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Photograph by Isa Zapata, food styling by Pearl Jones, prop styling by Emma Fishman
  • Total Time

    35 minutes

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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What you’ll need


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


  1. Step 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.

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  • I just made this tonight with the last of the eggplant, tomato and basil from my greenhouse, and with my own homemade mayo. It was delicious and so satisfying. And it's very simple and quick to make. I should have a grilled Panini party and invite all our friends.

    • Amelia L

    • Camas, WA

    • 8/31/2023

  • This was absolutely excellent! I used some nice sourdough bread I had and it worked just as well. Also added some homemade pickled banana peppers, and added some mint and basil to the mayo along with the oregano. Great way to use my eggplant, tomato, garlic, and herbs from my summer CSA! Will definitely make again. Also just a note that I definitely used more than 1/4 cup oil to cook the eggplant.

    • Brittany G

    • Madison, WI

    • 8/30/2023

  • This panini…. is the single most delicious way I have ever eaten eggplant. Just ridiculously delicious. Will absolutely repeat this one!

    • Ellen

    • Madison, WI

    • 8/21/2023