Updated on 09.10.14

Dinner With My Family #25: Avocado-Spinach Panini

Trent Hamm

Avocado-Spinach Panini Recipe

My wife and I love making “panini” sandwiches at home, even though we don’t have a panini press. We’ll experiment with ingredients, then cook that sandwich up beautifully.

This exact panini recipe is based on one from the July/August 2011 issue of Vegetarian Times, with a few twists of our own devising.

What You Need

All you need are some vegetables and some bread.

2 avocados, thinly sliced
1/2 cup thinly sliced sun dried tomatoes
1/4 cup finely diced onion
2 cups baby spinach
4 ciabatta rolls, split in half

You’ll also need just a tiny bit of olive oil.

The Night Before (or Early That Day)

As always, prep the vegetables. Slice the avocados and the onions and even the sun-dried tomatoes if need be.


Preparing the Meal
You’re essentially making a sandwich here, so slice the ciabatta rolls in half (if you haven’t already). You’ll then want to put just a bit of olive oil on the tops and bottoms of the sandwiches – the parts that will be exposed to the panini press (or to the alternate solution we describe below).


Then, layer the avocado, tomato, onion, and spinach on each of the rolls, then complete the sandwiches.


If you don’t have a panini press, get out two skillets and a few heavy canned goods. Lay the paninis in one of the skillets over medium heat, then put the other skillet on top of the sandwiches. Put some weight into the top skillet, which will press down on the sandwiches.


Cook for two minutes, then remove the heavy top skillet and flip the sandwiches. Replace the weight and cook for two minutes more. Since we like ours well done, we flipped the sandwiches again, placed the weight back on, and cooked for two more minutes.

We served ours with homemade yogurt on the side. To give it a bit of a sweet flavor, we added a spoonful of strawberry jelly to the homemade yogurt and stirred it up until the jelly broke down into small specks and the yogurt took on a pink hue.


Optional Ingredients

Paninis are incredibly flexible: all you do is add the ingredients you want. Meats, cheeses, vegetables, condiments, breads – just make it how you like it, then press it while you cook it. It’ll be delicious.

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  1. cv says:

    Looks delicious. Just don’t prep the avocado ahead of time, or it will turn brown and look much less appetizing.

  2. Johanna says:

    Looks like you’re using sundried tomatoes packed in a jar of oil? If you were to use the actual dried ones (that come in plastic bags), you’d need to soak them or steam them or something in advance – so that would be something you really *would* need to do The Night Before (or Early That Day).

    And I think most people have encountered fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt before, so we don’t really need a detailed explanation of how that works.

  3. kjc says:

    Agree – you most certainly do not want to prep the avocado in advance.

  4. Meg says:

    Oh. My. Goodness.
    Cant wait to try this!
    We are trying to eat less meat (and stay away from the oven through this heat wave!). I’m adding this to the list of meals to make next week.

  5. Julie says:

    Try putting some pesto on the bread before you put the toppings in. Delish!

  6. Katie says:

    Hopefully this won’t sound annoying, but my alteration to this recipe would be not too treat it like a panini. I’d toast the bread instead before making it into a sandwich. (Realistically, I’d toast it and butter it or toast it in butter on the stove; feel free to scream at me, health nuts.) Avocado can get weird when heated too much and there’s nothing inside the panini that would effectively blend or melt as a result of heat. If you had cheese or different vegetables (e.g., zucchini or fresh tomatoes or even fresh herbs like basil), that might be different, but I think this particular sandwich would only suffer from the panini treatment.

  7. valleycat1 says:

    #6 Katie-my thoughts exactly.

    And Trent, making this isn’t “essentially making a sandwich”, you ARE making a sandwich.

  8. Julia says:

    Can’t you use a Foreman Grill as a panini press?
    It’ll have grill marks on it, but that’s ok.

  9. valleycat1 says:

    I always thought to use two pans, you heat both up (empty) & then use them together to toast both sides at once, using wooden spoons or something similar to apply pressure on the top one. Or just use the weight of the top pan.

  10. Kathleen says:

    Johanna, you seem to be a very hostile person. Are you lonely? Dissatisfied with your life? Why the constant nitpicking? FYI, if you do that to people in real life they’ll pretty much hate you.

  11. deRuiter says:

    Sounds good. Bet a bit of crisp bacon wouldn’t hurt this a bit! Slicing vegetables goes pretty quick. I’d never prep them the night before for such a small project. All that does is expose more areas of the surfaces of the vegetables to the possibility of picking up contaminants. If you insist on slicing avacado in advance (not a good idea for a soft food) you can dip it in lemon juice to keep the avocado cut surfaces from browning. I prefer to cut up the food when it’s needed for health and freshness reasons.

  12. Peggy says:

    What a brilliant idea to use two pans to heat the sandwiches! I’ve been tempted to purchase a panini press, but hated the idea of another appliance cluttering the kitchen. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Thanks for sharing, Trent. Now if only I could find avocados where I live!

