If I had to choose and recommend you try a certain Italian Panini, it would be this pesto ham and cheese Sandwich. The combination of the flavors from the tangy and salty prosciutto ham, the soft and fresh mozzarella cheese so as the fresh and fruity homemade pesto is just incredible.
A Panino or Panini is an Italian Sandwich, similar to a grilled cheese sandwich, which is commonly toasted and served warm. A Panini is also the snack you normally come in touch with first when traveling in Italy and which you’ll find in lots of street stalls or cafes.
If you prefer to make a vegetarian option of this panini sandwich, you can just skip the ham and you’ll still end up with a super delicious Italian Sandwich.
What kind of bread is best for paninis?
The best bread for paninis and the most common one used in Italy might be the Schiacciata bread. This bread originated from Tuscany is thinner than focaccia bread and has a more crisp crust. This makes the Schiacciate the best type of bread so that you don’t have too much bread concerning the filling of the sandwich.
If you prefer to make the best-tasting Focaccia bread and to use it later for a Panini Sandwich, I have you covered with the following recipe.
Watch how to make my pesto ham and cheese sandwich
Ingredients for my ham and cheese panini
As almost always in Italian cuisine, few but the best quality ingredients are key. This comes especially important in a Sandwich like this with just 5 ingredients involved. So if you have the chance, be sure to get the best possible Italian ham, freshest cheese, and best quality ingredients for the homemade pesto.
These are the ingredients you need to make this tasty Italian Panini Sandwich:
- Homemade Basil Pesto
For the freshly and homemade basil pesto, you need fresh basil leaves, pine nuts, good quality parmesan cheese (parmigiano reggiano if possible), extra virgin olive oil, garlic as salt & pepper.
- Fresh Mozzarella Cheese
The mozzarella gives the sandwich a creamy and milky texture, which goes perfectly together with the crunchy peppery rocket and the salty and tangy ham.
- Prosciutto Crudo
Best use a great quality Italian prosciutto crudo or deli meat (Italian dry-cured ham) like parma ham.
- Little Arugula / Rocket
The fresh rocket gives the sandwich a crunchy component and a great contrast to the soft cheese and salty ham.
- Datterino / Cherry tomatoes
The tomatoes add another layer of umami flavors and a slightly fruity and acidic note.
How to make this pesto ham and cheese sandwich – Step by Step
This sandwich not only tastes great, but it is also super easy and quick to make. If you already have pre-made pesto, this panini is even put together in under 3-5 minutes. Here you’ll learn how to prepare this lovely Italian Sandwich step by step. Let’s start with the base and star in this easy recipe, the homemade basil pesto:
Homemade Basil Pesto
- First, we’re gonna roast the pine nuts to get an even stronger and nuttier flavor out of them. Slowly roast the pine nuts in a frying pan over medium-low heat until they slightly turn brown-ish. Be sure to keep them tossing around to avoid burning them.
- To avoid the basil becoming too warm and getting bitter while mixing the pesto in a food processor, you can put the leaves in the fridge for a while and add a few ice cubes. When preparing the pesto in a pestle and mortar, you shouldn’t have this problem.
- Add the cold fresh basil, pine nuts, grated parmesan cheese, garlic, and most of the olive oil in the food processor and mix for a while until you get a smooth texture. Taste the pesto and add a pinch of salt & pepper according to your liking. Also add more olive oil if the pesto is still too thick.
Preparing the pesto ham and cheese sandwich
- Cut the Schiacciata or Foccacia bread in half and spread the bottom part with the homemade pesto. Add the sliced mozzarella cheese and tomato slices and sprinkle with some more pesto on top.
- Add a few slices of ham or as much as you like.
- Add some fresh rocket and close the panini with the upper part of the bread.
- Toast the Sandwich for about 1 minute in a sandwich press or 1-2 minutes on each side in a frying pan on medium heat until golden brown.
- Enjoy your freshly made and tasty Italian Panini!
For a Panini, the sandwich should be pressed together and warmed up / toasted in a sandwich press or in a pan so the cheese melts and the bread becomes crisp on the outside.
If you don’t have a sandwich press or panini toaster, you can easily toast the panini in a frying pan and put another pan or something else with some weight onto it. Just toast the sandwich for about 1-2 minutes on medium heat to avoid burning the bread.
A Panini defines a type of sandwich with several ingredients between two slices of focaccia, schiacciata or ciabatta bread which is then toasted in a sandwich press or in a pan to melt the cheese and give the bread a crusty, golden brown outside.
Italian Pesto Ham and Cheese Sandwich (Pesto Panino)
- 1 medium schiacciata bread or focaccia bread
- 100 grams prosciutto crudo parma ham
- 100 grams parmesan cheese (Parmigiano Reggiano) two handful
- 1-2 dl olive oil extra vergine
- 30 grams pine nuts
- 40 grams fresh basil two handful
- 1 handful arugula (rocket)
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 pinch pepper
- 1 ball mozzarella cheese
- 2-3 datterino tomatoes
- 1 clove garlic
Making the Pesto
- To avoid the basil becoming too warm and getting bitter while mixing, you can put the basil leaves in the fridge for a while and put some ice cubes onto them. You can also put the bottom part of the mixer / food processor in the fridge as well.40 grams fresh basil
- roast the pine nuts at medium-low heat in a frying pan until they become slightly brown. Be sure to toss them from time to time and not to burn them.30 grams pine nuts
- Grate the Parmigiano Reggiano so it will be easier to stuff it into the food processor later. Otherwise you can also just cut smaller cubes.100 grams parmesan cheese (Parmigiano Reggiano)
- Add the cold fresh basil, parmesan cheese, garlic, roasted pine nuts as well as most of the olive oil into the food processor or pestle and mortar. Mix or grind until you get a homogeneous and creamy texture.1-2 dl olive oil extra vergine, 1 clove garlic
- Taste the Pesto and add a pinch of salt & pepper according to your taste. Also add more olive oil if the pesto is still a bit too thick. Mix again and put the pesto aside for later.1 pinch pepper, 1 pinch salt
Making the Pesto ham and cheese Panini
- Cut the datterino tomatoes and the mozzarella cheese into thin slices.2-3 datterino tomatoes, 1 ball mozzarella cheese
- Cut the schiacciata or focaccia bread in half and spread the bottom part with your freshly made pesto. Add the mozzarella cheese and datterino tomatoes and sprinkle with some more pesto on top.1 medium schiacciata bread
- Add the prosciutto crudo (parma ham) on top, add some fresh adugula and close the panino with the upper part of the bread.100 grams prosciutto crudo, 1 handful arugula (rocket)
- Toast the Sandwich in a frying pan or on the grill for a minute each side and enjoy a fantastic italian style Panino full of fresh and tasty ingredients.