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Smoked Turkey, Pepper Jack Cheese, and Basil Panini Sandwich

This Smoked Turkey, Pepper Jack Cheese, and Basil Panini Sandwich is a crispy panini stuffed with flavor–inspired by Oprah’s Love Sandwich.


Have you ever heard of the 5-second rule about dropping food on the floor? 

It’s possible I made it up.

As a teenage girl, I spent many summer days driving a tractor by myself in the fields of our Indiana farm.  Either Mom would bring me lunch or send it with me. It was almost always a cold cut sandwich, more often than not, bologna.

Sometimes, I would accidentally drop my sandwich on the ground.  Since it was all there was to eat, I wasn’t about to throw it away.  If I could rescue it and brush the dirt off faster than the germs could hop on (less than 5 seconds), then all was good. Right?

A hot lunch is so much better, when possible…

While I never got sick from this immunity-building exercise, I did get tired of bologna sandwiches.  In fact, I pretty much avoid cold sandwiches altogether, especially now that I can make a warm and crusty panini instead.

Discovering the “Love Sandwich”

A few years ago, Oprah published the recipe for her “Love Sandwich” which is the basis for this recipe.  I use smoked turkey instead of plain, roasted turkey as Oprah suggested. Add tomato slices (dried by pressing between paper towels) for more color and flavor.


Basil is the unique calling card of this sandwich.  Substitute spinach or another green if you prefer.

Instead of smoked turkey, use roast turkey or ham.

Pepper Jack cheese adds spicy interest but a milder cheese like Muenster or mild Cheddar sounds good, too.

Looking for more ideas and information about panini?

I’m not an expert but I know someone who is. Check out Panini Happy. Kathy’s blog is full of creative recipes and helpful hints about making a panini.  She also gives advice for buying a panini maker, or you can read about making one using two skillets.

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Pinterest Image of Panini

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Hope to see you again soon!

p.s. Questions or suggestions? Please email me: Paula at

Yield: 1 sandwich

Smoked Turkey, Pepper Jack Cheese, and Basil Panini


A simple panini stuffed with smoked turkey, cheese, basil and tomatoes -- good for beginners.

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes


  • 2 slices of sourdough bread
  • 4 squirts of olive oil spray
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil mayo
  • 2 ounces thinly sliced Pepper Jack Cheese
  • 2 ounces thinly sliced smoked turkey (or rotisserie chicken)
  • 1 small tomato, thinly sliced and patted dry
  • Basil leaves, whole


  1. Brush one side of each slice of bread with olive oil.
  2. Spread light coating of mayo on reverse side of bread.
  3. Stack slices of cheese, turkey, tomato, basil and more cheese on top of mayo-covered side of bread. Cover with remaining slice of bread--mayonnaise side to the top layer of cheese.
  4. Cook on a panini grill preheated to HIGH or use a heavy skillet with another skillet placed on top of sandwich--in which case you will need to flip the sandwich after a couple of minutes. Allow to grill until cheese melts and bread is golden brown and toasty.


If you prefer, add basil or spinach to sandwich after cooking.

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Did you make this recipe?

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Kiran @

Wednesday 19th of October 2011

I am fine with the 5 second rule - so long, it's on MY kitchen floor :D

That panini looks droolicious and dare i say, better than the ones served in Panera Bread? :D


Wednesday 19th of October 2011

I wish you would come make this for me right now. Smoked Turkey, pepper jack (maybe habanero jack?) with tomatoes- - -perfect for a panini.

How'd your quinoa experimenting turn out?

Yudith @ Blissfully Delicious

Monday 17th of October 2011

I am with you! I eat cold sandwiches pretty much when I have no time to eat lunch at work, but I LOVE paninis. Yours look fantastic :)

Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen

Monday 17th of October 2011

I still follow that 5 second rule sometimes, lol. I know, I know it doesn't really work but it makes me feel better to think it does.

Betty @ scrambled hen fruit

Sunday 16th of October 2011

Yay! I still have basil! :) This sandwich looks scrumptious. I don't have a panini press, but I do have iron skillets in all shapes and sizes. I agree that a nice warm toasted sandwich is better than a cold one any day!

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