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Lightened Up Pesto (on Chicken Mozzarella Panini Sandwiches)

by Courtney on June 18, 2012

Tonight’s dinner? Holeeeeee…


I’d been thinking of tonight’s meal ever since last night when Jay and I actually made a half-assed attempt at a meal plan for the week. Yeah, we’ll see how that pans out…but for now, we’ve already got one solid meal in the books!

I knew I wanted to use some of the bread that I picked up from the Farmers Market on Saturday, and I also wanted to use some of the fresh basil I have coming out of my garden (squeal!). Pair that with some chicken that we had in the fridge, a ball of fresh mozzarella, and some sundried tomatoes, and I had the beginnings of a killer panini.


Jay and I haven’t had panini sandwiches here since October, so I’d say we were  definitely long overdue!

While Jay cooked up the marinated chicken, I sliced the fresh mozzarella and whipped up a quick and delicious pesto, which we really need to talk about. The pesto was not only delicious, but it’s even lightened up quite a bit – only 2 teaspoons of olive oil in the whole batch. How’s that for a win-win?!? Be sure to scroll down to the bottom of the post for the recipe!


Once our paninis were assembled, I brushed them with a little bit of olive oil and a sprinkling of seasonings, then placed them on the panini maker and let them do their thing. The end result? Incredible.


The mozzarella was gooey, the chicken was cooked to perfection, and the pesto was out of this world.


Jay and I may both have cuts on the roofs of our mouths, but we both agreed it was totally worth it.


We had some yummy corn on the cob along with our paninis and enjoyed them out on the patio amongst quite a few “oh my god these are so awesome” comments.


Definitely gotta have these again sometime soon…especially since I’ve got some more pesto leftover! Speaking of which…

Lightened Up Pesto


  • 1-1/2 cups tightly packed fresh basil leaves
  • 2 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon slivered almonds
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon each, salt and pepper
  • 2-3 tablespoons low-fat cottage cheese
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese


Place basil leaves, olive oil, water, almonds, garlic, salt, and pepper in a food processor. Pulse until combined. Add cottage cheese and parmesan cheese and process until smooth. Enjoy!


Give it a try – it’s awesome! Smile

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{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kailey June 18, 2012 at 7:54 pm

I just bookmarked this post – mozzarella cheese, pesto, chicken & sun-dried tomato sandwiches are probably my favorite thing in the world. The bread you used looked perfect for a hearty sandwich like that :) delicous.
Kailey recently posted..Recreating an Oldie


2 Ashley @ My Food N Fitness Diaries June 18, 2012 at 7:58 pm

looks awesome! we’ve been loving panini sandwiches the last few months. they’re SO easy to put together and are just delicious. there’s so many different combos you can do too!
Ashley @ My Food N Fitness Diaries recently posted..Living In The Present


3 Alyssa @ fit and fun in third June 18, 2012 at 8:03 pm

Yesss I love pesto but I go overboard when I’m around it… So this is perfect! And congrats on growing your own basil! I kill every kind of plant I go near :(
Alyssa @ fit and fun in third recently posted..These next few days…


4 Blog is the New Black June 18, 2012 at 8:03 pm

That’s a dinner I want!


5 melissa (fitnessnyc) June 18, 2012 at 8:06 pm

looks amazing and reminds me of my favorite bountiful bread sandwich!
melissa (fitnessnyc) recently posted..Weekend in DC!


6 Becka June 18, 2012 at 8:07 pm

Wow those do look absolutely amazing, so yummy. Thanks for sharing the recipe with us. I will HAVE to try it sometime.
Becka recently posted..favorite food…pizza…


7 Sara @ The Foodie Diaries June 18, 2012 at 8:22 pm

It’s like the holy grail of dinners! I just finished eating mine and it is PATHETIC compared to that panini! You can bet that’s jumping onto my meal menu for next week :)
Sara @ The Foodie Diaries recently posted..“Ohhhh Sometimes I Get a Good Feeling”


8 Lauren June 18, 2012 at 8:25 pm

Mmm, these look awesome!


9 Taylor @ A Taste of Taylor June 18, 2012 at 8:31 pm

Omg – I have been toying with buying a panini maker for my apartment when I go back to college in the fall and NOW I am convinced! I cannot wait to try this – thanks another awesome recipe and for making my mouth totally water!
Taylor @ A Taste of Taylor recently posted..Finishing a Good Book, Movie Night and Father’s Day Crabs


10 Julie H. of Spinach and Sprinkles June 18, 2012 at 8:32 pm

Fresh bail is my love…. seriously it is probably my favorite thing ever! (which is saying something because I love me some chocolate and fro yo!)
I would flip over these panini sandwiches! Mmmmmm!
Julie H. of Spinach and Sprinkles recently posted..Oh no she didn’t! {{thank you}}


11 Julianna @ Julianna Bananna June 18, 2012 at 8:34 pm

those paninis look SO delicious!!! i love the chicken and pesto combo so i’m definitely gonna have to make these soon!
Julianna @ Julianna Bananna recently posted..summer lovin’


12 Carrie @ Fitness and Frozen Grapes June 18, 2012 at 8:49 pm

I love making paninis, and yours look super yummy! I’ll definitely work this recipe into my repertoire :)
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13 Mindy June 18, 2012 at 9:05 pm

Sounds awesome!
Mindy recently posted..Simple


14 Fiona @ Get Fit Fiona June 18, 2012 at 9:16 pm

Seriously, that looks like one of the most delicious sandwiches ever! Mozzarella and pesto together? Tasty!
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15 Sabrina @ Work It Ms, Jackson June 18, 2012 at 9:41 pm

