In Italian the word panino -- the singular form of panini -- means small breads. When you order a panini in the United States, you will get a pressed, grilled sandwich with your choice of meat, cheese, toppings and bread.
The number of calories in a panini depends on how your sandwich is made. A panini with turkey on three-cheese bread has 360 calories for half a sandwich. A panini with fat-free mayonnaise, basil pesto, cooked turkey breast, provolone cheese and tomato on sourdough bread has 257 calories. A panini with balsamic vinegar, mozzarella, tomato, basil leaves and olive oil on a French roll has 402 calories.
A traditional panini sandwich in Italy once referred to one type of cured meat, such as salami or prosciutto, with cheese on crunchy bread. In the U.S. a panini is grilled on a sandwich press and has a variety of different meats and cheese. According to Dining Chicago, the first mention of a Panini in the U.S. dates back to 1956.
Mayo Clinic offers tips for making a panini that hits a variety of food groups. Use roasted turkey, whole grain pita, ciabatta, focaccia or baguette, use relish or pesto instead of mayo, add lettuce, tomatoes, avocado and peppers. If you don’t have a sandwich press at home, you can grill or toast your homemade panini.