Hi Everyone! I have something exciting to share with you today! I am sure you know how much I love simple, home cooked style meals, especially Italian… This past few years, I have been to Italy so many times, just to sample all the different regional Italian cuisine. It is the simplicity and freshness of ingredients that make me fall in love with Italian food so much. Sadly, this high level of quality is very hard to find in London…
So last night, in the quest of learning more about Italian cuisine and cooking in general, I went to the world’s first Panino World Tour, a workshop led by Alessandro Frassica – specialist in The Art of Panino as he is the owner of ‘Ino’ the famous panino restaurant in Firenze, as well as the author of cookbooks “The Pan’ino” and “The Veggie Pan’ino” – in collaboration with Panino Giusto. This is, by far, the best place to have an authentic Panini in London – or Panino as the Italian would say it, so I will call it the Italian way from now on too. What more, they are also very vegetarian and vegan friendly – another difficulty I have been experiencing a great deal when eating out in London, ever since last year that I become vegetarian due to health reasons.
Although I love a good panino in Italy, I rarely eat one in London mostly because I do not like the bread here, and top quality bread is key to a good panino. Somehow, I find them too dry and hard to chew. At Panino Giusto though, their bread is imported directly from Milan with a special secret recipe consisting of mixing sourdough with white flour to achieve a completely unique texture and flavour.
To demonstrate what Panino Giusto calls ‘The Italian Art of Panino’, Alessandro showed us how to make three types for Panino using very fresh, simple and traditional ingredients that he specially designed for Panino Giusto. Each of the three, has completely unique personalities and flavours.
The first and my most favourite was called “Fresco”, a panino made from thin slices of Zucchini, grilled aubergines marinated in extra virgin olive oil and Italian herbs. He added crunchy texture and nutty aroma by introducing roasted almond pieces, sesame and chia seeds, then finished off with mixed salad, and a thin spread of tomato confit on the inside of the bread. The reason I love this “Fresco” panino so much is because of its intense yet balanced flavours, perfect for a light lunch or an afternoon snack for a vegetarian who tries to lose weight like me! It is a delicious vegetarian friendly meal that not only easy to make, but it demonstrates very well that vegetarian panino can be as nutritious and as satisfying as the traditional meat based recipes. “Fresco” tastes amazing when paired with a glass of Prosecco such as Prosecco Bisol Jeo too.
The second style which I also enjoyed a great deal was called “Marino”, which you may have guessed has a fish based filling. This is an international twist to a traditional Italian panino recipe that would use cod fish and chickpeas. Here, Alessandro takes inspirations from the three seas that surround Italy by using hummus spread instead of whole chickpeas, and introduces Tyrrhenian mackerel as the key ingredient instead of cod fish. It is then complemented with Apulian tomato and Ligurian olive oil. Alessandro explains that “mackerel is a humble fish but has many qualities and is particularly healthy. Hummus is a symbol of cultural intermingling: we have used chickpeas in Italy, but making a spread with them is a habit acquired from other Mediterranean countries.” Mackerels being one of my favourite oily fish, full of important nutrients such as Omega 3, definitely makes this another recipe that I will definitely try out at home. “Marino” is actually perfect when paired with a glass of white wine such as Tasca Rigaliali Bianco, for a healthy and filling lunch or a light supper.
The third and final recipe, “Crudo” is the most traditional of all but it comes with an Asian twist, and would have been my favourite too if I have not become vegetarian, because I actually used to (still do) love Prosciutto. “Crudo” as the name suggests, is a Panino made with Langhirano Proscuitto Crudo aged 26 months that is freshly sliced to order. The intense salty flavour is balanced with sweet creamy textured of gorgonzola cheese and red pepper mustard providing a slightly sweet yet sour sharpness to the panino. Although I was not supposed to eat meat, I actually cheated last night and gave this panino a try because I was very curious as to how this unusual combination would taste like. I particularly loved the gorgonzola in this panino because it keeps the bread dry whilst adding a moist and chewy texture, a fantastic contrast to the dryness of Prosciutto. Gorgonzola cheese was definitely a good idea, much better than the widely used mozzarella in London that always makes the bread too soggy. I can imagine that most men will like this panino for lunch as it is the heaviest meal out of the three. I definitely would not be able to finish this whole panino in one go by myself. This will have to be both lunch and supper for me. Nevertheless, I highly recommend this “Crudo” panino if you are a meat lover because the prociutto crudo used in this panino is absolutely amazing. It would be very hard to find this level of quality and freshness in other Italian restaurants in London. Best to pair it with red wine too!
All in all, I am certainly glad that I attended this Panino Workshop because not only did I learn much more about how to make a panino properly –I aim to definitely practice making these at home – I also finally found a place to have amazing panino in London with a fantastic ambience. Needless to say, I shall be making another visit to Panino Giusto again very soon for more authentic panino goodness!
Panino Giusto can be found at 1/3 Royal Exchange Buildings, EC3V 3LF. Nearest tube station being Bank. If you are not in London, they also have restaurants in Milan, Tokyo, Yokohama, Hong Kong and Cupertino.