Kick off your week with a healthy dinner full of fresh ingredients and flavors, all while skipping the meat. The key to a successful Meatless Monday dinner is feeling satisfied by still including a protein source. By introducing more sustainable foods to your weekly diet, Meatless Monday will improve personal health and make the world a little greener. Check out www.meatlessmonday.com for more information on the amazing benefits and how doing this just once a week can impact you and your family.
This week’s Meatless Monday recipe should be a winner, as it blends classic Margherita pizza ingredients and oven-baked tomato olive spread in a delicious toasted sandwich. Just about every good oven-baked pizza restaurant in my town has a classic Margherita pizza on the menu. The fresh mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, and basil make a flavor combination that is timeless and delicious. This dish is a great starting point for a meatless dinner because the thick slices of fresh mozzarella cheese are filling and a great source of protein.
I originally made this sandwich with simple ingredients, but I felt like it needed more flavor. I decided to use slow-baking cherry tomatoes in a spicy seasoning and combined them with olives and capers to make a spread for the sandwich! The smooth, briny taste of the olives and capers created a new layer of flavor and complemented the fresh Margherita ingredients. Then I changed how I included the basil in the recipe by adding it into a toasted pine nut aioli. This little twist on the traditional ingredients gives this sandwich recipe out of this world flavor combinations and will definitely spice up your Monday night.
Oven Baked Tomato and Olive Margherita Panini
- 1 Large loaf ciabatta bread
- 10 oz. Container of cherry tomatoes
- 3 tbsp. Olive oil
- 1 tbsp. Sea salt
- ½ tsp. Crushed red pepper
- ½ tsp. Granulated garlic
- ¼ c. Black olives, chopped
- ¼ c. Green olives, chopped
- ¼ c. Tomato paste with herbs
- 1 tbsp. Capers
- 10 oz. Fresh mozzarella cheese
- 3 Roma tomatoes, sliced
- Pine nut basil aioli (recipe below)
- Preheat oven to 275 degrees Fahrenheit. Line baking sheet pan with a piece of parchment paper.
- Slice the cherry tomatoes in half and toss with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, crushed red pepper, sea salt, and granulated garlic. Spread them over the baking sheet cut side up and bake in the oven for 1.5 hours.
- When tomatoes are done, add them to a food processor along with the capers, black olives, remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and green olives. Process the ingredients together until a spread like consistency.
- Heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut the loaf of bread in half long ways (to make it like a giant sandwich bun) and place on a large baking sheet. Spread half of the oven baked tomato and olive mixture on the bottom half of the ciabatta, then place down one layer of fresh mozzarella, then a layer of fresh Roma tomato slices.
- Spread a thin layer of the aioli on the top half of the bread. Place top bun on the sandwich.
- Use a heavy cast iron skillet or pan to weight the sandwich down while baking in the oven. Place baking sheet with the sandwich on it in oven first, then balance weighted skillet on top. Remove weighted skillet before you attempt to remove baking sheet with sandwich, as it can be quite heavy and potentially unevenly weighted. Basically, you don’t want to drop it.
- Bake for 12-15 minutes at 400 degrees. Cut into individual servings and serve with a side Caesar or tossed Italian salad.
Helpful tip: Take the top oven rack out to make more room in the oven to bake the sandwich. You can also wrap bricks in foil and use them to weight the sandwich down. If you do not have anything to weight the sandwich down, it will still turn out delicious if skipping this and just baking the sandwich without a weight on it.
You can also make the tomato-olive spread in advance and store it in the refrigerator. Use the second half of the tomato-olive spread to make another sandwich, top eggs the next morning, or as a dip for vegetables.
Pine Nut Basil Aioli
- ¼ c. Pine nuts
- 1 c. Mayonnaise
- 1 oz. Bunch fresh basil, torn
- ½ tsp. Sea salt
- ½ tsp. black pepper
- 1 tsp. Lemon juice
- 1 tsp. Garlic powder
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- Nonstick cooking spray (canola or olive oil)
- Heat nonstick pan over medium heat for 2 minutes. Spray pan with nonstick spray for 3-4 seconds.
- Add pine nuts and a sprinkle of sea salt to warm pan and let them heat up and toast for 5-6 minutes until fragrant and golden in color. Remove from heat and pan immediately as they can easily burn if left in the hot pan.
- Add toasted pine nuts, basil, lemon juice, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and mayonnaise into food processor and let it process until smooth. Drizzle in the tablespoon of olive oil at the end before turning processor off.
You can now use this to spread on top of sandwich bread for the sandwiches. Store the extra aioli in the refrigerator up to three days. It tastes amazing spread on bread for grilled cheese or tossed with roasted vegetables as a side dish.
Stay tuned each Monday morning for a new installment of Meatless Mondays with Direct Energy!
Recipe and Images by Stacie Morgan