Giada’s Mozzarella, Raspberry and Brown Sugar Panini, Plus a Great Food Gal Giveaway

A perfect sweet-savory panini by Giada De Laurentiis.

I’ve been rather obsessed with this crisp, sweet-savory sammy ever since channel-surfing one day and catching Giada De Laurentiis making it on her Food Network show.

But the problem was that my panini press went kaput awhile back.

Oh, I know I could have used a frying pan with a weight on top of the bread instead, but it’s just not quite the same, if you know what I mean.

So, when the good folks at Calphalon offered me the chance to test out their electric panini grill, I leaped at the chance. Of course, you know the first thing I made with it, too.

Yup, De Laurentiis’ childhood panini that her mom used to make for her after school or as dessert. Imagine two slices of artisan bread smeared with raspberry jam, piled with milky mozzarella slices, a sprinkle of sea salt and a flurry of chopped fresh rosemary. The piece de resistance? Brown sugar sprinkled on the very top of each sandwich, so that when the sandwich goes into the panini press, it melts and caramelizes, forming a sugary, crisp crust. Now, you know why I’ve lusted after this sandwich.

It’s pure gooey comfort between two slices of bread. The sprinkle of salt and the fresh rosemary really make it special and keep it from verging into cloying territory. So, do not leave those two ingredients out.

I used slices of a sweet batard loaf and cherry jam, since a jar was already open in my fridge. I can see this working with a wide variety of jams and herbs: marmalade with fresh thyme or strawberry and tarragon, perhaps.

My gleaming new Calphalon panini press.

Place the sandwich inside.

Close the lid and wait for the bread to crisp, the cheese to melt and for everything to become as one.

It makes for a decadent but deceptively simple breakfast or lunch.

Want to try making it, yourself? I’ll give you a hand:

Contest: One lucky Food Gal reader will win a Calphalon electric panini grill (valued at about $100). The panini grill features variable temperatures and grill heights to accommodate any size sandwich. The grates wipe clean easily after use, too. Entries, limited to those in the continental United States, will be accepted through midnight PST July 14. Winner will be announced July 16.

How to win?

As you contemplate what sandwich you would press first inside your spanking new panini grill, tell me what “impresses” you most these days. Best answer wins.

Here’s my own answer:

“Great manners. I don’t know if it’s the dawn of the Internet, which has negated so much face-to-face interaction these days, but I find that good manners are a rarity. How sad is that? To receive even the briefest ‘thank-you’ after helping someone with a problem, answering a sticking question for them, or even holding the door for someone coming my way just doesn’t happen very often now. So much so that when I actually come across someone who does utter those kind words of gratitude it almost throws me for a loop. But fortunately, it also gives me hope that not all is lost in the world.”

Mozzarella, Raspberry and Brown Sugar Panini

(Serves 4)

8 (1/2-inch thick) slices bakery-style white bread

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup raspberry jam

2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves

8 ounces (2 balls) fresh mozzarella, drained and patted dry

Kosher salt, optional

2 tablespoons light brown sugar

Preheat panini press.

Using a pastry brush, brush the bread on both sides with the oil. Spread one side of each slice of bread with raspberry jam. Sprinkle rosemary over the jam. Cut mozzzarella into eight slices. Place two slices of cheese on four of the bread slices. Season the cheese with a pinch of salt, if using. Place remaining slices of bread on top, jam-side down. Sprinkle the tops with the brown sugar. Press in the panini press for 3 to 5 minutes until cheese has melted and the bread is golden and crispy.

Cut panini in half and serve.

From Giada De Laurentiis and the Food Network

Winner of the Previous Contest: In last week’s Food Gal contest, I asked you to tell me how you’re like a “chip off the old block.” The winner will receive four small (1-ounce) bags of the new “Hawaiian Kettle Style Mango Habanero!” chips.

Potato chips with a hit of heat.

