While I will never say no to an over-the-top veggie burger or sandwich, sometimes simplicity is best. It might be tempting to look at this humble Fresh Mozzarella and Butternut Panini and want to add sauces, spreads, condiments, more vegetables… but keeping things simple pays off. It lets you really enjoy each component of the sandwich and how the flavors play off each other.
The star here is roasted butternut squash. Thinly slicing the squash, coating it with olive oil, and roasting it to tenderness coaxes out all of its sweetness. (And if you’re lucky enough to find honeynut squash at your local market, snap it up—it’s even sweeter than butternut squash and fabulous in this sandwich.)
While the squash takes center stage in this recipe, the other ingredients are just as important! Mild fresh mozzarella adds melty goodness without overshadowing the flavor of the butternut squash, as some stronger cheeses might. Sage leaves impart an earthy flavor, and then there’s the bread–choose a good one! Something crusty and sturdy enough to hold up to the ingredients.
You can kind of think of this panini as an adultified grilled cheese and, as such, it’s great for serving with a cup of soup. I really like the combination of butternut squash and red bell pepper, so a roasted red pepper bisque would be a good choice. Or go with something heartier if you’re especially hungry, like this Creamy Wild Rice and Portobello Soup.
Photos by Sunny Frantz
Fresh Mozzarella and Butternut Panini with Sage
- 1 medium butternut squash peeled and cut into 1/4-inch slices
- 2 tablespoons olive oil plus additional oil to brush on bread
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 8 thick slices crusty bread sourdough from a bakery works well
- 8 ounces fresh mozzarella drained and sliced
- 1/3 cup thinly sliced fresh sage leaves
- Preheat oven to 400ºF.
- Place the butternut squash on a sheet pan and toss it with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
- Bake the squash for about 40 minutes or until tender and just beginning to caramelize on the edges, gently tossing halfway through cooking time.
- Preheat a panini press to medium-high heat.
- Brush one side of each slice of bread with oil. Divide the squash, mozzarella, and sage evenly onto the non-oiled sides of 4 bread slices. Top with the remaining bread and grill until golden brown, about 8 minutes.