How to Make Pizza on the Panini Press

by on August 13, 2013

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College students, this one is for you! And for anyone else who finds themselves improvising a bit when it comes to cooking without a traditional kitchen (e.g., the office). I’m going to show you How to Make Pizza on the Panini Press! This is gonna rock your world.

I love that kids are bringing panini presses to college these days. It makes perfect sense – they’re compact, versatile and relatively affordable. I have so many fond memories of cooking with my dorm mates, with whatever random small kitchen appliance someone had in their room. It always seemed to turn into a party for the whole hall!

Ready to learn how to make your own homemade rustic pizzas right in a dorm room (or cubicle!) on a panini press? Here we go!

(NOTE: Please be safe! And only try this in a dorm or office if it’s allowed. :-))

Set your panini press on a flat, stable surface like a table, counter or desk, near the electrical outlet (no extension cords) and away from paper or other flammables. If your press comes with a tilt feature, make sure it is in the flat position, then it heat it up to high.

Brush olive oil on a small piece of aluminum foil, in about a 6-inch diameter circle (alternatively, you can spray the foil with cooking spray). The foil will make it easier to transfer your pizza on and off the grill and the oil will keep the crust from sticking.


Take a pound of fresh pizza dough (Trader Joe’s and other grocery stores sell it in the refrigerated section, it’s only $1-$2) and divide it into 6 portions. For each pizza, stretch out a portion of dough into a shape resembling a circle (despite the photo, I actually used two hands to do the stretching – I needed one hand to hold the camera and snap a pic, though!). The dough will have a lot of elasticity to it, you want to stretch it, wait a minute or two, and stretch some more. Thinner is better in order to ensure the crust cooks thoroughly.

Next, add your sauce. I found that pesto (basil or sundried tomato are good options) works much better than tomato sauce. The tomato sauce was more watery, which led to steam, which led to a somewhat gummy crust. My recommendation: stick with pesto.


Now that we’re on to cheese and toppings, you can start to take a few liberties. Go with what you like. If I were in college, I’d be looking pretty hard at the dining hall salad bar for toppings options! I’d recommend sturdier ingredients that can withstand being within an inch of a super-hot heat source without burning, and maybe steering away from fresh tomatoes and other watery fruits and vegetables that might create a lot of steam.

Carefully transfer your pizza to the hot grill (see, that foil is helpful!), and close the lid most of the way…


Ideally, you’ll want to use a panini press (such as the Breville Panini Press) that allows you to fix the height of the upper plate so that it can hover above the pizza while it cooks. If your press doesn’t have that feature, a reader once suggested to me that he successfully propped his press open with some balled-up aluminum foil. That sounds like a viable workaround to me, although I haven’t actually tried it yet.


In 6 to 8 minutes, you’ll have a hot, bubbling, homemade pizza – ready to slice! And – if you’re in a dorm or office – probably a crowd of lookie-loos, eager for a taste. 🙂
Ready for hundreds more panini press cooking ideas? My new cookbook, The Ultimate Panini Press Cookbook, is available for pre-order now on Amazon (in stores 9/10/13).

If you liked this post, you might also enjoy:

>Ready to buy a panini press? Check out my Panini Press Buying Guide for the features to look for.

>Want more panini recipes? See my Recipe Index for a list of all recipes on Panini Happy.

>Traveling to a new city soon? Browse Panini Happy’s Great American Sandwich Guide to find the best sandwiches across the country!

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Angela August 14, 2013 at 4:47 am

I am so excited to try this! Sounds like a great way to do make your own pizza night with friends or to make a quick dinner with leftovers. I always have bits of cheese and sausage that I have no idea what to do with and end up throwing away!


2 Kathy Strahs August 14, 2013 at 6:34 am

Exactly! Make-your-own pizza night is so much fun – even my little kids love it. 🙂


3 Tangee August 14, 2013 at 8:39 am

aweeeeeesome! I want try this with crescent dough. I’m so excited! Hubby likes EVERYTHING on a pizza, I’m a meat and cheese person myself. Individual pizzas WOOT! you are awesome 🙂 smooches!


4 kelly @ sass & veracity August 14, 2013 at 12:20 pm

What a great idea! My mom has an electric press and likes to use it so she doesn’t have to heat up the big oven — I’ll have to share it with her 🙂
kelly @ sass & veracity´s last blog post ..Four Layer Chocolate Mousse Cake


5 Ash-foodfashionparty August 14, 2013 at 7:13 pm

Nice tip on using the panini press. I love my press, but I don’t have the one which adjusts in height, so I might have to figure out a way…Love the pizzas…


6 Laura August 14, 2013 at 7:41 pm

My boys love pizza and this would be a great change up for them! They look so delicious 🙂
Laura´s last blog post ..Whomping Good Mint Chip Ice Cream


7 Jo August 18, 2013 at 5:45 am

Why have I never thought of that!? My mom actually got rid of our press though. >o<


8 Sommer @ ASpicyPerspective August 20, 2013 at 4:13 am

Great idea, Kathy! Looks delicious!
Sommer @ ASpicyPerspective´s last blog post ..The BEST Classic Meatloaf (Mini Meatloaves)


9 Kelly Senyei | Just a Taste August 21, 2013 at 2:09 pm

This looks spectacular, Kathy! So, so pumped to get my hands on your beautiful cookbook 🙂
Kelly Senyei | Just a Taste´s last blog post ..Chilled Sweet and Sour Cucumber Noodles


10 Nutmeg Nanny August 27, 2013 at 4:16 pm

Oh wow! This pizza looks incredible, I love it 🙂
Nutmeg Nanny´s last blog post ..Crab Cakes with Sweet Corn Salsa


11 Bree {Skinny Mommy} October 22, 2013 at 7:09 am

I love my Panini maker too! I am so happy to have found your site on Rachel Cooks!
Bree {Skinny Mommy}´s last blog post ..Orange & Curry Glazed Chicken–That your kids will love!


12 Kathy Strahs October 22, 2013 at 7:31 am

Thanks so much, Bree!


13 Patrick M. Fox August 16, 2015 at 3:09 pm

Ms. Strahs:

Awesome!!! Your blog is inspiring me to begin using my Breville Panini Maker again.

Can’t wait to try the pizza!~!!!



14 Christine January 4, 2016 at 4:39 pm

We made pita pizzas by putting parchment paper (or waxed paper) on top of the cheese and then closing the press as usual. This way it doesn’t have a chance to stick to the top and you don’t have to worry about closing it too much. Turned out great!


15 Kathy Strahs January 4, 2016 at 4:56 pm

Great idea! ~Kathy


16 DR chef March 9, 2016 at 10:45 am

How about pre-cooking the base for a couple of minutes to give us a more solid crust to work with? That way you could maybe avoid “gummy” crust especially if you want to use tomato sauce, as the sauce doesn’t soak into the base too much and less steam exposure.


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