Mini Pesto Grilled Cheese – Fresh basil pesto and sliced provolone cheese are sandwiched into a crusty baguette and grilled to perfection to make the best appetizer for any event. Don’t forget to serve with homemade garlic butter tomato sauce for dunking!
But my other favorite thing to make for you guys is food meant for a crowd – tailgate recipes, appetizers, pitchers of cocktails, casseroles, you name it. I love to entertain so I am all about those kinds of recipes.
Today’s recipe falls into that category – Mini Pesto Grilled Cheese. In case you’re new to the blog, I have an obsession for mini or bite-sized food – like these mini quiche, these shrimp and grit cakes, and these cookie bites.
This is the perfect recipe to serve at a dinner party as an app or even at a tailgate as a snack food. You can even make these for dinner if you feel like it! When I made these for photographing, my husband and I ate a bunch for lunch. And by “a bunch” I mean almost all of them.
These grilled cheese are, without a doubt, some of the best I’ve ever had. Seriously. They’re super cheesy, full of sharp flavor, and come with the most incredible (and simplest) garlic butter tomato dipping sauce to balance out the richness in the pesto. You’re gonna have a hard time eating just one.
The idea for these pesto grilled cheese came from my obsession with cheese and bread. You really can’t go wrong when you’re putting these two ingredients together: pizza, quesadillas, cheesy bread. The delicious possibilities are never-ending.
I’ve shared all those recipes on the blog but not yet a grilled cheese. Shame on me! So the time has come for you to have a recipe for this comforting sandwich.
Grilled cheese is a staple in our home but I didn’t want to share a normal, ol’ grilled cheese. Nope. This grilled cheese had to be incredible.
With pesto being one of our favorite spreads, it was a no-brainer for this grilled cheese.
My first idea was to use pesto, tomatoes, and mozzarella – a caprese grilled cheese, if you will.
However, I thought fresh tomatoes might get too juicy in a grilled cheese and take away from the gooey cheese. So I scrapped that and decided to dip into a tomato sauce instead.
Speaking of the sauce, this is no marina. It’s a smooth and luscious tomato sauce made with just 4 ingredients – cherry tomatoes, butter, garlic, and balsamic vinegar. That’s it! It makes for the perfect dipping sauce for this grilled cheese, sort of like dipping your grilled cheese into tomato soup, but better.
Before you get going on this recipe, here are a few tips to help you out:
- Make the tomato sauce first. You don’t want to wait for the sauce to cook once the grilled cheese are done, or else they’ll get cold.
- In order for these grilled cheese to be mini-sized, I used a long, narrow baguette from my local bakery. If you can’t find the same shape, you can make them bigger and then cut into bites for serving.
- I included a recipe for my favorite basil pesto, but you can use your own recipe or use store-bought, if you must. But fresh is always best and it only takes a few seconds to make. Totally worth it. Just make sure you’re using good extra-virgin olive oil. Since pesto isn’t cooked, you’ll taste the flavors of the olive oil much more so it’s important to use the best.
- The best grilled cheese is made by cooking the sandwich on medium heat for 8 minutes. I know that sounds like a long time, and it feels like a long time when you’re starving, but patience is key! The cheese needs time to melt and the bread needs time to toast. Trust me – there’s nothing worse that biting into a grilled cheese that had solid, non-melted cheese. Talk about a buzz kill.
There you have it – the best grilled cheese for your next event! Or even for dinner this week. Let me know how you served them!
If you love this recipe, don’t forget to share with you friends and family on social media!
Here are all the kitchen tools and serveware that I used in today’s recipe. For each item sold below, I make a small commission. I only recommend items that I own and love so you can trust that each recommendation is tried and true. Thank you for supporting CPA!
Mini Pesto Grilled Cheese
For the sandwiches:
- 1 8.5-ounce French baguette long and skinny, if possible
- 11/2 cup basil pesto recipe below
- 12 slices provolone cheese halved
- 2 tablespoons butter
For the pesto:
- 3/4 cup fresh basil leaves
- 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese
- 3 tablespoons pine nuts
- 2 cloves garlic halved
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
For the garlic butter tomato dipping sauce:
- 10 ounces cherry tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons butter salted
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- salt and pepper to taste
For the sandwiches:
- Make tomato sauce first, if using. See recipe below
- Slice baguette into 1/3 inch rounds. Spread a thin layer of pesto onto half of the rounds, about 1/2 teaspoon (see pesto recipe below). On the other half of the round, place 1/2 slice of provolone cheese. I had to quarter mine so that it didn't hang too far over the edges.
- Heat large saute pan over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of butter. Once butter has melted and begin bubbling slightly, add about 10-12 sandwiches to pan. If you can't fit that many, add as many will fit. Cook for 5 minutes, press down on each one every so often. Flip and cook for another 3 minutes. Repeat with remaining sandwiches.
- Serve immediately on large platter with tomato dipping sauce (see recipe below).
For the pesto:
- First, toast the pine nuts. Place in small saute pan and heat on medium-low. Once they begin to get golden brown, remove from heat. Add pine nuts, cheese, basil, and garlic to bowl of food processor.
- Run processor to combine ingredient. Begin to slowly drizzle olive oil into mixture as it's processing until the mixture comes together into a paste. Turn of processor. Taste to see if it needs any seasoning. I always add a pinch of salt. Pulse together. Now, it's ready to use!
For the tomato dipping sauce:
- Place tomatoes in dry, large saute pan over medium heat. Once their skin begins to char, reduce heat to medium low and add one tablespoon of butter. Stir together.
- Press the tomatoes with the back of your wooden spoon to squeeze out the juices. Add garlic, balsamic vinegar, and remaining butter to pan and stir together. Let the mixture cook until it's nice and thick. I like mine on the thicker side so I left it to cook for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve alongside your mini pesto grilled cheese!