Chicken Parmesan Panini

I headed to my local farmer’s market this weekend with high hopes of gaining some good panini inspiration.  And I did…but not in the way I’d expected.

It was my first trip to the farmer’s market in over a year and I soon remembered why it had been so long.  Two tomatoes ran me $7.50!!  I mean, they were big, beautiful heirloom tomatoes – nicer looking than anything I’ve found at Vons.  But WOW!  So I resolved to use them in the best dish I know in which to showcase fresh, sweet tomatoes: a caprese salad, with fresh mozzarella, basil, olive oil and salt and pepper.

So if I was going to have an Italian side dish I wanted an Italian main.  Which is how the farmer’s market indirectly inspired this panini recipe.  I’ve been having “chicken pawm” (as they say in New York!) on the brain since seeing a beautiful one on Vanilla Basil, which begat the idea to make Chicken Parmesan Panini.  The breaded chicken was nice and moist, all nestled amongst the zesty marinara sauce and melted blend of Italian cheeses.  I decided to add in a slice of grilled eggplant for a little extra flavor and texture.  These sandwiches were real meals-in-one and were devoured quickly!

I thought I’d share a rather odd interaction I had at the grocery store after I left the farmer’s market.  A cashier who’s helped me on many occasions was working the checkstand – a nice lady in maybe her early 50s with long, bright red hair piled on top of her head.  As she scanned my items she asked, quite out of nowhere, “Do you like Mary J. Blige?”  The topic took me slightly off guard, but I responded, “Uhh…yeah.  Sure!  Yeah, she’s cool.”  The cashier went on to talk about how much she liked Mary J. Blige, she’s the best, she’s so real, etc.  Then she poses another question.

“Do you think you could get her autograph for me?”

I was about to start laughing along with her, but her face was dead serious.  She really wanted to know if I could hook it up.  OMG – who did she think I was??  All of a sudden, I felt like a parent who has to tell their kid there’s no tooth fairy.  All I could muster was something to the effect of “Ummm…no, I don’t think so.”  Her reaction was more of disdain than disappointment:

“Oh.  I wasn’t sure how big a fan you were.”

Now I felt like some kind of Mary J. Blige fan poseur!!  Anyway, that was really weird.

Chicken Parmesan Panini

Serves 4


Grilled Eggplant:
4 eggplant slices, about 3/8″ thick
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Breaded Chicken:
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Salt and pepper
1 egg, beaten
1 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
2 tablespoons olive oil

4 ciabatta rolls, split in half
1 cup marinara sauce
4 ounces shredded Italian cheese blend (i.e., mozzarella, parmesan, provolone, romano, etc.)


Preheat panini grill to medium-high heat (375 degrees).

To grill eggplant: Brush one side of eggplant slices with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Place on the panini grill seasoned side down.  Brush oil and season the other side of the eggplant slices.  Close the lid and grill for 4-5 minutes until eggplant is tender and grill marks appear.  Set aside and cover with foil to keep warm.

Unplug grill and clean off grates.  Reheat grill to medium-high heat (375 degrees).

To sauté chicken breasts: In a large sauté pan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat.  Place chicken breasts between two pieces of plastic wrap and pound chicken to 3/8″ thickness.  Season chicken with salt and pepper on both sides.  Dredge each piece of chicken in egg and bread crumbs and add to the sauté pan.  Brown chicken, about 2-3 minutes on each side.  Set aside and cover in foil to keep warm.

To assemble each sandwich: Spread about 2 tablespoons of marinara sauce each inside the top and bottom halves of a ciabatta roll.  To the bottom half add a slice of grilled eggplant, a breaded chicken breast and a few tablespoons of cheese.  Close the sandwich with the top half of the roll.  Grill 7-8 minutes until cheese is melted.  Serve immediately and enjoy!