Congrats to:

Natalie, who wrote, “To say I am a ‘chip off the old block’ is an understatement. As teenagers, we misleadingly cringe at the possibility of turning into our parents. Now in my mid-twenties, this inevitable realization is more of a pleasant epiphany than a dreaded nightmare. I can go on and on about how my mother’s high-pitched, billowing laugh eerily resembles my uncontrollable shrills (it has gotten me many a dirty looks at restaurants and movie theaters), or how my dad’s lack of common sense apparently doesn’t fall far from the tree (both of us literally walking into an arrest scene without even noticing almost gave my mother a heart attack, but made for a good story later). But since we are on the topic of food, I will limit myself to these similarities. My dad and I are very competitive, and every chance I get, I challenge him to a cook-off. Though he has many extra years under his belt, I have the ego of a well seasoned chef. Ultimately, he ends up ‘winning’ since I just started cooking a few years ago, but the tips he shares and the time with him I get to spend are truly special. Now for my mom. If it’s one thing that she can’t stand, it has got to be people ‘picking’ at food. I am very guilty of this and would rather pick all day instead of have actual meals. This drives her bonkers. But every now and then, when she thinks nobody is looking, I see her creep into the kitchen, carefully open the refrigerator door, and start nibbling on some goodies: a little swab of the icing, a tear off the rotisserie chicken, a spoonful of the mashed potatoes. I guess I really did “get it from my mama.”

More: Make Marmalade in the Microwave in Minutes

And: Meyer Lemon and Vanilla Bean Marmalade

And: Fig Compote

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  • I’ve got to try brown sugar on top!! Now you’ve really got my brain churning, that sounds amazing. I should probably let someone else win the panini maker, lol, but I’m going to need to check out that Calphalon.

  • Ellon St. Croix

    This sounds delish! And my roomie Patrick has a panini press that is begging to be used for the first time!

  • A wonderful panini and great combination!



  • What impresses me most is people taking the time for each other and being considerate. Just the other day I was at the grocery store and noticed an elderly woman struggling to get something off the upper shelf. She was at one end of the isle and I at the other. As I was walking in her direction I watched in amazement as others walked past her as though she was invisible. When I got to her I asked if I could help her. With tears in her eyes she said, “It’s hard getting old.” she obviously had health issues. I put my arm on hers and smiled, handed her the cans of food she wanted and wished her a wonderful day. She thanked me and I walked away with tears in my eyes.

    I just don’t get it. How can people walk with blinders on? It impresses me when people take a second out of their day to lend a hand to someone. It takes no time at all but makes the person you’re helping feel good and in turn you feel great as well.

    OK long story – your panini had my mouth watering the second I saw the photo. I’d like one of those and how about a caprese panini with pesto on multi-grain bread?

  • Now that is a sandwich to behold! The caramelized brown sugar on top is brilliant.

    Thanks for hosting this giveaway! What impresses me most is integrity. It seems to have slipped through the cracks of our society so that when someone actually exudes it, it seems a completely novel thing, lol!

  • what impresses me most these days are parents who are not afraid to be parents. unfortunately, i rarely run into these kinds of parents but i truly appreciate parents who set boundaries, discipline their children, teach them manners and HUMILITY. too many kids these days are entitled and self-righteous. and they did not come out of the womb that way. i once overheard one girl yell at a teacher telling her that she did not have to listen to her because she was not her mom. how are teachers supposed to teach overcrowded classrooms of children when they are insolent and rude????

    of course that being said, there needs to be love and compassion for our children. but instead of trying to get our kids to like us, i think we have a responsibility to raise them to be capable, compassionate, contributing citizens…

    there are so many things i would love to make with the panini press but anything with brie tops my list!!

  • Yum! Looks divine…

    What impresses me most is true sincerity and generosity. I am in the process of moving and the other day I really needed a hand picking up a new table I had purchased. Yet my boyfriend and all the friends I knew that had trucks and could help were unavailable. I decided to reach out to my facebook friends and posted a quick status seeing if anyone could help. The variety of responses I got was unbelievable…and mostly from people I hadn’t heard from in years. Not only were they willing to let me borrow their truck, but willing to come and help me actually move it. Something I would expect from a close friend but from someone who I may hardly ever talk to or hadn’t seen in years I honestly felt so loved. It made me want to help out an old friend and pay more attention to people looking for help.

    Generosity and sincerity is truly contagious…ever since then I’ve wanted to help everyone out 🙂

  • What impresses me most is truly dedicated, passionate and amazing hard working people. To have a dream and something you are passionate is one thing – but to actually pursue your dreams and take that risk so many of us are scared to take is unbelievable. I have a friend who wants to open a bakery and no matter how many people she tells, no one seems to take her seriously. She has now started her own baking blog, her own Etsy shop, sells at Farmers markets on the weekends and does personal custom orders and is seriously rocking it! All the way she has been working full time and going to school to receive her degree. Her passion and dedication blows me away. So many people say…after school i’ll do this, or ONE DAY i’ll do this…but she has taken life by its hands and is throwing herself out there to the sharks! She is now working on signing a lease for a new bakery and writing a cookbook. She is truly amazing and is turning her dream into a reality, even though many told her it would be too hard to do with a full time job, or too hard to do while going to school.

