Panini Alla Norma

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Classic pasta alla norma is a dish that’s better than the sum of its parts. Eggplant, tomato, salty cheese, basil, and oregano may seem like a simple ingredient list, but combined, they make for a bright, herbaceous, and summery pasta dinner. Here the same heavy hitters feature on a sandwich rather than in a bowl: between halves of ciabatta you’ll press under a heavy pot to make a crisp panini.

In this recipe, the only two steps to complete before you start building your sandwich are making the amped-up mayonnaise and frying off the eggplant. For the former, you’ll mix grated garlic, fresh oregano, chopped capers, and red pepper flakes into store-bought mayo for a flavor-packed spread you’ll want on both sides of the bread.

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4 servings


cup mayonnaise


garlic cloves, finely grated


Tbsp. finely chopped capers


tsp. finely chopped oregano


tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper


medium eggplant, sliced crosswise ¼" thick


Tbsp. all-purpose flour


cup (or more) extra-virgin olive oil


ciabatta rolls, split


oz. Parmesan, finely grated (about 1 cup)


medium tomatoes, sliced


oz. fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced


large basil leaves

PreparationStep 1

Mix ½ cup mayonnaise, 2 garlic cloves, finely grated, 2 Tbsp. finely chopped capers, 2 tsp. finely chopped oregano, ¼ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes, and a pinch of kosher salt in a small bowl; season with lots of freshly ground black pepper. Set seasoned mayonnaise aside.

Step 2

Toss 1 medium eggplant, sliced crosswise ¼" thick, and 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour in a medium bowl. Heat ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Working in batches and adding more oil between batches as needed, cook eggplant slices in a single layer, turning halfway through and reducing heat if browning too quickly, until well-browned and crisp, about 5 minutes. Transfer eggplant to a plate or baking sheet and immediately sprinkle with salt. Wipe out pan and reserve.

Step 3

Spread reserved seasoned mayonnaise over cut sides of 4 ciabatta rolls, split, then sprinkle 2 oz. Parmesan, finely grated (about 1 cup), over. Layer eggplant, then 3 medium tomatoes, sliced, 8 oz. fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced, and 12 large basil leaves on top. Close up sandwiches.

Step 4

Heat reserved pan over medium. Working in batches if needed, arrange sandwiches in pan and top with a cast-iron skillet or heavy pot to press. Cook until bread is toasted underneath, about 2 minutes. Remove skillet; turn sandwiches over. Return skillet; cook until brown on other side and cheese is slightly melted, about 2 minutes. Slice in half to serve.