I used to make these sandwiches sooooo long ago. To be honest I usually go on recipe binges. Like, I’ll create a new recipe and then I totally get hooked and basically make it a ridiculous number of times until I cannot stand the sight of it anymore. I think that’s the reason I totally forgot about sharing this recipe with you guys! However, now that I made it and remembered why I liked it so much, I’ll probably be making it a bazillion more times and go back into my never ending cycle of recipe binges.
ANYWAY. I call this a “panini” but as you notice from the photos…I didn’t grill it or put it in a panini press but I really did mean to. Basically as I was photographing this, I was tired and I honestly just wanted to eat it. True story. To tell you the truth, it doesn’t even need to be pressed or grilled. It tastes damn good just the way it is.
Where to Find Ciabatta Bread:
Costco & Trader Joe’s have some great options, but if you don’t have one near you check out a local bakery or the loose rolls section of your grocery store. If they don’t have ciabatta ask someone in the bakery for a similar bread.
Basil Walnut Pesto
I use walnuts but you could also use different nuts like pine nuts or pistachios. You can increase the spice by adding a jalapeño as well!
-If you can, try to use ciabatta bread!! I grabbed loose ciabatta rolls from the bakery section of my supermarket. My second choice would be a foccacia or sourdough loaf.
-Add any other veggies like mushrooms, asparagus, zucchini, red peppers
– Add cheese! Some goat cheese or fresh mozzarella would be yummy!
-Want to make it healthier? Skip the bread! Make a warm veggie bowl with just the filling, topped with the basil pesto and a drizzle of balsamic!
-Entertaining guests? I’ve presented the eggplant and spinach filling on crostini that’s spread with the basil pesto and drizzled with balsamic- its a bite size flavor bomb!
As always, if you have questions about this recipe comment below and I’ll get back to you quickly! Happy Eating!
Eggplant & Spinach Panini with Basil Pesto & Balsamic Glaze
Yield 4 Sandwiches
1 Onion, diced small
1 Yellow Bell Pepper, diced small
2.5 cups eggplant, diced small
2 cups spinach, washed
1 red chili, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced or chopped
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tbsp oil
Balsamic Glaze or Balsamic Reduction
4 Ciabatta rolls
Choice of cheese like mozzarella
Salt & Pepper
20 Large Basil Leaves
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
3 cloves garlic
1/3 cup pecorino romano, grated
1/4 extra virgin olive oil
Salt & Pepper
- Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add sliced garlic and chili peppers. Cook 2 minutes until garlic is fragrant but not browned.
- Add onions and cook until translucent, stirring occasionally. Add yellow bell peppers and continue to cook for 3-4 minutes.
- Add eggplant, oregano, crushed red pepper flakes, and salt. Stir well and cover skillet for 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Once eggplant is fork tender, add spinach and stir to incorporate.
- Remove from heat and set aside to assemble sandwiches.
- In a food processor, combine walnuts, basil, garlic and pulse until well blended.
- Add pecorino and pulse a few more times, scraping down the sides to make sure it is mixed well.
- Keeping the food processor running, slowly drizzle in olive oil in a steady slow stream until the mixture becomes emulsified and slightly liquid. (Note: I like to keep a thicker consistency as I'm using it for a spread in a sandwich. You can add more olive oil to achieve a more loose consistency if you like).
- Remove from food processor and use immediately or store in an air tight container in the refrigerator.
- Slice the ciabatta in half and spread basil pesto on both sides of the bread.
- Top one half of the bread with the eggplant and spinach mixture, add sliced mozzarella (optional), drizzle with balsamic glaze and top with remaining ciabatta half.
- Brush a panini press lightly with olive oil and press the sandwich until it is done. If you do not have a panini press, just toast the sandwich on a lightly oiled skillet, pressing down with a spatula until the bread has become slightly golden and crisped.
Note: This panini can also be enjoyed without being pressed or grilled at all. It tastes great as is!