Elevate your grilled cheese experience by adding pesto and sliced tomato! These pesto tomato grilled cheese sandwiches are a delicious and satisfying weeknight meal which take just 15 minutes to prepare. Made with crusty sourdough bread, melty mozzarella cheese, and homemade parsley pesto, everyone will love these “fancy” grilled cheese sandwiches.

hands holding tomato pesto grilled cheese sandwich

As a Registered Dietitian, I practice an “all foods fit” approach to eating. This means enjoying foods you love on a regular basis – because eating is as much about pleasure as it is about nourishment. For me personally, this includes grilled cheese sandwiches!

I usually make simple grilled cheeses with just bread and cheddar cheese, but I wanted to create a fancy grilled cheese recipe to enjoy at home. This tomato pesto grilled cheese will really elevate your grilled cheese experience, but won’t take a ton of time or effort to prepare.

It features my homemade parsley pesto sauce, but you could swap in your favorite store bought pesto in a pinch. Or, try it with my nutrient-dense kale basil pesto! Including the time it takes to make pesto, your sandwiches will be ready to eat in about 15 minutes.

Is pesto good for you?

While pesto is higher in calories than other sauces, it provides valuable nutrients, especially healthy fats!

Two of the main ingredients used to make pesto are olive oil and pine nuts. These foods are high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Diets that include these heart-healthy fats can help reduce heart disease risk and lower cholesterol levels.

The fresh herbs used to make pesto provide various antioxidants, which help keep our cells healthy by fighting free radicals that cause cell damage and inflammation.

Making homemade pesto is a healthy choice because it to allows you to choose the highest quality ingredients and limit added sodium or preservatives.

ingredients for pesto tomato grilled cheese sandwiches on a light grey backdrop

Ingredients in tomato pesto grilled cheese

Everything you need to make this recipe, below:

  • Sourdough bread: I think a good crusty sourdough bread is the best bread for grilled cheese sandwiches. It is hearty enough to hold it’s shape and stand up to a stuffed sandwich. It also crisps up beautifully for satisfying crunchy bites with a little chew.
  • Sliced mozzarella cheese: Pre-sliced low-moisture mozzarella cheese is perfect for these sandwiches. Sliced cheddar, provolone, or colby jack cheese would also pair nicely with this recipe.
  • Tomatoes: When shopping for fresh tomatoes, look for tomatoes that are free of blemishes and bruises. Ripe tomatoes will be firm to the touch with a little give when pressed gently. I used tomatoes on the vine – you could also use heirloom tomatoes, beefsteak tomatoes, or roma tomatoes, depending on which ones look best!
  • Butter: A little butter ensures your grilled cheese bread gets perfectly browned and crispy when cooked in the pan. I used unsalted butter for this recipe.
  • Parsley pesto sauce: This homemade pesto is similar to traditional basil pesto, but uses parsley instead.
    • Parsley: You can use either flat parsley or curly parsley. Prolong the life of a bunch of parsley by storing it in a glass jar filled with water, like a bouquet of flowers, in the fridge.
    • Baby spinach: Spinach adds a boost of nutrients and vibrant green color to this pesto recipe. Baby spinach is best, as it has a sweeter, less bitter flavor than mature spinach.
    • Extra virgin olive oil: Compared to regular olive oil, extra virgin olive oil is less processed. It has a more robust flavor with vegetal and fruity notes. Read about the health benefits of extra virgin olive oil below.
    • Pine nuts: Pine nuts are a traditional pesto ingredient. Almonds or walnuts are a good substitute for pine nuts in this pesto recipe.
    • Parmesan cheese: Freshly grated parmesan cheese is best for pesto, compared to pre-shredded because it has a stronger flavor.
    • Garlic
    • Lemon juice
    • Salt

Kitchen tools needed

To make grilled cheese, you need a 12-inch nonstick skillet, a turner spatula, and a bread knife for slicing bread and cutting your sandwiches in half. You also need a food processor to make pesto.

How to make grilled cheese with pesto and tomato

First, prepare homemade pesto.

Pesto ingredients in a food processor before being blended
1. Add all pesto ingredients, besides olive oil, to your food processor.
pesto ingredients blended up in a food processor
2. Pulse the ingredients 5-10 times until well combined but still textural.
pesto in a food processor
3. With the food processor running, pour the olive oil into the pesto until it is just incorporated.

Tip: Don’t overblend your pesto – you still want a little bit of texture from the pine nuts, cheese, and herbs.

Next, assemble and cook grilled cheese sandwiches.

two pieces of buttered sourdough bread on wooden cutting board with a butterknife and pat of butter
4. Butter one side of each piece of bread.
Slice of bread with pesto on it in a white skillet
5. Heat skillet on stovetop over medium heat. Add one piece of bread, buttered side down, to the pan and spread a generous dollop of pesto on it.
piece of bread with pesto and sliced cheese in a white skillet
6. Place 1-2 pieces of cheese on top of the pesto.
bread with pesto, cheese, and tomato in a white skillet
7. Add two slices of tomato on top of the cheese.
Piece of bread with pesto, tomato, and cheese in a white skillet
8. Add another 1-2 pieces of cheese on top of the tomato.
Grilled cheese sandwich with tomato being cooked in a white skillet
9. Place the other piece of bread, buttered side up, to finish the sandwich.
Grilled cheese sandwich in a white skillet
10. Cook for 2-3 minutes until bottom is golden brown and crispy, flip the sandwich, and cook for another 2-3 minutes.