    People who make a dream a reality are truly impressive and people I will always look up to.

  • The panini sandwich looks and sounds delicious. I would probably change the preserves to either peach or fig. I have never owned a panini press so this would be a marvelous ‘gift’ for me. The thing that has impressed me most lately is to see what a wonderful human being my son has grown to be. Having raised him alone for most of his life i kept hoping that i was doing the right thing. I had always taught him that although it is nice to have ‘things’, when all is said and done, it is the reputation one has made for oneself as being caring that is most important. He is now a young adult with a lovely wife and I can see that he listened to my advice. He exemplifies what a mother would love to see in her child. Thank you for your consideration.

  • What impresses me the most these days are people who are content and happy with the little or much they have. In today’s society of social media where everyone post pictures of all the fun they are having, how well behaved and cute their kids are all the time, the exploitation of reality TV stars fame and fortune, the fascination and idolatry of celebrities and stars it is so easy to think the grass is greener on the other side, so easy to become discontent and believe that we are missing out on something, that we don’t have enough in this world. So it is very impressive to me, to see people be content and thankful for all the wonderful things they have in life and enjoy them to the fullest, instead of sulking wishing they have what everyone else may have

  • Brown sugar on top of the bread to caramelize is a great idea. I have to try that! The filling with the rosemary sounds fantastic too. I didn’t catch this episode, but I often stop to see what Giada’s up to on FN.

  • Two things are tied for what impresses me most these days…

    1) Punctuality. In this era of being over-scheduled (Outlook reminders popping up telling us about our appointment in 15 minutes, which is back-to-back with another appointment) and teleconferencing and doing everything remotely, I think we often try to jam TOO much in and so many people in my life are guilty of being tardy to appointments (both personal and professional). I really appreciate it and it really makes me feel like my time is being *respected* when someone makes the effort to be punctual. This used to be a common courtesy but in this day and age it’s impressive.

    2) Handwritten correspondence! Again, we are living in an age of emails, texts, blogs, Twitter, Pinterest, etc… those things are great and a wonderful way to share information/inspiration and communicate in a rapid way. But when I receive a letter, a postcard, or even a birthday card with a handwritten note from someone who could have more easily sent me the electronic equivalent, I am bowled over by the old-fashioned, somewhat sentimental nature of this and the thought/care behind it. LOVE snail mail!!!

    Thanks for hosting the contest — the panini press looks AWESOME…

  • What impresses me the most, right now, is when people actually use their turn signals while driving! We are on a long road trip and it is amazing how many people just pull out in front of you with no signal! Or then leave it on while driving. I try to be polite on the road and let the car get over…and then it never does! However, in Oregon, people seem to be more polite with the signals and it has impressed me!
    And the panini press looks awesome!!! I have always wanted one!

  • I am most impressed with people who choose to put their families first. Especially when they have lucrative job opportunities and the abilities/talents to “go far” in the working world. It’s no easy thing to pass up the chance to move up the ladder, garner more respect, and bring home a bigger paycheck… just so you can have steady work hours and have more time to spend at home with your family. It’s no easy thing for stay-at-home parents to choose to drop their impressive professional titles in exchange for the less glamorous job of taking care of the home and children. I can’t imagine how difficult it is to go from proudly announcing your profession to strangers, to trying not to appear apologetic for being a homemaker. Whether it’s imposing a cap on yourself for the amount of work you will take so you can be home more with your family, or changing your profession altogether to care for your family, it’s a selfless and personal sacrifice. That’s impressive.

  • Great panini…now I am craving one with grilled mushrooms, shallots, sage and blue cheese..and a nice pinot.

    What impresses me these days is personal interaction; taking the time to email or phone someone directly, or replying to an email or phone call. Not just a group email or a post-reply on social media. People do not have the time or the bandwidth/focus to listen to what their friends or family are saying, even if they are face-to-face. Everyone is so caught up in their own thoughts/agendas, and phones/computers that many interactions are superficial. Taking the time to meet up or talk to someone and actually paying attention to them without getting distracted, is what impresses me.

  • I am most impressed that our lives–so simplified,automated, and efficient compared to our ancestors–are still so difficult and complicated (but in different ways).

