Chicken Pesto Paninis

It’s Thursday–the day I spend approximately two to three hours scouring the internet, flipping through cookbooks, and rifling through my big black book in search of amazing recipes and/or inspiration for things to cook this weekend.  It’s a ritual that borders somewhere between dedication and obsession.

Nothing cheeses me off more than spending all those hours (HOURS!) researching on top of shelling out my hard earned moo-lah on ingredients, taking the time to cook the darned thing, and having it turn out to be a flop.  After trying one-too-many frown-evoking recipes, I adopted a new blog bylaw in 2012:  only post recipes that I would recommend (without hesitation) to a friend.  Even though I painstakingly snap photos of everything I cook, if it ain’t delicious, it ain’t going on the blog.  Jarrod knows exactly what I mean when I ask if a dish is “blog worthy,” and he’s pretty truthful about so-so meals (in a I’m-just-glad-you-cooked-please-don’t-make-me-do-this sort of way).

When he REALLY likes something, he doesn’t hesitate to let me know.  Like this Chicken Pesto Panini, for instance, which he declared the BEST SANDWICH OF HIS LIFE.

If those aren’t fighting words, I don’t know what are.

Chicken Pesto Panini (8 of 10)

Perhaps it was the homemade focaccia that I woke up bright and early to knead by hand.

Chicken Pesto Panini (1 of 10)

Nah… definitely not.  He has no idea what goes down before the 10am hour rolls around.  So, maybe it was those adorable hand-dimpled nooks and crannies dusted generously with garlic salt and oregano?

Chicken Pesto Panini (3 of 10)

Or the fresh made-from-scratch pesto.  Basil, toasted almonds, parmesan, and garlic anyone?

Chicken Pesto Panini (2 of 10)

And I did slave over my Griddler grilling that chicken up.

Chicken Pesto Panini (4 of 10)Chicken Pesto Panini (5 of 10)Chicken Pesto Panini (6 of 10)

My guess is it had nothing to do with any of these things, though I was sure to emphasize each and every component of the sandwich that was in fact homemade as I wiggled my fingers in jazz-hand fashion in front of his face.

Chicken Pesto Panini (10 of 10)

If you aren’t up for all the home-cooking, you could totally buy a loaf of focaccia (or use premade pizza dough) and use store bought pesto – but it’s a heck of a lot cheaper to make it yourself and I am ALL ABOUT any excuse to whip out my spirit fingers whilst bragging.

Chicken Pesto Paninis

  • 2 large chicken breasts
  • Olive Oil
  • McCormick’s Montreal Chicken Seasoning (or your seasonings of choice)
  • Black Pepper
  • Focaccia (recipe below)
  • Basil Pesto (recipe below)
  • Monterey Jack (or cheese of choice)
Step One:  Drizzle a bit of olive oil on each chicken breast, spread with a brush, then season with seasonings of your choice.  Repeat on opposite side.  Grill chicken breast until completely cooked through (approx 7 minutes on the Griddler or George Foreman Grill).
Step Two:  Cut off a hunk of focaccia and slice in half sandwich style.  Spread pesto on one side of bread, top with cheese, then chicken breast, and other half of bread.  Wrap sandwich tightly in foil and bake in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes, or until heated through.

Basic Focaccia

Recipe slightly adapted from the Joy of Cooking

  • 1/2 package Active Dry Yeast (about 1 1/8 teaspoons)
  • 5.5 ounces warm water
  • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
  • Olive oil
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • Garlic salt
  • Dried Oregano
Step One:  Combine the yeast and warm water in a medium mixing bowl, let stand five minutes until the yeast is dissolved.
Step Two:  Add the flour, 1 tbsp olive oil, and 1.5 tsp salt to the dissolved yeast and mix with a fork until combined.  Lightly flour a work surface, transfer dough to surface, then knead by hand (adding flour as needed to prevent the dough from sticking) for 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.  Lightly coat a medium sized bowl with olive oil, place dough in the bowl and flip to coat.  Cover with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place (a sunny window) for 1.5 hours.
Step Three:  On a cookie shee or pizza pan coated with cooking spray, gently roll/pat the dough out into a round(ish) slab, then use your fingers to dimple the top.  Drizzle olive oil over top, then sprinkle with garlic salt and oregano.  Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes.


Basil Pesto

  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves, large stems removed
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup toasted almonds
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/8 tsp salt (if almonds are salted, omit this)
  • Pinch of black pepper

Step One and Only:  Add all ingredients to a food processor and pulse, scraping down sides of bowl as needed, until thoroughly combined.

On a separate note, today is the boyfriend’s birthday!  Now that we are once again the same age, I can no longer be referred to as a cougar or cradle robber… well, at least not for the next 5 months anyway.



You may also like


  1. Happy Birthday BF! Best sandwich ever is making me drool. Better than cake? Put a candle in that puppy!