever you are Mr. or Ms. panini without the grill, this ones for you.
Bite into this crispy golden chicken masterpiece and you would never guess it was made using a skillet and not a panini press (other than the lack of grill lines). The secret is in the olive oil brushed on the panini bread. It gives you a crispy golden, toasted finish like yuh dream about. Like a grilled cheese, only crunchier.
I’ve played around with getting the chicken JUST right. The trick is using thinly sliced chicken and further flattening it out with a rolling pin. Like when preparing chicken parmesan, but thinner. Otherwise, it’s impossible to eat. You know when you take one bite out of a sandwich and pull the entire contents out with your teeth? Total disaster, I know. Flattening the chicken will prevent that.
The best part? You can do it all in one pan. Sear your chicken first on the cast iron skillet and then assemble the panini right on the same skillet. Layer the panini bread, pesto sauce, chicken, fresh mozzarella, fresh basil, and tomato. Pro tip: Place the mozzarella on top of the chicken when assembling so the heat will melt the cheese better. Use a spatula to firmly press down on either side of the panini as it heats up so it flattens and all melts together. Is there anything a cast iron skillet can’t do?
Chicken is ideal if it’s about 1/4 inch thick.
- 2 thinly sliced chicken breasts, flattened to ¼ inch thick
- 4 slices white panini bread
- 4 slices fresh mozzarella cheese
- 4 slices tomato (thinly sliced)
- 2-3 tablespoons pesto sauce
- 4 teaspoons olive oil, for bread
- 4-5 fresh basil leaves (optional)
- Thinly slice the tomato and fresh mozzarella into ¼ inch thick slices. Set aside.
- Flatten each chicken breast using a rolling pin to ¼ inch thick slices. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Heat cast iron skillet to medium heat, add a teaspoon of olive oil and fully cook chicken through, about 2-3 minutes per side. Set aside. Take a paper towel and carefully wipe up excess juices (if any).
- Spread 1 teaspoon of olive oil on one side of each slice of panini bread (outer sides facing the skillet when searing). Assemble each panini right on the skillet starting with one slice of bread, pesto sauce, chicken breast, mozzarella slices, tomato slices, and top with the other slice of panini bread.
- Sear for 2-3 minutes per side, periodically pressing down firmly with a spatula on both sides so the panini sticks together and cheese fully melts. The panini is done when the bread is golden brown and crunchy.