I really need to invest in a food processor. lol! These look great! Maybe once I get a food processor and a panini press (or maybe go the ghetto route and use my George Foreman grill. haha) I’ll definitely have to try these.
Sabrina @ Work It Ms, Jackson recently posted..Perfect Way To End A Monday Night


16 Megan@ The Running Doc June 18, 2012 at 9:43 pm

It’s awesome you’re using basil right from your garden! I might need to tell my boyfriend we need to plant some fresh herbs along with our veggies!
Megan@ The Running Doc recently posted..The W Word


17 Alex June 18, 2012 at 9:54 pm

Sounds delicious! I’m feeling the need to go out and get a panini press now!
Alex recently posted..You Have Reached Your Destination


18 Suzanne @ Fit Minded Mom June 18, 2012 at 10:50 pm

It looks like now is the time to invest in a panini maker!! Your sandwich looks SOOOO good!!! Non, nom!!!!
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19 Lauren @ Call Me Mrs. Rapp June 18, 2012 at 10:56 pm

Yummy! The hubby and I adore pesto, especially if it’s with fresh basil. What is better than that in the summer?!
Lauren @ Call Me Mrs. Rapp recently posted..There’s a New Sheriff in Town


20 Stellina @ My Yogurt Addiction June 18, 2012 at 11:09 pm

Yum! Those looks great! Panini’s are really underrated. I always forget about my panini maker, I need to bring that thing out more often! ;-)
Stellina @ My Yogurt Addiction recently posted..How to Eat Healthy at a Sushi Restaurant


21 Angela June 18, 2012 at 11:26 pm

I have been craving pesto lately! I’ve never made it homemade though, I will have to try your recipe out!
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22 Khushboo June 18, 2012 at 11:40 pm

Anndd bookmarked- YUM! I recently made a killer omelet which you’d love: mozzarella & basil topped with tomato coulis (chopped tomato, black pepper & balsamic…ie the caprese omelet :)
Khushboo recently posted..Whole Foods comes home!


23 Lisa June 19, 2012 at 12:24 am

Oh my word! That pesto sounds so yummy. I’ve been wanting a good pesto recipe because my basil plant outside is growing like crazy. Thanks so much; I will try this tomorrow. Yum!


24 Mia Glover June 19, 2012 at 4:07 am

Oh my gosh so yummy. It makes me hungry. It is time for me to take a snack. I really need to take a snack. I feel very hungry on your foods.
Mia Glover recently posted..Secrets to Dealing with Hair Loss


25 Kim @ Living, Laughing & Losing June 19, 2012 at 4:53 am

Holy yum, that looks delicious! I love crusty, crunchy sandwiches but they always cut the top of my mouth. Haha.. totally worth it, like you said. :)
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26 Kristen @ notsodomesticated June 19, 2012 at 6:39 am

Love it!! I’ve made a similar panini before, and it was delicious!! Pesto + melted mozzarella + chicken is always a winner! And I love the idea for the lightened up pesto … I need to try that!
Kristen @ notsodomesticated recently posted..Food Trucks Rock (plus some exciting news!).


27 Hope @ With A Side Of Hope June 19, 2012 at 7:26 am

We received a food processor and panini maker as wedding gifts and we have yet to use them. I am totally going to try this recipe! It looks phenomenal! :)
Hope @ With A Side Of Hope recently posted..Some Of My June Favorites…


28 Laurie @ Love, Laugh, Laurie June 19, 2012 at 7:36 am

So delicious! I need to put paninis in my rotation
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29 janiek @ a non-perfect girl June 19, 2012 at 7:45 am

Those panini’s look sooo goood!


30 Holly @ Balanced in BMore June 19, 2012 at 9:01 am

That looks delicious!! I’ve been thinking about registering for a panini maker and I think you just sold me on it :)
Holly @ Balanced in BMore recently posted..Monday Catch Up


31 Whitney @ Whit Likes Fit June 19, 2012 at 11:49 am

Love the pesto recipe. We make a sundried tomato pasta and ideally we’d add pesto in there but don’t because of the calories/fat etc. This lightened up version would be great.
Whitney @ Whit Likes Fit recently posted..Headphone graveyard


32 Haley @ Housegirl Haley June 20, 2012 at 10:38 pm

Oh wow. How could you go wrong with that mix of ingredients? I want to recreate your panini so bad! I’ll take the cuts on the roof of my mouth too!
Haley @ Housegirl Haley recently posted..Fruits of the Spirit with sprinkles on top {OHP#7}


33 Kierston June 22, 2012 at 8:06 am

You had me at pesto, chicken and panini! :)
Kierston recently posted..Protein FUdgsicles!


34 Kari August 2, 2012 at 9:43 am

I made these for my fiance and I last night – holy yum! These are SO delicious. Thanks for the great recipes, Courtney!


35 Heather January 16, 2014 at 4:23 pm

What kind of bread did you use? Looks awesome! I am going to save this recipe right now!


36 Courtney January 17, 2014 at 8:53 am

I believe it was just a multigrain bread I picked up from a local bakery. I find that denser breads work much better for panini sandwiches! :)


37 Claire Lofty February 17, 2014 at 1:57 pm

Where is the recipe for the marinated chicken?


38 Courtney February 17, 2014 at 4:03 pm

There actually really isn’t a recipe – we usually just let it marinate in a little Italian dressing for a while before grilling! :)


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