This 2-Ingredient Upgrade is What My Grilled Cheese Was Missing All Along

Just wait until you dunk this next-level sandwich in tomato soup.

Pesto Grilled Cheese

Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Sometimes simple is best. Bread and butter. Chips and salsa. Peanut butter and chocolate. Cornbread and milk. Those dynamic duos ask for zero embellishments to deliver ample satisfaction. In fact, any accoutrement might just end up taking over and muddling those satisfyingly streamlined pairings. A classic grilled cheese sandwich is another beautiful example of this concept at play. Essentially, it’s two parts bread to one part cheese, all toasted together to crunchy-on-the-outside, gooey-on-the-inside perfection. But this is one classic combination that opens up a world of possibilities. We’ll never say “no” to a grilled cheese any which way, and have already tested, tasted, and adored grilled cheese sandwich recipes with different:

  • Bread to get the party started. Everything from sturdy slabs of sourdough to hearty, seedy wheat bread to crusty ciabatta works well.
  • Cheeses stuffed in the center. Brie, mozzarella, Gouda, goat, Cheddar, Swiss, pimento, American; pretty much anything but feta melts like a dream.
  • Fats. Brush the exterior with any fat you desire to help get the crust golden brown. Butter, olive oil, or mayo — you can’t go wrong.

Even after all of that tough “research” into the ultimate grilled cheese sandwich recipe, we hadn’t quite settled on our best. All that changed when we came across an easy-to-make and easy-to-love Pesto Butter Grilled Cheese from Joy Wilson (aka Joy the Baker). One fan who has tried this sandwich recipe said it’s a “basic staple elevated to gourmet status. Love it!” Another declared that it’s “my go-to snack every afternoon!” And after trying one of her variations on this unique grilled cheese recipe, we wholeheartedly agree.

Read on to discover the only two ingredients you need to take bread and cheese from awesome to irresistible, then we’ll explain bonus additions to make Wilson’s masterpiece your own.

Related: How To Make the Best Grilled Cheese Sandwich Ever 

How To Make Pesto Butter Grilled Cheese

The idea for this herby upgrade came from a half-empty sauce jar that was taunting her in the fridge.  “Turns out store-bought pesto is a very fine way to elevate a grilled cheese situation,” Wilson says.

  1. To follow in her sandwich-savvy footsteps, in a small bowl, mix together 1 tablespoons of butter with 2 tablespoons or so of store-bought or homemade pesto. Use a butter knife or small spatula to spread the pesto butter on one side of two slices of bread. (Wilson uses pieces from a crusty loaf of white bread.) For even more herb flavor, add a thin layer of additional pesto to the other side of each slice, too.
  2. Top one non-buttered side of bread with your preferred quantity of cheese. Melt-friendly muenster is Wilson’s top pick, but she also recommends Monterey Jack, Gruyère, Gouda, fontina, sharp Cheddar, American cheese, or a combo of any or all. 
  3. Now is the time to choose your second ingredient of choice to star in the center: a couple slices of crispy bacon was our top pick, but Wilson also suggests caramelized onions (which is next on out must-try list!), or thin slices of ham, apples, or pears. 
  4. Add the other slice of bread on top, butter side out. In the presence of the warmth of the skillet, “those pesto flavors will sizzle up loads of flavor on the outside of our sandwich,” Wilson says.
  5. In a skillet over medium-low heat, grill the sandwich until the bottom is lightly golden. Flip and cook until the second side is golden and the cheese is gooey. Use a spatula to transfer the cooked grilled cheese to a cutting board for 3 minutes to let the cheese cool off enough so you won’t burn your mouth. Slice, if you like, and enjoy dunked into tomato soup or bisque for the ultimate mid-day meal that tastes gourmet but takes less than 15 minutes.

If you, too, are looking for a simple yet restaurant-worthy way to upgrade your grilled cheese, check out Pesto Butter Grilled Cheese recipe here. That sandwich earns silver to the reigning gold medal winner: Ina Garten's "Ultimate" Grilled Cheese. It’s too tasty to skip!

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