Italian fare has always been a comfort food to me. The pastas, the bruschetta, the caprese salad, they’re all so simple yet produce such delicious flavors, it’s impossible not to become hooked. Strangely enough, all these years of Italian cooking has made it feel like second-nature, much more so than my own native Korean cuisine. In fact, Italian is kind of the natural language that my gastronomical mind speaks. Maybe it’s because Italian food is an endless victim of Americanization, constantly appearing in jars of spaghetti sauce, as the ubiquitous pizza pie or as the standard fettuccine alfredo, which Americans have butchered by the way. Just something about Italian naturally aligns with American, and therefore the food I always eat.
So even as a Korean girl who grew up eating Korean food, Asian flavors are often foreign and difficult to grasp while pasta is just another meal of the week. Funny how being Korean-American has affected my palate.
Having this proclivity for Italian food, it shouldn’t be a surprise that my refrigerator is always stocked with fresh mozzarella, salami and prosciutto, that I have a basil plant sitting on my kitchen windowsill and that a plump can of tomatoes always waits in the pantry.
This grilled cheese was the perfect vehicle to combine these abundant ingredients, and made a quick lunch too. I used a sliced sourdough bread (my favorite) and slathered each exposed side with mayonnaise (not butter!) to create a beautiful, even crust that didn’t burn and tasted wonderfully buttery. It’s my tip of the day, that mayonnaise, so keep it in mind whenever you make grilled cheese in the future.
Italian Grilled Cheese
Servings: 1 grilled cheese
2 slices of your bread of choice (I used sourdough)
4 slices of fresh mozzarella or enough to generously cover one slice of bread
1 slice of prosciutto, 2 slices of salami (you can change the proportions and combination to whatever you prefer)
2 slices of tomato (this does add a good dose of moisture a.k.a. can result in some sogginess, so emit this if you’d like)
4-5 leaves of fresh basil
Mayonnaise to coat the bread
1. Layer all the ingredients inside your sandwich.
2. Then, slather mayo onto one side of bread, making sure to go all the way to the edges.
3. Place the sandwich, mayo side down, onto a hot pan. You don’t need any oil.
4. While that side is toasting, slather the side up with mayo as well.
5. Flip over when the first side is golden and then cook the sandwich until the other side is toasted and the cheese is melted. Try to press the sandwich down while it’s cooking to create a panini-effect. I used my potato masher to do that.