KathyPanini Happy, online since 2008, is more than just a sandwich blog. Here, you'll find hundreds of my original panini recipes, my guide to choosing a panini press and a whole lot of other creative uses for the panini press.
~ Kathy Strahs
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  1. HoneyB wrote:

    I get so excited when I see you have a new post! lol. I love seeing what you make and what ideas you come up with. This is one we will definitely like here!

    Posted 8.12.08 Reply
  2. OK, the whole Mary J. Blige story is very strange… but I’m not surprised about the cost of tomatoes at the farmers’ market, as I’ve experienced similar prices here. Not for all tomatoes, but for the rarest of heirlooms. And you know what? They’re usually worth the extra cost, because the taste is indescribably delicious. I want to do as little as possible to them — slice, maybe a bit of good sea salt, and eat!

    Posted 8.12.08 Reply
  3. sharon wrote:

    I purchased a $4 tomato the other day from the Farmer’s market and my husband made sure that I savored every bite. He kept eying it on the countertop and said you better do something with it before it goes bad!

    The parm panini looks great. Actually making me quite hungry!

    Posted 8.12.08 Reply
  4. grace wrote:

    when i go out to eat, it’s often hard for me to decide between chicken parm and eggplant parm. you’ve got a lovely solution to that dilemma–eat ’em both! i love it! 🙂

    Posted 8.12.08 Reply
  5. noble pig wrote:

    This is beautiful and yes Farmer’s market tomatoes can be pricey but I do savor each and bite.

    This parm sandwich looks amazing!

    Posted 8.12.08 Reply
  6. Jenny wrote:

    What a perfect combination in a panini! I’d gobble down every last bite! Looks great!

    Posted 8.12.08 Reply
  7. Leslie wrote:

    Oh my husband LOVES Chicken Parm..and in the sandwich form he would be in heaven!!!! Thanks for your visit to my blog and leaving a comment about my banana bread french toast! Stop by and visit anytime!

    Posted 8.12.08 Reply
  8. Tom Aarons wrote:

    This is a fantastic combination. Yum!

    Posted 8.13.08 Reply
  9. Arlene wrote:

    I wish I could take a bite right now! And, I adore Caprese salad.

    Posted 8.13.08 Reply
  10. I’ve got to tell you, I just ran across a Mario Batali recipe for chicken parmesan in one of the latest issues of Bon Appetit… and I was thinking to myself, “Now, self. That would make a mighty fine sammich.”

    Wouldn’t you know it? Kathy came to my rescue!

    Looks absolutely delish.

    Posted 8.13.08 Reply
  11. Dana wrote:

    What a gorgeous sandwich! I’m glad I could provide some inspiration. Thanks for linking back to me!

    Posted 8.13.08 Reply
  12. Emiline wrote:

    I like all the panini you’ve been making! Wow!
    This one sounds especially delicious.

    Posted 8.13.08 Reply
  13. Kevin wrote:

    Placing this classic into a panini is a great idea! It looks really good.

    Posted 8.14.08 Reply
  14. Dragon wrote:

    Another winner!

    Posted 8.14.08 Reply
  15. Coco wrote:

    I’ve seen you around the place and finally reached your blog. It’s a really fun concept you have going. Now I know where I can have all my panini questions answered! Chicken and parmesan looks delicious. I also like the roast beef panini you have a few posts down.

    Posted 8.15.08 Reply
  16. Deborah wrote:

    Those are gorgeous tomatoes, and the perfect panini to go with them! And the strange checkout lady -I’m afraid that situation would have made me so uncomfortable that I’d avoid her line after that!

    Posted 8.15.08 Reply
  17. Don’t you just wonder where people come up with half the stuff they ask? The eggplant in this recipe sold me, as the combination of the two has to be so good………It has been so long since I have had anything remotely Italian.

    Posted 8.15.08 Reply
  18. Lisa wrote:

    Yum! Love this blog. Just put it in my reader.

    Posted 8.19.08 Reply
  19. Natasha wrote:

    Wow, a lovely combo! I love grilled eggplant, and breaded chicken – that goes without saying!

    Posted 8.21.08 Reply