Featured Recipe: Ham and Cheese Panini and Italian Arugula Salad

Copyright Linda Gassenheimer

Crisp crust, warm tasty fillings with melted cheese – no wonder Panini’s have become popular.  Here’s a quick dinner for this busy time of year with almost no prep work.  This  sandwich can be assembled in minutes.  It’s filled with low-sodium ham from the deli, roasted red pepper, fresh basil and shredded sharp Cheddar cheese.

You don’t need a special Panini press to make this sandwich.  If you have one that’s great or simply place the sandwich in a saute pan and press it down with a lid.

Ciabatta bread is the typical bread used for a Panini.  Its Italian bread shaped like a slipper and takes its name from ciabatta, the Italian word for slipper. It’s long, wide and a little flat and perfect for sandwiches. You can use a large baguette, Italian sub roll or Focaccia instead.



Recipe by Linda Gassenheimer

1 small ciabatta bread (about 6 ounces)

Olive oil spray

2 medium garlic cloves, crushed

6 ounces sliced low-sodium ham

1/2 cup sliced, drained canned roasted red peppers

1/2 cup reduced-fat sharp Cheddar cheese

Several fresh basil leaves

Olive oil spray

Cut 2, 2 1/2-inch pieces from the bread. Slice them open horizontally. Spray olive oil on the top halves and sprinkle garlic over the oil.  Place ham on the bottom halves.  Place roasted red pepper over the ham. Sprinkle cheese over the red pepper and top with 5 or 6 basil leaves.  Cover with the top halves.

Heat a nonstick skillet, large enough to hold both Paninis, over medium-low heat and spray with olive oil spray.  Add the Paninis and press down with a lid.  Saute 3 minutes. Turn over and press with a lid.  Saute another 3 minutes. Makes 2 servings.


Recipe by Linda Gassenheimer

4 cups washed, ready-to-eat Italian-style salad

1 cup fresh arugula

2 tablespoons reduce-fat salad dressing

Place Italian-style salad in a bowl.  Tear arugula into small pieces and add to bowl.  Toss with dressing. Divide between two dinner plates. Makes 2 servings.

Nutrition Information

HAM AND CHEESE PANINI: Per serving: 492 calories (35 percent from fat), 19.1 g fat (8.4 g saturated, 7.9 g monounsaturated), 75 mg cholesterol, 32.7 g protein, 46.2 g carbohydrates, 1.8 g fiber, 1428 mg sodium. ITALIAN ARUGULA SALAD: Per serving: 30 calories (40 percent from fat), 1.3 g fat (0.1 g saturated, 0.4 g monounsaturated), 1 mg cholesterol, 1.5 g protein, 4.2 g carbohydrates, 2.2 g fiber, 15 mg sodium.

Shopping List

To buy: 1 small ciabatta bread (about 6 ounces), 1/2 pound sliced, low-sodium ham, 1 jar roasted red peppers, 1 package reduced-fat sharp Cheddar cheese, 1 bunch basil, 1 bunch arugula and 1 bag washed, ready-to-eat Italian-style salad

Staples: Olive oil spray, garlic, olive oil spray and reduced-fat salad dressing.

Helpful Hints

  • Monterey jack cheese, Swiss or a stronger cheese such as gorgonzola can be used instead of sharp cheddar.
  • Saute the Paninis over medium-low heat so the insides will warm and the crust will be crisp and golden brown, not black.


  • Assemble Panini and start to cook.
  • While sandwich cooks, assemble salad.
  • Finish Panini.