Caprese Cheese Panini with Lemon Herb Vinaigrette and Crunchy Parmesan Crust


This is the ultimate adult’s grilled cheese.


  • Fresh Mozzarella, shredded or sliced thin
  • Sliced Tomatoes
  • Fresh Greens (Arugula, Spinach, or Similar)
  • Fresh Basil, chiffonade
  • Sliced Bread with a Crunchy Crust (Sourdough, French, etc)
  • Grated Parmesean
  • Butter, softened
  • Salt and Pepper

For Lemon Herb Vinegarette:

  • Fresh Lemon, juiced and zested
  • Dried Herb Blend, such as Italian
  • Small Garlic Clove, minced
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper


  1. Start by preparing the vinaigrette. The general rule for a vinaigrette is three parts oil to one part acid, but you can vary this combination based on taste. Less oil will result in a tangier vinaigrette while more will create a subtler lemony flavor. Ideally, you will emulsify the oil and the acid by vigorously whisking, creating a homogeneous mixture. However, don’t fret if it separates, just give it a good stir before use.

Tip: the longer it sits, the more flavorful it gets, so prepare as far in advance as you like and refrigerate until use.

To prepare: Add lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic, and dried herbs together in a small mixing bowl. Slowly add oil while continuously whisking other ingredients. Salt and Pepper to taste. Set aside.

Tip: if you find that your bowl wants to move around as you whisk, just roll up a damp kitchen towel, form a ring with it on your countertop, and nestle your bowl right in the middle. Instant anti-slip, and you free up your hands.

2.  Next, prepare a simple compound butter by combining softened butter with the parmesan cheese in another bowl until incorporated. Feel free to add any other flavor to this mix: garlic, herbs, salt and pepper, cayenne, or whatever floats your boat.

3.  Spread an even layer of this compound butter to one side of each slice of bread, just as if you are buttering bread.

4.  Lay each piece of bread- butter and parmesan side down- into a warm skillet, frying pan, or onto a griddle.

Tip: For grilled cheese, low and slow is the way to go, especially if using butter, which has a low smoke point (i.e., burns quickly). The goal here is to slowly toast and brown the bread, searing the parmesan into the crust of your grilled cheese, creating a flavorful, crunchy crust while melting the mozzarella.

5.  Add fresh mozzarella to each piece of bread as soon as you get it into the pan.

6.  Sprinkle on the fresh basil.

7.  When the mozzarella is melted and the bread golden brown and especially the parmesan is crispy (not melty), remove from pan, place each side on a plate keeping them open faced.

8.  Now pile on the fresh sliced tomato and greens to one half. Drizzle the greens and tomatoes with the lemon herb vinaigrette, as little or as much as you like. Top with the other piece of melty, cheesy toast.

9.  Slice in half. Enjoy.

In this recipe alone, you have mastered (or begun to master): parmesan-crusting, the making of a vinaigrette, compound butters and the proper technique for grilling bread. These techniques are a few that form the basis of cooking. Once you have the technique down, all other recipes are just a matter of substituting ingredients in and out.

Furthermore, any leftover vinaigrette, compound butter, or raw ingredients can be used in many other recipes. The compound butter can be re-refrigerated and used to add extra flavor to any dish. Drop a pat into sauces or use to sauté vegetables as a side dish. Spread it onto rolls and warm breads at dinner. The vinaigrette can dress a salad, be used as a marinade for chicken, a lovely sauce for broiled fish or even as the base for a lemon cream pasta.

Check out all of our Panini and Sandwich Recipes!


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