Say Cheese with this Chicken Pesto Pasta Panini

“I treat sandwiches like a meal. That’s why I have no problem using pasta as a topping. The way I think of it, you eat garlic bread with pasta, so why not combine the whole experience into a sandwich?”

Josh Elkin

You’ll Need:

• 1 cup bacon, chopped

• 1 French roll, cut in half lengthwise

• 4 to 6 slices pepper jack cheese

• 1 cup orecchiette

• ½ cup shredded pepper jack cheese

• 1 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 2-inch slices

• 1 cup basil leaves

• ½ cup Parmesan cheese, shredded• ½ cup olive oil

• 1 large clove garlic, minced

• ¼ cup pine nuts (optional)

Directions:

  1. Bring a medium-size pot of water to a boil. Season heavily with salt. Add pasta and cook for 8 minutes. Drain, reserving pasta and ½ cup of the water. Put pasta back in the pot and cover to keep warm.
  2. Cook bacon over medium-high heat in a frying pan for 5 minutes. Add a splash of water to render the fat. Continue cooking for an additional 3 to 4 minutes. Extract the bacon from the grease, chop and set aside.
  3. Pat the chicken dry and season with salt and pepper. Add to the frying pan and cook over medium-high heat for 3 minutes on each side until golden brown.
  4. To make the pesto, combine the basil leaves, Parmesan cheese, garlic and olive oil in a food processor. Blend until everything is combined into a spreadable sauce.
  5. Add the pasta and bacon to the frying pan with chicken. Mix vigorously over medium-high heat. Add shredded cheese and mix until the cheese is melted. Add the pesto sauce and continue mixing. Slowly add a bit of the reserved pasta water until a sauce forms. Make sure it’s not too thin. (Add water if it’s too thick.)
  6. Assemble the sandwich. Add enough sliced cheese to cover each half of the bread. Cover one side with pasta mixture and close with the other half.
  7. Preheat a skillet with butter or oil to medium-low. Add your sandwich, then press a heavy pan on top to weigh it down. Cook until it’s golden and crisp, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Add a splash of water to create steam, making sure your cheese is melted. Slice the sandwich and enjoy.

@thejoshelkin | recipechampions.com

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