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Leftover Ham Ideas: Ham and Cheese Panini

Are you wondering what to do with your leftover ham? This Ham and Cheese Panini is crispy, cheesy and delicious and a great way to use up those leftovers. A Panini is super quick and easy to make and the entire family will love these sandwiches. You won’t get any complaints about these leftovers, I promise! (Regular deli ham works great too.)

leftover ham paninis

We do a ham every year at Easter and Christmas. (And usually Thanksgiving too.) I generally don’t DIY my own ham, I just wait until the store puts the fully cooked ones on sale. So easy and the ham comes with it’s own honey glaze.

I always buy bigger than we need because we absolutely love our ham leftovers! (Although with our smaller crowd, I may have over done it on the ham this year, lol.)

what to make with leftover ham

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Paninis Are the Best Way to Use Leftover Ham

There’s just something about a panini that is so much better than a regular ham or grilled cheese sandwich! The grill marks the panini press makes on the crispy crunchy bread, the ooey-gooey, melty cheese turns a plain-Jane leftover ham sandwich into pure panini awesomeness.

A panini press is super hot and once preheated, it only take a few minutes to heat the sandwich. Plus since there are heated plates on both sides, there’s no flipping!

ham and cheese panini

What Exactly is a Panini Anyway?

The word panini, actually comes from the word panino, which means sandwich in Italian. A Panini is like a grilled cheese on steroids. It’s stuffed with various deli meats, cheeses, condiments and sometimes veggies.

A panini press is then used to compress the sandwich and heat it from both sides. The heat from the press toasts the bread to crispy crunchy perfection and warms the cheese and meats for the perfect melty ham and cheese panini.

What Kind of Panini Maker is Best?

To make a good panini, you want a press that gets good and hot. Two recommended options are the Cuisinart Electric Griddler or the Hamilton Beach Electric Panini Press Grill.

If you don’t want another gadget, a cast iron grill pan with a panini press plate is a great option. If you already have a grill pan then you just need a press.

But to tell the truth, I don’t even have a panini maker!

What we use is the George Foreman Grill that I received as a wedding gift so many years ago.  (You can still buy George Forman grills, so hopefully, that doesn’t date me, lol)  The grill is advertised for burgers, chicken and veggies, but I am almost certain I have only used it once or twice for chicken. 

We mostly use our George Foreman grill for paninis and burritos.  It’s just so handy and easy to clean. (It’s non-stick and you just wipe it with a towel to clean.)

So if you have a George Forman grill, it’s time to pull it out from the depths of your pantry and start making a ham and cheese panini!

ham panini

Tips to Make the Best Paninis

  1. Use a hearty bread, like a nice thick sourdough, focaccia, ciabatta, French bread or our favorite Killer Dave’s bread. (Costco has the best deal on Killer Dave’s.)
  2. Generously butter the outsides of your bread.
  3. Keep wetter ingredients to the inside of the sandwich. (Add a layer of meat or cheese at the bottom and top of your sandwich and keep any veggies in the middle.)
  4. If using thick cuts of meat (like leftover ham) tear it into bite size pieces. (otherwise you will take a bite of your panini and the entire piece of ham will come out in one bite.)
  5. If you add tomatoes to you sandwich, removing the seeds helps them from being too wet. Add lettuce or greens after panini has cooked. 
  6. To cut your panini, use a sharp chefs knife instead of a serrated knife. The sharp blade of the chef knife makes a beautiful clean cut while a serrated knife, just saws the sandwich to pieces.

More Leftover Ham Recipes:

how to make a panini

Panini Variations

Once you get hooked on these delicious sandwiches, it’s time to mix it up from the basic ham and cheese panini! You have to try one of these classic sandwich combinations on your panini maker.

  • Classic Reuben Panini | Rye bread, sauerkraut, thinly sliced corned beef, swiss cheese and thousand island for the dressing
  • Italian Chicken | Thick sliced rustic bread, Mayo, basil pesto, sliced chicken, mozzarella, and roasted red peppers.
  • Turkey and Avocado | Sourdough bread, mayo, provolone cheese, sliced turkey breast and avocado
  • Ham, Gruyere and Apple | Whole grain mustard, thinly sliced granny smith apples, Gruyere cheese and sliced ham
  • Italian Panini | Thick sliced rustic bread, pesto, sliced mozzarella, salami, dry Italian salami, sliced prosciutto

 

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Ham and Cheese Panini

  • Author: Jamie Sanders
  • Prep Time: 4 minutes
  • Cook Time: 4 minutes
  • Total Time: 8 minutes
  • Yield: 1 sandwich 1x
  • Category: sandwich

Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 slices of thick crusty bread
  • Butter
  • 1 tbsp Mayo or Dijon Mustard (your preference – I love the spicy kick the dijon gives to the panini)
  • Ham
  • Cheese (any combination of swiss, provolone, cheddar jack)
  • Optional: Avocado Slices and/or thinly sliced tomatoes with the seeds removed.

Instructions

  1. Preheat your grill/panini press.
  2. Butter the outside of the 1st piece of bread. Add a mayo/dijon mustard to the bread. Place the bread, butter side down.
  3. Build the sandwich on the grill by adding sliced cheese, tomato/avocado, ham, another slice of cheese and the 2nd piece of bread. (Be sure to add condiments to the butter to the 2nd piece of bread.
  4. Close the press and cook according to the machines instructions. (for us, it’s 2 to 3 minutes.
  5. Cut sandwiches in half and serve immediately.

Keywords: panini, ham, ham leftovers, ham and cheese, ham panini

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3 Comments

  1. Richard Tunner says:

    My family loved these sweet tasty sandwiches. I used honey baked ham. Absolutely yummy.

  2. Donna Teeter says:

    I am going to try this. Thanks for the tip about using a George Forman grill! I was about to donate ours.
    Donna Teeter