Day 49 : Grilled Cheese with Spinach and Pancetta

Today was my son’s first birthday party and I needed something to make for guests that was a good lunch and not too filling since there was also dip, veggies, and of course cake.  It also needed to be quick and easy!  A couple of days ago I saw Giada make these on her show for some kids at a cake decorating party and thought they would be the perfect thing.  I knew the spinach would throw a lot of kids and even some of the adults off, but I figured that if they just tried it they would probably like it.  I love finding ways to incorporate foods/ingredients you don’t typically like in a way that makes you change your mind.  Personally I don’t have anything against spinach, but I wouldn’t eat it cooked plain.  I like it in salads, on sandwiches and even cooked in pastas though.

The flavor of these sandwiches is pretty simple/mild, but it is meant for kids afterall.  We really did enjoy them, and for me the spinach flavor was not very strong at all.  I really love the beautiful green color though of the oozing cheese!  I used bacon just because the only pancetta I can find in my area comes chopped up and I wanted to bake them as stated rather than pan fry it.  It’s great as is, and a perfect thing to serve at parties because you can get it prepped ahead of time and then just whip out the grilled sandwiches a few at a time, no problem.

I think in the future I want to revisit these though and take them to a whole new level.  I am thinking something along the lines of a triple decker type sandwich with one side the spinach mixture and the other maybe a roasted red pepper one or even artichokes because anybody who has had spinach and artichoke dip knows that they go SO well together.  I would maybe throw in some lemon or garlic as well just to add layers of flavor.  I am actually excited to come back to this one lol.

*BTW, as predicted some of the kids DID indeed enjoy these without knowing what the “green stuff” was!  I recommend not telling them ahead of time and let them make their judgments based on flavor alone.

Grilled Cheese with Spinach and Pancetta

Serves : 8                           Time to make : 20 minutes

Ingredients :

  • Cooking Spray
  • 6 oz. pancetta, cut into 1/8-inch thick slices
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups (8oz) shredded Monteray Jack cheese
  • 2 cups (8oz) shredded mild Cheddar
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 T. vegetable or canola oil, plus extra as needed
  • 2 packed cups coarsely chopped baby spinach
  • 16 slices country-style white bread (I actually used a 9 grain which was really nice)

Directions :

  1. Put an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Spray 2 baking sheets with cooking spray. Lay the pancetta in a single layer on the prepared baking sheets and bake until crispy and brown, about 12 to 14 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Cool for 5 minutes and crumble. Set aside.
  3. In a food processor, combine the butter, cheeses, salt, and 1 tablespoon vegetable oil. Blend until smooth, adding extra oil, as needed, until the mixture is spreadable. Add the spinach and pulse until just combined.
  4. Preheat a panini maker. Spread the cheese mixture over 8 slices of bread. Top with the crumbled pancetta. Put the remaining bread slices on top. Grill the sandwiches, 2 at a time, until golden and crispy, about 3 to 4 minutes. Cool for 2 minutes, then cut each sandwich in half and arrange on a platter.

 

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