Ever since I toured Rome, I’ve been obsessed with panini. Strange how in a city with such majestic structures and history, it is the simple panini which I found myself craving days and months after I left.

There is just something alluring about simple fresh ingredients pressed between two robust pieces of bread and two hot cast iron plates. Whereas the Earl of Sandwich was said to be fond of this general form of food because it enabled him to continue playing cards, I was very fond of the panini because it enabled me to continue to sight-see.

One particular panini I remembered spotting behind a glass enclosure. When the owner handed it to me after its visit to the panini press, I could feel the warmth of it through the white wax paper. I slowly undressed it, starving from a morning of scurrying around the city, and took a bite. The warm cheese, saltiness of the thinly sliced prosciutto and the fresh herbs left me breathless. I tried to pace myself and savor each bite. When I had devoured one half the the panini, I purposefully wrapped up the other half so I could enjoy the experience again. This was also the other aspect I loved about paninis, they were just as good later on in the day.

My ‘Delectably Distracting’ King Trumpet Mushroom, Basil and Brie Pastrami Panini recipe is inspired by this trip to Rome and also the two giant meaty king trumpet mushrooms I discovered in my recent shipment of vegetables from the local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) group, Live Earth Farm.

King trumpet mushrooms. They are firm and meaty. In this recipe, I slice them up for a panini creation.

Loni’s ‘Delectably Distracting’ King Trumpet Mushroom, Basil and Brie Pastrami Panini Recipe


  • 1 square piece of artisan bread
  • Brie (in this recipe I was able to find a goat brie)
  • 7-8 fresh basil leaves
  • 5 slices of Pastrami (Whatever it takes to cover the surface area of the bread in 2-3 thin layers of Pastrami. For me, this required two slices per layer. Do not use too much meet, this is a panini sandwich, not a Philly steak sandwich.)
  • fig jam

For the flavored oil mixture combine the following in a small bowl:

  • 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of aged balsamic vinegar (Do use vinegar aged for 10 years or more.)
  • generous dash of freshly ground pepper
  • generous dash of sea salt

For this recipe, you will need a panini press. I considered many models and finally settled on the Le Creuset Enameled Cast-Iron 9 Inch Panini Press with the Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron 10 1/4 Inch Square Skillet Grill. I took a look at electric panini presses such as one from Cuisinart. However, I enjoy doing things the traditional way and also in general prefer multi-purpose devices in the kitchen. With the Le Creuset I’ve also grilled steaks with it and achieved beautiful grill lines. You will need to have a gas range for the Le Creuset set to really work well.

Place the press on one gas element and the pan on another. Turn both to medium heat and let the grill preheat as you assemble the panini.

Start by slicing the mushrooms into generous slices. If you can’t find king trumpet mushrooms other types will do as well, just make sure it is a varietal that has a meaty flesh.
Place a little olive oil into a pan on medium heat and place mushroom slices in the pan. Make sure not to crowd them. I had to do mine in two batches.
In the meantime, make the balsamic flavored olive oil mixture. You can measure, but I generally just eyeball it adding extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, sea salt and ground pepper.
Flavored olive oil mixture which will used to lightly brush on some of the ingredients to infuse flavor.
Slice off a piece of bread. I generally try to get a square dimension to the size of my panini. It looks better when it is done and you need to cut it on a diagonal.
Slice the bread into two pieces so there is a top and bottom piece for your panini.
Brush some of the flavored olive oil onto the mushrooms. Yes, there is some multitasking going on here!
Share the love and brush some of the balsamic olive oil mixture on the two inside sides of the bread.
Slice the brie in half since you will probably only need 1/2 of the wheel. Cut thin slices and place on one bread slice.
At this point you should probably flip the slices of mushrooms over and brush gently the other side of the mushroom that was cooking.
Stack the pastrami on top of the brie.
Place the cooked mushrooms on top of the pastrami.
On the other slice of break, add a layer of basil leaves and a thin layer of fig jam.
Gently, but quickly, flip one side of the panini on to the other to form a completed sandwich.
Brush one side with the balsamic olive oil mixture. If you run out, make some more.
Place the panini into the grill pan with the side covered in olive oil down on the grill. Repeat the brushing technique on the other side of the panini.
Take the hot press off the stove and place on top of the panini. Make sure to use an oven glove and also turn off the gas element that is not in use anymore.
Wait about seven minutes, pressing firmly down on the panini with the press. Adjust the temperature to ensure you get golden brown grill marks instead of burn marks. After about 7 minutes, remove the panini from the press.
Finally slice it on a diagonal so it presents well.
Dress it up with a little basil and its ready to devour.

This recipe really shows off the character of the king trumpet mushroom, adding to the juicy meatiness of this pastrami sandwich that will make it quite the distraction. It is the perfect panini to enjoy while busy playing a game of cards or running around Rome.

However, beware as this panini may become the center of attention. Yet a distraction this delectable must be most welcomed, no?

Loni Stark is an artist at Atelier Stark, self-professed foodie, and adventure travel seeker who has a lifelong passion for technology’s impact on business and creativity. She collaborates with Clinton Stark on video projects for Atelier Stark Films. It’s been said her laugh can be heard from San Jose all the way up to the Golden Gate Bridge. She makes no claims to super powers, although sushi is definitely her Kryptonite.