  • What impresses me most these days? In the last few months, I have become ‘nanny’ to a girlfriend’s kids (to help Mom and Dad with childcare costs). With the start of summer it is so awesome to see the wheels turning in those little minds. The little one is a year and a half and the older one is five. I am constantly being surprised at how smart, creative and intuitive little people are. Those little ones are preparing me for my own kids and inspiring me everyday to think a little bit outside the box (sometimes WAY outside of it!)

  • I’ve been coveting this sandwich for a while now and your post is absolutely the kick-in-the-butt I needed to make it!

  • When I was VERY newly married, I was gifted with a panini press. I had no idea how to cook and it was bulky so I GAVE.IT.AWAY without even a thought. That was 20 years ago and I have shook my head in regret ever since!

  • What impresses me the most these days are the seemingly endless neat ideas I get from Pinterest! The other day, I saw this post about how to make Spiral hotdogs( )It blew my mind! Sad, I KNOW! What can I say though, it doesn’t take much to impress/amuse me! By the way, I did try making em! It takes some effort, but the results are so worth it! Spiral hotdog panini-pressed! Oh, NOW THAT WOULD BE QUITE IMPRESSIVE! 😉

  • I am not a huge fan of paninis, but that looks really good. The brown sugar is intriguing!

  • mmmmmmm! This looks absolutely fabulous! Thanks for sharing.

  • I can see why you would be obsessed with this panini… i think I just discovered a new sweet & savory lunch I will love!

    What impresses me most is the courage to live in the moment, to mindfully be present when something wonderful is presented to us, rather than postponing life. This can be every day if we look carefully. Parents that truly spend quality time with their children, getting down on their knees to play house. The trepidant expectation of a fruit during the new season. Getting up at 5 am to witness the sunrise when we are in a new place. Running with your arms in the air with good music in the background. Calling your mom just because. Making sure you give an extra hug to the ones you love and letting them know you appreciate them. It is too easy, too tempting, to say “tomorrow” I’ll do that. There is nothing like the present and a moment will never come back. It takes courage to truly be in the now.

  • i have to second megan’s opinion–punctuality is all but nonexistent these days. my bakery has quite a quick turnover with employees, and i can’t help but judge them on their timeliness on their first day. if they’re early, i have a good feeling about them. sadly, they’re usually late, and it’s a trend that continues. when was it decided that 8:10 was just as good as 8? sigh. thanks for letting me vent a bit, carolyn. 🙂

  • that sandwich looks so good! it’s lunch time in nyc…maybe i can find a place with something like that on the menu LOL. what impresses me is when people remember my birthday (which is tomorrow) so we’ll see how impressed i am tomorrow!

  • What impresses me is whenever I see common courtesies occur, holding doors open for others, offering assistance without being asked, allowing others to pass when seeing that they are in a hurry. I’m saddened to see this less and less these days especially with the younger generation.

  • I am most impressed by people who have mastered their craft, whether it be an artist or an athlete. The countless years they spend training and practicing, learning and failing. When we watch them perform or work it seems so natural and so easy and so talented. Yet in reality what we are watching are years of dedication, of repetition, of perseverance and sacrifice all to get where they are today. With the Olympics coming up it, this resonates with me even more. Hearing the stories of athletes who practice countless hours, whose families have given up so much so they can master their sport, and all for seconds or minutes of competition. Amazing!

  • What impressed me most these day are the people who respect their parents. I don’t think respecting one’s own parents was considered as “impressive”, 30 or 40 years ago. Isn’t it supposed to be the most basic moral standard? Anyway, nowadays, many are just too busy with their own life, their own kids, career and so on…and often, their parents came in last. Hope everyone can cherish the time they still have with their parents and respect them wholeheartedly. Just keep in mind, the next generation is watching and learning from us. We should treat our parents the way we want our kids to treat us when we get old.

  • What impresses me most these days are people that have a clue & get work done. I work with some lazy co-workers, so I am impressed when I see someone that cares about getting work done & go out of their way to help others to make change happen.

  • What impresses me most these days are the amazing teenagers in my community. A large group of them just spent the last week (titled the “Best Week Ever”) going around Columbus (Ohio) doing good deeds. It was completely voluntary and they did gardening and repairs, looked for homeless individuals around town to provide food, clothing, and resources. Our Youth group at church also spends a week in southern Ohio and Kentucky repairing homes for those less fortunate. This is in a community where 1/2 million dollar homes are the norm, and there are still young adults who want to give back. They are being raised right. My teenager wanted to attend but we were out of town and after seeing their work, we will be sending him next summer!

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