Enjoy grilled cheese sandwiches right away, while cheese is melty and hot.

What to serve with grilled cheese sandwiches

If you’d like, you can pair this grilled cheese with something like a salad or soup. Some recipes that would pair well with grilled cheese: my Instagram favorite simple kale and romaine salad, creamy broccoli leek soup, crunchy kale slaw with apples, curry cauliflower squash soup, or vegetable farro soup.

Ways to use leftover pesto

You will have a good amount of leftover pesto after making two grilled cheese sandwiches. You can store homemade pesto for 1-2 weeks in an airtight container in the fridge.

Some nutritious and delicious recipes to make with leftover pesto:

two grilled cheese sandwiches on white parchment paper with a container of pesto

Extra virgin olive oil nutrition benefits

Extra virgin olive oil is the least processed type of olive oil. It’s made by grinding olives into a paste, then pressing them to collect the oil. This process is called “cold-pressing” because no heat is involved, which helps maintain the nutrients and flavor.

Due to minimal processing, extra virgin olive oil retains beneficial plant compounds such as lignans and flavones, which are powerful antioxidants.

Extra virgin olive oil has more flavor and aroma than regular olive oil. The smoke point is lower for extra virgin olive oil, so it shouldn’t be heated over 400 degrees F. These properties make it ideal for recipes like salad dressings, sauces, and dips.

Tomatoes nutrition benefits

Tomatoes are packed with nutrition! One cup of tomatoes provides:

  • 2.2 grams of dietary fiber (8% of your daily needs)
  • 75.6 mg Vitamin A (8% of your daily needs)
  • 24.7 mg Vitamin C (27% of your daily needs)
  • 14.2 mcg Vitamin K (12% of your daily needs)
  • 0.11 mg copper (11% of your daily needs)

Tomatoes contain lycopene, a form of Vitamin A that acts as a powerful antioxidant. This compound has been linked to reduced risk of prostate cancer and supports heart health. Two other forms of Vitamin A found in tomatoes, zeaxanthin and lutein, are beneficial for eye health.

Let me know if you love this post by leaving a comment or star rating below, and check out Instagram and Pinterest for more healthy lifestyle inspiration. Thanks for stopping by!

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hands holding tomato pesto grilled cheese sandwich

Quick & Easy Tomato Pesto Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

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  • Author: Alex Aldeborgh, RD
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: 2 sandwiches 1x
  • Category: main dish
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Vegetarian
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Description

Elevate your grilled cheese experience by adding homemade pesto and sliced tomato! These pesto tomato grilled cheese sandwiches are a delicious and satisfying weeknight meal which take just 15 minutes to prepare. Made with crusty sourdough bread, melty mozzarella cheese, and homemade parsley pesto, everyone will love these “fancy” grilled cheese sandwiches.


Ingredients

Scale

Parsley pesto

  • 2 packed cups fresh parsley (a combination of leaves and stems is fine)
  • 1 packed cup baby spinach
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/3 cup raw pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Grilled cheese sandwiches

  • 4 slices of sourdough bread
  • 1 large tomato, sliced
  • 45 slices of low moisture mozzarella cheese
  • 34 tbsp unsalted butter


Instructions

  1. First, prepare the parsley pesto. Add all pesto ingredients to a food processor, besides the extra virgin olive oil.
    Pesto ingredients in a food processor before being blended
  2. Pulse the food processor 5-10 times, or until the ingredients are well combined but some texture remains.
    pesto ingredients blended up in a food processor
  3. With the food processor running, pour in the olive oil. Be careful not to overblend – you still want some texture to the pesto.
    pesto in a food processor
  4. Heat a 12-inch nonstick skillet on the stovetop over medium heat.
  5. Spread about 1 tbsp of butter on one side of each piece of bread.
    two pieces of buttered sourdough bread on wooden cutting board with a butterknife and pat of butter
  6. Place one piece of bread, buttered side down, into the preheated skillet. (You can either cook sandwiches one at a time, or at the same time, depending on if your bread fits).
  7. Smear a generous dollop of pesto on top the bread in the skillet. 
    Slice of bread with pesto on it in a white skillet
  8. Top the pesto with 1-2 pieces of mozzarella cheese.
    piece of bread with pesto and sliced cheese in a white skillet
  9. Top the mozzarella cheese with 2 slices of tomato.
    bread with pesto, cheese, and tomato in a white skillet
  10. Top the tomato slices with 1-2 more pieces of cheese.
    Piece of bread with pesto, tomato, and cheese in a white skillet
  11. Place top piece of bread on the cheese, buttered side up.
    Grilled cheese sandwich with tomato being cooked in a white skillet
  12. Cook for 2-3 minutes until the bottom piece of bread is golden brown and crispy all over. Flip the sandwich, then cook for another 2-3 minutes to crisp up the other piece of bread.
    Grilled cheese sandwich in a white skillet
  13. Slice sandwiches in half and serve right away while hot and cheese is melty.

Notes

What to serve with grilled cheese sandwiches

If you’d like, you can pair this grilled cheese with something like a salad or soup. Some recipes that would pair well with grilled cheese: my Instagram favorite simple kale and romaine salad, creamy broccoli leek soup, crunchy kale slaw with apples, curry cauliflower squash soup, or vegetable farro soup.