Transform Your Panini: 3 Recipes, 1 Key Ingredient

Transform a panini by adding a single, versatile condiment. (Hint: black olive tapenade adds the perfect touch to whatever's inside.)

The trick to transforming a panini from glorified grilled cheese into something really special is adding a single, versatile condiment that will dress up a variety of fillings. Black olive tapenade is the perfect fit—it pairs well with meat, fish, cheese, and veggies, and it’s super simple to make.

Baked Eggplant Panini with Artichokes and Tapenade


serves 1

  • To prevent a soggy sandwich, drain and blot dry the artichoke hearts.
  • 1 small eggplant or Japanese eggplant, sliced
  • ¾ tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/3 of a baguette or 2 slices bread
  • 1 tbsp olive tapenade (recipe below)
  • 2 tbsp chopped artichoke hearts from a jar
  • ¼ cup baby arugula leaves

Heat oven to 350°F. In a bowl, toss eggplant slices with olive oil and balsamic vinegar; season with salt and black pepper. Bake on a cookie sheet until tender and brown, 15–20 minutes.
Slice baguette in half horizontally and use your fingers to pull out a little of the soft bread inside to hollow a space for the filling. Spread tapenade on one side of the baguette. Fill baguette with remaining ingredients; cook in a hot sandwich press until the bread is toasted and golden brown, 2–4 minutes.
NUTRITIONAL INFO 54 calories, 17 g fat (2 g saturated), 46 g carbs, 7 g fiber, 9 g protein, 651 mg sodium

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Tuna Panini with Fennel and Tapenade


serves 1
Trim the ends of a fennel bulb and cut in half for easier handling, then use a vegetable peeler to shave thin slices.

  • 1 tbsp olive tapenade (recipe below)
  • 1–2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 slices bread
  • 1/2 6 oz can chunk light tuna, unsalted
  • 1/4 cup shaved fennel slices

Spread tapenade on one slice of bread and mustard on the other slice. Fill bread slices with remaining ingredients; cook in a hot sandwich press until bread is toasted and golden brown, 2–4 minutes.
NUTRITIONAL INFO 64 calories, 9 g fat (1 g saturated), 47 g carbs, 6 g fiber, 26 g protein, 866 mg sodium

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Roasted Red Pepper Panini with Spinach and Tapenade


serves 1

Jarred roasted red bell peppers are sold at many supermarkets. Drain well and slice into 1/4-inch strips.

  • 1 tbsp olive tapenade (recipe below)
  • 2 slices bread
  • 1/4 cup baby spinach leaves
  • 1/4 cup roasted red pepper strips
  • 2 slices (1.5 oz) fontina or white cheddar cheese

Spread tapenade on one slice of bread. Fill bread slices with remaining ingredients; cook in a hot sandwich press until bread
is toasted and cheese melts, 3–5 minutes.
NUTRITIONAL INFO 92 calories, 17 g fat (7 g saturated), 41 g carbs, 4 g fiber, 15 g protein, 925 mg sodium

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Black Olive Tapenade

In a food processor, pulse 2 cups pitted kalamata black olives, 1 small garlic clove, and 2 tbsp olive oil into a coarse, roughly chopped paste. For more flavor, add one or more of the following and pulse until combined: 1 tbsp capers, 1 tsp orange zest, a splash of lemon juice. Makes about 11/2 cups; store extra in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

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Best Breads

When it comes to panini, opt for a sturdy and artisan-quality bread, so it holds together in the press. Try whole-wheat sourdough, ciabatta, or country-style levain.