Un bel panino // The perfect sandwich

As a young girl, I spent many summers in the Campania region of Italy. One of my favorite everyday things to eat was a panino. A panino is the Italian word for sandwich, but it is nothing like the sandwiches that are often called “Italian” in the United States. It is easy to make, tasty and very satisfying without making you feel stuffed. I love making these sandwiches for others; it is a simple way to show you love someone.

The Campania region, where my love for Italy and the perfect sandwich began!

What makes the perfect sandwich? 

I. Good bread

Good bread is the most important ingredient and makes all the difference- which is why I intend on carrying only the best at CASAGIOVE! Good bread for this type of sandwich needs to be slightly crisp on the outside, soft on the inside, and partially hollow. This describes my absolute favorite bread for a panino which is called the rosetta and found all over Campania. There used to be an Italian market in San Pedro that carried rosette, but sadly, it is no longer open. It is very difficult in general to find any type of bread with the qualities I mentioned. And looks can be deceiving, so I always give the bread I am considering a quick squeeze to make sure it’s slightly crispy and not too soft or hard. I have found some good rolls at Whole Foods, and some slightly hollowed out ciabatta rolls could work, however, my favorite reasonable and convenient option at the moment is the Trader Joe’s Organic Artisanal Baguette. It comes in a closed sleeve (which helps it to stay fresh); it is frozen and brought out each morning. All you need to do is pop it in the oven at 375 degrees for a few minutes, and it’s ready to go. I normally don’t recommend anything frozen, but this bread works and it’s always good! If I get to Trader Joe’s early enough and the organic baguettes are still cold, I buy a few and pop them in my freezer so that I can use them throughout the week as needed. When I am using the baguettes for sandwiches, I cut them into 3-4 medium sized pieces or 2 larger pieces. If I am not lucky enough to get an organic baguette, I can use a baguette from the local market and trim out some of the bread inside to help make it more hollow. 

The perfect roll for un bel panino, the rosetta

II. Fresh, high quality ingredients

Meats – I always opt for the better meats. Although no markets near me carry the quality of meats found in Italy, I choose from the organic, nitrate free, low sodium, artisanal meats offered at whichever market I go to. I pay close attention to the color of meats as well. If it looks gray or tan or is even the slightest bit sticky, it’s not fresh. I make sure to give it a taste at the counter, and also make sure that it’s sliced to order. I rarely go with pre-sliced (even though they say it was sliced that morning), and I am very finicky about the thickness of the slices. It needs to be on the thinner side, without being too thin. Most deli slicers will ask, and if they don’t, be sure to say something.

Cheeses – My favorite cheese to use is fresh mozzarella, sliced into 1/8″ slices or the little balls of fresh mozzarella, called “ciliegine”, cut in half. 

Lettuce – Butter lettuce, baby greens or arugula (depending on the type of meat I am using) are all great lettuce options. I take the time to check dates on any packaged lettuce and make sure there are no browning leaves. 

III. Keep it simple 

One type of meat, one type of cheese, a little lettuce with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil, a squeeze of lemon (or a little balsamic vinegar) and a sprinkle of kosher salt… and that’s it! Nothing more is needed!

IV. Wrap it up

There is something about taking the time to wrap up a sandwich that makes it extra special. I like using tan sandwich paper liners with a little twine, and then I add the person’s name and/or a little love note. If it’s a sandwich that will sit in the refrigerator until lunch time, I wrap it in plastic wrap before adding the tan sandwich liner. 

Wrapped with love, a favorite of my husband’s and sons’- roast beef, mozzarella and arugula on a baguette

V. Preferably eat outside, with a beautiful view and good company

In Italy, especially in summer, you are ALWAYS outside! You walk everywhere, you eat outside, you talk outside…it’s a beautiful thing. Eating outside with people you love and a pretty view is always a good idea, and it helps to bring a little bit of summers in Italy to California… so grab a friend and a panino and enjoy the fresh air and the perfect sandwich today!

Cin cin!



Patricia Bergen
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Posted in Fai da te — Recipes & Projects and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

Patricia Bergen

Shopping for and preparing meals with family in Italy was a beautiful experience— one that I dreamed about sharing with my community in Dana Point, California. CASAGIOVE, recipes & notes, is the expression of that dream and I'm so happy to share it with you!

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