I love a good grilled cheese and so does the rest of my family. When I need an easy meal that I know will make everyone happy (meaning no whining from the kids) I can always count on it to fit the bill. I also love pesto. A lot. So imagine my happiness when I discovered the perfect grilled cheese combination that included pesto. This grilled cheese made with pesto, mozzarella, and tomato is amazing. It takes the traditional grilled cheese up a notch, for sure. And since it has tomatoes it’s healthy, right? Seriously though, just make it with whole grain bread and serve it with fruit, salad or another green veggie and you have a well balanced meal. My kids love it and when I made it again this week they begged me for seconds. Unfortunately, I was out of bread and pesto so they didn’t get seconds but I was so happy to know how much they liked it. I diced the tomatoes for their sandwiches so they didn’t see huge scary pieces of tomato. I notice that they tend to pull out big chunks of vegetables from things I make but if I cut them small they usually don’t complain as much.
If you have family members that don’t like pesto you can leave it out or substitute a little olive oil. You could also add some fresh basil to the sandwich. Another option would be a little pizza sauce in place of the pesto. I’ve done that for my husband and he liked it. You could add in a few olives or other pizza toppings to customize it even more.
Two kitchen appliances that I had on my Christmas list this year were a panini press and a griddle. Thankfully, Santa delivered a two in one press and griddle and I have loved it so far. So now when I make grilled cheese it can be done on the griddle or I can use the press to make a panini. The press makes it a little easier and makes a crispier outside with less oil or butter. I also use the griddle regularly to make pancakes.
- 1 large Roma tomato, sliced
- 4 slices (or about 6 oz.) of Mozzarella cheese
- 8 slices of whole grain bread, gluten free bread or bread of your choice
- 3 T pesto, homemade or store bought
- butter or olive oil for greasing the panini press or pan
- Turn your panini machine or griddle on to medium or high, depending on how you like yours cooked. Alternatively, put a pan on the stove and heat it on medium.
- Set out your bread and spread a thin layer of pesto on the inside of each piece of bread.
- Put your cheese and tomato on top of one piece of bread and cover with the other piece of bread.
- When your pan or press is ready, baste it with butter or olive oil to give the bread that extra crunch that makes it taste so good. (I just took my stick of butter and ran it over the panini press on both sides to coat it.)
- Cook your panini/grilled cheese until the inside is melted and the outside is crispy and brown.
Real Food Tips:
- Finding healthy bread can be a challenge. Look for breads made with 100% whole grains. Read over the ingredient list carefully and make sure you recognize all of the ingredients. I love the Food for Life brand of Ezekiel bread. I also find an organic bread at Costco we like. It’s not 100% whole grain but whole wheat flour is the first ingredient and all of the other ingredients are ones I use when making homemade bread. No weird or artificial ingredients.
- You can make your own pesto. We love making it at home; it’s delicious. You can also buy it at the store. Again, just take a look at the ingredient list and try to choose the best choice that is within your budget. Pesto is made with a handful of ingredients so you shouldn’t see an ingredient list that is 12 ingredients long. Also, true pesto is made with olive oil but most of the jars of pesto I’ve seen at the store use a combination of oils (to make it cheaper and increase shelf life.)
- I always use block cheese in place of pre-shredded. It tastes so much better and shredded cheese often has cellulose and other ingredients added to it to keep it from sticking together.