Cheesesteak Paninis

Yesterday, my brother-in-law and I were watching the Giants-Reds and the A's-Tigers games. And, wow, did it turn out to be an amazing day for Bay Area baseball. San Francisco's extra-inning, do-or-die Game 3 was enough of an emotional roller coaster, then the A's avoided elimination as well by shutting out the Tigers. After being glued to the tv for hours...face-palming, throwing up, crying...ok, not really...well, maybe really......we realized we hadn't eaten in a while. My brother-in-law requested cheesesteaks, and I thought a hearty sandwich actually sounded like the perfect nightcap. Something we could dig into while sitting on the couch and watching all the postgame pressers. So, here's my spin on the Philly classic: Cheesesteak Paninis!

Cheesesteak Paninis? That's right. I'm hiding behind the addition of that key word to avoid the judgmental glares of sandwich purists and Philadelphia natives. I'm not claiming this is the cheesesteak. Rather, an awesome-grilled-cheesy-beefy-peppers & oniony goodness inspired by the cheesesteak. We can't all have a flat-top grill installed in the middle of our kitchen (although, I certainly wish I did), but I still made my sandwich fixings easily with just a skillet, a small saucepan, and a panini press.

First, I caramelized some yellow onion in olive oil, giving it a few minutes to really brown. Afterwards, I added sliced red bell pepper to the pan and seasoned everything with a pinch of salt, a few turns of the pepper grinder, and a tiny pinch of red pepper flakes. I only cooked the peppers and onions for an additional 3-4 minutes because I wanted the peppers to keep a little bit of their crunch.

Then, later in the same pan, I melted a couple tablespoons of butter and sauteed my sliced beef just until browned. I went down the pre-cut carne asada route because it was what my local supermarket had. But, if you go to a meat market or an Asian market, thinly sliced ribeye would be ideal. And, my little extra something-else? Italian seasoning! Thyme, rosemary, oregano, basil...they all pair beautifully with the vegetables and cheese.

Now, let's talk cheese sauce. The original cheesesteak includes a smothering of cheese whiz, but I couldn't help but make my own creamy sauce. It starts with a basic roux, then some milk, salt, and pepper are added. If you've ever made a bechamel for mac 'n' cheese, this is the exact same process!

Once the sauce was thick enough to coat the back of a spoon (about 5 minutes), I added 1/2 cup of fresh mozzarella and 1/4 cup of grated parmesan. I whisked continuously until my cheese sauce was thick and velvety smooth.

Assembly time! On my French roll (picked up from my favorite bakery!), I piled on peppers, caramelized onions, and the seasoned beef. I poooured on my homemade cheese sauce. Generosity is the game plan here.

Mmmmm...cheese sauce.

Everything then gets topped off with a couple slices of provolone, and off to the panini press this baby goes!

After a couple minutes in a hot press, the bread is toasted, cheese is oozing, and all the flavors have been smushed together to make one tasty sandwich.

Add an ice cold beer, and you're pretty much set. Sweet and spicy veggies, tender beef, and rich cheese? It's a perfect postgame meal! :)

Cheesesteak Paninis

Print Recipe

Olive Oil, for sauteing
Salt & Pepper, to taste
1 Yellow Onion, sliced
1 Red Bell Pepper, sliced
1/8 tsp Red Pepper Flakes (optional)
1 1/2 - 2 lbs Thinly Sliced Beef, carne asada or ribeye
1/4 tsp Italian Seasoning
12 slices Provolone Cheese
4 French-style Sandwich Rolls

Cheese Sauce:
1 tbsp Butter
1 tbsp All Purpose Flour
1 1/4 cup Whole Milk
1/2 cup Cheese of your choice (ex: mozzarella or white cheddar)
1/4 cup Grated Parmesan
Salt & Pepper, to taste

  1. In a small saucepan, melt the butter completely then whisk in the all purpose flour. Cook the roux for 1 minute (still in its "blonde" stage). Next, slowly add the milk and whisk continuously to avoid lumps. Cook the sauce for 5 minutes, just until it's thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Then, mix in the cheese until completely melted. At this point, taste the sauce and season with salt & pepper accordingly. Remove the sauce from the heat, and set aside until ready to use.
  2. In a skillet over medium-high heat, sautee sliced onion in olive oil until caramelized. Add the sliced bell pepper, and season everything with a pinch of salt, freshly cracked pepper, and the red pepper flakes. Cook for 3-4 minutes more, then remove the peppers and onions from the pan.
  3. Add more oil to the pan or melt a couple tablespoons of butter, then sautee the slices of beef with the Italian seasoning. Cook just until the beef has browned.
  4. To assemble the sandwiches: slice a French roll in half, pile on peppers, caramelized onions, then beef, and pour on 1/4 of the cheese sauce. Finally, top everything with slices of Provolone and the top half of the roll. Place the sandwich on a panini grill, and press for 2-3 minutes until the bread is toasted and the cheese is melted.
  5. Serve with fries, or chips, and an ice cold beer. Enjoy! :)