The key to making this vegan copycat recipe work is delicious bread, fresh vegetables, and a mozzarella alternative cheese you really enjoy. The mozzarella is perhaps the trickiest part, but you do have a lot of options. If you're not really a fan of vegan cheeses, slices of firm tofu are really great for caprese-inspired recipes. Otherwise, I would recommend using Teese or Follow Your Heart brand mozzarella-style alternative cheeses, which you might be able to find in the vegetarian section of your local supermarket (and definitely find at natural food stores like Whole Foods).
Panera-Inspired Tomato & Vegan Mozzarella Panini
(Adapted from Oh My Veggies)
MAKES 4 SANDWICHES
To Make Roasted Tomatoes -
2 Roma tomatoes, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1/4 tsp. Italian seasoning
salt and pepper to taste
To Make Tomato Pesto -
1/2 c. sun-dried tomatoes (the kind that come in a jar of oil)
1 tbsp. oil from sun-dried tomato jar
2 tbsp. vegan grated Parmesan-style topping (I recommend Go Veggie! brand.)
To Make Sandwiches -
1 large loaf of ciabatta bread
1 tomato, thinly sliced
1/4 c. basil leaves
4 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese or firm tofu, cut into 8 slices
olive oil to brush grill or panini press
1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place tomato slices on a rimmed baking sheet that's been lined with parchment paper. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, then sprinkle with Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until softened and beginning to brown.
2) Combine all ingredients in food processor and process until smooth.
3) Preheat panini press or grill to high.Cut ciabatta bread into 4 equal sections and then cut each section in half lengthwise. Spread tomato pesto onto the bottom of each ciabatta section. Top with roasted tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, basil leaves, and mozzarella.
4) Brush grill with olive oil. Place panini onto press and heat until cheese has melted, about 8-10 minutes (depending on the brand and type of press you use).