Who but the Italians (with their love of simple, honest food) could have invented panini? The word means “little breads” but translates as warm, melting cheese and spicy salami or vegetables in a crisp jacket of grilled bread. In Italy you find variations such as tramezzini, stuffed focaccia and filled piadina—all uncomplicated food at its finest. To make these tasty sandwiches there is one important prerequisite—buy the best ingredients you can find. Plunder the food markets for authentic cheeses such as Mozzarella or Fontina, or Provolone and delicious meats such as prosciutto, bresaola, and mortadella salami. The golden rule of successful panini making is not to overcomplicate things. Fill your Panini with mouthwatering combinations such as Spicy Salami, Provolone, Artichoke and Peperoncini; Mortadella, Giardiniera and Arugula; and Pepperoni, Mozzarella, Black Olives, and Pesto.
Open sandwiches are enjoying a revival so why not enjoy them Italian style? Bruschetta is good crusty Italian bread, toasted over a wood fire or cooked on an iron stove-top grill pan, then rubbed with garlic and anointed with olive oil. True crostoni (large) or crostini (small) are brushed with olive oil and cooked in the oven or under the grill or fried in olive oil or butter and are perfect as an antipasti or appetizer before an Italian meal. Sample tempting bruschetta toppings from Garlic Mushrooms with Gremolata; Slow-roasted Tomatoes with Salted Ricotta; Goat Cheese and Sweet Red Bell Peppers and Roasted Artichokes with Pine Nuts. Bite-size Crostini make perfect party food—try them with all manner of delicious toppings from Prosciutto-wrapped Bocconcini or Smoked Salmon and Lemon Pepper Cream to Tuna, Black Olives, Pine Nuts, and Capers. Finally, discover how to take your panini and crostini to the next level with the addition of homemade Italian-style condiments. Simple recipes include Roasted Tomatoes, Caramelized Onions, Basil Pesto, and Giardiniera, delicious little sour-sweet pickled vegetables. There is also a recipe for mayo (perfect for dunking your panini in!), meaning you won’t be lost for inspiration for ways with these delicious, toasted Italian breads.