  13. rosa rugosa says:

    Johanna, I have to agree with Kathleen above. The yogurt comment isn’t at all constructive and just sounds nasty.

  14. moom says:

    Trent always seems to have sweet dishes “on the side” together with savory dishes? Is this a Mid-Western thing? Just curious. Seems odd to me.

  15. Gretchen says:

    I actually think this would be better with no cooking.

    Perhaps I’m biased by the 100+ degree weather right now.

    Will a thick sandwich fit inside a Forman grill? Guess it depends on how thick.

  16. Kate says:

    Johanna: I’m trying to understand why one sentence, 40 words, 157 characters (no spaces), 196 characters (with spaces) offended you so much that you felt compelled to respond with one sentence, 22 words, 129 characters (no spaces), 141 characters (with spaces). Believe it or not, there are people who might be reading this who may not realize they could eliminate additional calories, additives, and recycling by following Trent’s suggestion for the yogurt.

  17. littlepitcher says:

    Thanks for the suggestion on the yogurt. I’m accustomed to mixing plain yogurt with a variety of salsas for garnish, or making raitas. This sounds like a nice variation.

    I would have tossed all of this into a pita to keep from heating up the house, or folded it into a foccacia–not a fan of ciabatta at all.

  18. Teresa says:

    I use a knock-off type Forman grill to make grilled cheese sandwiches all the time. The one I have has an expandable hinge on the back. It works well with regular bread and like someone said, it leaves the grill marks on the bread.

  19. Cheryl says:

    Like Teresa, I use my waffle iron/griddle that has reversible plates. It’s heavy enough to use without the extra weights.

  20. Johanna says:

    @Kate: Good grief. By that standard, what does it mean that you were so offended by *my* comment that you felt compelled to respond with a comment at least three times as long as mine (I couldn’t be arsed to count the spaces, sorry)?

    Trent has a tendency in his writing to over-explain things in detail that readers either know already or can easily figure out. It makes me, as a reader, feel like I’m being talked down to, and other commenters have said they feel the same way. For example, in this case, if he’d just said, “On the side, we served homemade yogurt mixed with a spoonful of strawberry jelly,” would anyone be left wondering how the yogurt acquired its pink hue?

    I’m far from the only (or the nastiest) person to comment on Trent’s writing style here. It’s constructive criticism – or at least, it would be if Trent ever read the comments.

  21. Ruth says:

    I can’t help but think that most of the people who have negative comments just have nothing better to do.

    On that note. I adore Panini style sandwhiches and like the others above have started using my george forman to make the sandwiches (my fave is Cooper cheese, turkey, pesto and a little sprinkle of bacon crumble, served with a salad on the side)

    And as a frugal type person I’ve discovered that you can actually get a george forman grill (or a knock off) pretty cheap from craigslist most days. And in this crappy hot weather, we’ve been using the george forman more than anything else to cook!

    Just a thought! Hugs

  22. Emma says:

    Great idea for making Paninis! I actually tried something similar once and ended up breaking the handle off the top frying pan because I was putting so much pressure on it – next time I’ll try some heavy cans instead. Thanks!

  23. Kate says:

    Agreed, Ruth: I take Trent’s writing for what it is…his personal journey and thoughts and it is free to a wide range of people on the road to frugal living. Many of those who are just beginning the journey didn’t grow up in frugal households so they need more guidance than others might realize. What might seem obvious to some might not be as obvious to others with less experience in that area.
    I value the positive comments and the ideas of other readers and enjoy reading them. The negative comments and unasked for editing comments (which the writers all admit they don’t think will be read by Trent so why do they even do it?) aren’t helpful at all and drag down what could be a positive community (which, of course is their intent).

  24. Des says:

    I agree with Ruth – the people complaining about Johanna are such a bummer. If you don’t like criticism, take your own advice and ignore it. Don’t you have anything better to do than complain, Kate?

    I value the counterbalance of other intelligent opinions. Trent is not the master of all that is frugal, and doesn’t claim to be. Writers pay good money for the type of feedback Johanna (and some others) offer here freely. Trent is not a child and is fully capable of defending himself here if he felt the need to do so. He doesn’t, so why do you?

    There is constructive positivity, and then there is cloying.

  25. Kate says:

    Des: although you and I took Ruth’s comment differently, I will take your advice. Thanks for the tail jerk. :o)

  26. joan says:

    Just to add fuel to the yogurt fire: 99% of people are so dense they shouldn’t breed, so it’s a given that there are probably a few lurkers out there who still can’t figure out how to stir yogurt (be it fruit-at-the-bottom or homemade), despite Trent’s clear instructions.

  27. Matt says:

    These meals are usually presented as affordable options… maybe it depends on where you live, but avocados and sun-dried tomatoes are not terribly cheap where I live.

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