Grilled Zucchini Goat Cheese Pesto Panini

This grilled zucchini goat cheese pesto panini is drizzled with a balsamic reduction. It’s got all the flavors of Italy in a quick lunch.

…with a balsamic reduction. Sorry, couldn’t leave that part out but the title was getting a bit ridic. I hate when recipe (granted this is a panini and it feels weird to call it a “recipe”) titles pretty much list out every ingredient in them but if I called this a “grilled zucchini panini” would you want to read on? Eh, probably not. Throw the words goat cheese, pesto and balsamic reduction in there though and I go all Pavlov and start salivating upon just reading so I’m hoping you do too and the long title is worth it.

Grilled zucchini goat cheese and pesto panini

I want to talk about how insanely delicious this combination of tart goat cheese and sun dried tomato basil pesto is with perfect summer squash and tomatoes but really, I just booked flights and hotels to Italy for September and I can’t focus. Can we please just fast forward 9 weeks instead to when my schedule for the next 13 days will look like wine, gelato, pasta, gelato, Italian men, gelato, seeing family who I can’t communicate with and oh, gelato?

I guess this post is kind of appropriate considering it’s pretty “Italian” flavored (and colored!) but as delicious as this sandwich was the other day, I guarantee the basil, tomatoes and zucchini are going to taste 10 thousand times better in Italy. Cannot.wait.

Grilled zucchini goat cheese panini

Have you ever reduced balsamic vinegar? If not, you are seriously missing out. I have a love affair with the stuff that dates back to childhood dinners and me drinking the salad bowl to finish all of the vinegar at the bottom. I don’t know how it’s possible for vinegar to be sweet and yet so tart at the same time but somehow balsamic accomplishes that.

Reduce it to a thick, syrupy glaze and it just gets better.

Combine it with creamy goat cheese, roasted vegetables and a fresh made pesto, omg I’ve died and gone to Italy this is my idea of heaven.

Grilled zucchini pesto panini

As long as there’s gelato there too for dessert.

Yield: 2 servings

Grilled Zucchini Goat Cheese Panini with Pesto

Grilled Zucchini Goat Cheese Panini with Pesto

This grilled zucchini goat cheese pesto panini is drizzled with a balsamic reduction. It's got all the flavors of Italy in a quick lunch.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes


  • 3 sun dried tomatoes
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 cup packed basil leaves
  • 1/2 an avocado
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 small zucchini, sliced diagonally
  • 4 slices wheat bread
  • 4 tablespoons goat cheese
  • 4 slices tomato
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar


For the Pesto

  1. Combine sun dried tomatoes, garlic, basil, avocado, olive oil and salt & pepper in a food processor and pulse until combined.

For the Panini

  1. Heat a grill pan or outdoor grill to medium high.
  2. Spray with cooking spray and layer zucchini slices on.
  3. Grill for 3-4 minutes per side depending how thick the slices. You want them cooked through with grill marks but still retaining a slight bite to them.
  4. Remove zucchini and set aside.
  5. Spread goat cheese on one piece of bread for each sandwich.
  6. Spread pesto on the other piece of bread for each sandwich.
  7. Layer zucchini and tomatoes on top of one slice of bread and cover with the remaining slice.
  8. Place sandwiches on a heated panini press and cook/press for about 5 minutes until goat cheese starts to melt.
  9. While panini cooks, heat a small sauce pan with balsamic vinegar to medium. Simmer and cook until reduced and vinegar becomes thick and syrup-like. It should just start sticking to a spoon when ready.
  10. Remove panini from press and drizzle balsamic reduction on top or use as a dip in a small side bowl.



  1. Cait's Plate

    Whatever you want to title it, it looks freakin’ amazing. And anything followed by gelato is A-OK in my book :)

  2. Megan {Country Cleaver}

    A) I’m simultaneously THRILLED for you and also trying to figure out how I can finagle myself into your suitcase to go to Italy with you. Because there are no words to describe how jealous I am of all the Italian Men (I mean – Gelato) you’ll be able to oogle (I mean – consume) Crap – this is going down hill fast…
    2) Goat cheese, tomatoes and reduced balsamic vinegar would be my earth, wind and water if that were physically possible. Delicious!

    1. Running to the Kitchen Post author

      I wish I could take you with me! Although, doesn’t someone have a super secret honeymoon coming up!? ;)

    1. Running to the Kitchen Post author

      pleasure! With my mom :) Unfortunately work travel is all domestic. Granted, the west coast isn’t too bad of a place to have to travel to on business ;)

  3. Stefanie @ Sarcastic Cooking

    Ugh! Sometimes I hate naming recipes because I feel like it is a hard balance between being too descriptive and too elusive. I think you did an excellent job with this guy! Looks fantastic! I am sold on anything with goat cheese! Yum!

  4. Cinnamon @ eatpraytri

    Oh. My. Lanta. So exciting. I saw your tweet yesterday and wanted to respond but didn’t for who knows why. I think I was walking and reading….walking and typing on my phone never turns out well. :)
    Italy would be my #1 choice for someplace to go in Europe. How cool that you have relatives there. I probably do too somewhere given that I am formerly a Ruvolo. maybe I should look into that. :) You will be Italy-ing while I am moving to the desert. You win. :) lol.

    1. Running to the Kitchen Post author

      And I briefly saw something about that on my phone since I haven’t read blogs in 3 days having been away for work…now I have to go read all about this move of yours!

  5. Lee @ Anytime Health

    I didn’t realize that’s all you had to do to make a Balsamic Reduction! I thought other ingredients were added in order to thicken it. Have you ever tried Aged Balsamic? It sounds similar to a reduction, it’s thick and sweet. SO GOOD!

    1. Running to the Kitchen Post author

      I loooove aged balsamic! My brother got me an aged fig balsamic for Christmas and I just about died.

    1. Running to the Kitchen Post author

      not at all ;) I thought a panini press would be a total waste of space but then I got one as a gift and I actually use it a ton! It more than justified the space it takes up :)

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  8. Veronica

    I made this today and it was absolutely delicious! I am going to eat it again tomorrow it was so good. The only thing I changed was using ricotta cheese in place of the goat cheese since I don’t care for it.

    1. Running to the Kitchen Post author

      I’m honestly trying to remember what I put it on in this picture since it was months ago…I think it was just regular wheat bread!

      1. Carrie

        It must be the pretty picture with the balsamic reduction that makes it look so good. I thought maybe there were some extra grains and some reddish tomatoey content to it. I might not be able to wait until these ingredients are seasonal again to try one of these.

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