You would think that having over 500 cookbooks in my home library would be enough to keep me stimulated and interested, but alas, dear reader, I regret to tell you that I still find the time and the inclination to peruse other volumes all the time. Whether it’s at my local library, book store, or online, I’m constantly seeking out new recipes or discovering new authors whose books don’t grace my library shelves (yet). One of these authors is Lidia Bastianich. You know her from her PBS cooking shows, and she’s also got a fabulous online site loaded with recipes. Why don’t I have any of her cookbooks? Who knows…there is no good answer. But once I started cooking her recipes, I couldn’t stop, and I want to share this one with you.
I found this recipe while surfing the online content of one of Lidia’s books on Amazon. I love it when Amazon features their “Look Inside” button to allow prospective book buyers to take a peek inside the book and read a few pages before making a purchase. On more than one occasion, I found that reading the first few pages and checking out the table of contents and index gave me enough information, resulting in my making a purchase that otherwise might not have happened if I had just judged the book by its cover (literally). The benefit of this “Look Inside” feature is that you can have access to a small number of recipes from the book. This one seemed so good that I made the recipe within minutes of having first seen it online. You read that correctly – I got up from my chair while still reading this recipe, and made it for us on the spot for breakfast, even though in Lidia’s book it’s listed under Appetizers!
Picture it – an Italian-style grilled cheese with some tomato sauce inside a sandwich that you bake instead of pan fry. How wonderful does that sound? Not only did it sound good, it tasted exceptionally good. My whole family loved this, and I loved that it was so easy to make. I even substituted bottled pizza sauce for the fresh tomato sauce and basil, and it worked like a charm. This recipe combines the best of both grilled cheese sandwiches and pizza, and puts them together in a most delicious combination that’s easy to whip up on a moment’s notice. What are you waiting for? Go make this now!
This recipe is from Lidia Bastianich's Lidia's Commonsense Italian Cooking: 150 Delicious and Simple Recipes Anyone Can Master.
This recipe lends itself to many substitutions. You can change the type of bread, the choice of deli meat, even the cheese. I didn't have sliced mozzarella, so I used a combination of leftover havarti slices, and shredded mozzarella/cheddar combo. I also substituted some bottled pizza sauce from a squeeze bottle that I keep in my fridge at all times instead of using tomato sauce and fresh basil, and it worked beautifully.
- 3 tbsp butter
- 8 slices sturdy whole-wheat bread
- 8 slices low moisture mozzarella
- 8 slices deli ham
- 1/4 cup prepared tomato sauce
- 8 fresh basil leaves
- 2 tbsp Parmesan or Grana Padano, freshly grated
- Preheat the oven to 400F.
- Grease a 9 x 13 baking dish with 1 tbsp of the butter.
- Arrange 4 slices of bread in the dish, not touching.
- Top each with one slice of cheese and two slices of the ham.
- Spread the tomato sauce over the ham, and top with the basil leaves, then the remaining slices of cheese.
- Spread the last 4 slices of bread with the 2 tbsp of remaining butter, and place the bread butter side up on top of the sandwiches.
- Sprinkle the bread with the grated cheese.
- Bake until the bread is toasted and the cheese is melted and bubbly, about 15 minutes.
- Let sit for a few minutes before serving.