The Store-Bought Ingredient That Will Easily Upgrade Your Chicken Panini

There are times when nothing but made-from-scratch will do. When it comes to herbaceous pesto, that would be when the bounty of the garden is bursting with delicious edible greenery. But as our favorite kitchen queen, Ina Garten says, "Store-bought is fine," and that is exactly the mantra to keep in mind when making this tasty chicken pesto panini sandwich.

A bottle of store-bought pesto is a versatile ingredient that can be used in so many cooking projects beyond pasta. In this recipe it serves a dual purpose, acting as both a flavorful quick marinade for the chicken breasts and a tasty condiment spread for the finished grilled sandwich. Chicken and mayo are all very well, but adding pesto to your sandwich elevates it by a mile. And by using the same vibrant flavor twice in this panini recipe, the basil is amplified, ensuring it's not overshadowed by the other Mediterranean flavors. Why not serve a bit more pesto on the side for dipping the toasted crusts, too?

Finding a good store-bought pesto to keep on hand

If you're heading out to buy a jar of pesto to be your newfound cooking companion, it's worth investigating the options to find the best store-bought pesto possible. There are some noticeable quality differences you should look out for. Our tasters noticed that the best pestos had a bright green color in the jar, which makes sense, knowing you want the flavor of basil to be the top note. Also, keep an eye out for quality cheese listed among the ingredients — parmesan or pecorino should be on the label unless you've opted for a vegan version.

When you've finally picked your favorite brand of pesto, it's worth keeping an extra jar or two in the pantry. The jars are shelf-stable until opened, which means that if you love the flavor of grilled, pesto-marinated chicken breasts, you can easily cook some up for a weeknight panini. Alternatively, simply slather it on grilled veggies, like mushrooms or zucchini — both would be tasty additions to your panini lineup.