Sunday, September 18, 2011

Vegan Italian Cheese Panini

I have been obsessed with paninis, ever since I ate at Sweet Pea Baking Company in Portland, OR this summer. The first panini recipe I created at home is based on Sweet Pea's Bendishaw sandwich. Wheat bread, pesto, fresh tomatoes and Daiya cheese. If you are strapped on time and craving pizza, this panini will be your best friend. The only thing that requires advance preparation is the vegan pesto, but it can stay fresh for about 2-3 weeks in the refrigerator.

Vegan Italian Cheese Panini (for 2)

  • 4 slices of whole wheat bread (we use the whole wheat sourdough bread from Fresh and Easy)
  • 1 medium tomato sliced (4 slices is ideal)
  • 2-3 tbsp vegan pesto (recipe below)
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella-style Daiya cheese
  • Olive oil (for spritzing the bread)


1. Turn on the panini machine.
2. Spritz the outside of the bread slices lightly with olive oil and flip the oil side down.
3. Place 2 slices of tomato on one slice of bread for each sandwich.
4. Spread 1-1 1/2 tbsp of vegan pesto on the other slice of bread for each sandwich.
5. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of Daiya cheese on the slices of bread with the tomato.
6. Put the pesto bread slices on top of the other slices of bread to complete the sandwiches.
7. Transfer the sandwiches to the panini machine and hold down the handle for 10 seconds and then release the handle.
8. Cook the sandwich for 3 minutes and then check for dark grill marks. If you don't see dark grill marks, cook for additional 1 minute intervals and check for grill marks.
9. Flip the sandwich with tongs or a fork and cook for an additional 3 minutes.

Vegan Pesto
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh basil
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup pine nuts (other nuts, such as almonds or walnuts may be substituted)
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper


Combine all ingredients in a food processor until nuts are ground. Pesto should still have texture and not be completely smooth. Add more salt and pepper to taste and enjoy! One variation is to add 1/2 cup rehydrated sun-dried tomatoes. For a lower fat version, replace half the oil with non-dairy milk.

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