Sandwiches are my favorite kind of lunch (especially peanut butter & jelly with chips-don’t judge until you try it!). The best savory sandwiches, like my balsamic glaze sandwich, can be served with a filling soup like my Instant Pot Minestrone soup or a flavorful sweet potato soup.
📖 Best Pesto to Use for Sandwiches
I love using walnut basil pesto. Traditionally, pesto is made of pine nuts but this is a pesto recipe without pine nuts. Pine nuts are very expensive and aren't really budget-friendly or something I keep on hand. I use walnuts in this recipe but really, any nuts work really well. I know with budget constraints, you have to adapt to what you already have in your pantry. I’ve used almonds in a pesto recipe before and even made a pistachio pesto. Plus, walnuts are a great source of good fats, plant-based omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid, fiber, and protein.
- Cheese. I LOVE pepper jack cheese. Tillamook cheese is a great option for vegetarians (non-animal rennet) cheese, and it’s my absolute favorite. If you prefer to go with a classic option, you can use mozzarella cheese for your sandwich.
- Bread. I love using sourdough bread for my vegetarian sandwich recipes. It gives it the ultimate crispiness and taste of a delicious sandwich.
- Tomatoes. I wanted to add more than just pesto and cheese, so you can’t go wrong with tomatoes in grilled cheeses. I love using vine-ripe tomatoes in this particular sandwich.
- Pesto. I like to use my walnut pesto recipe because it’s simple, affordable, and easy to make. Usually, I freeze leftovers and pop out a cube or two, and let it thaw when I want to make this sandwich.
- Garlic Butter. For this, I used: butter, freshly grated garlic, red pepper flakes, and Italian seasoning.
💭 Tips on How to Make a Pesto Grilled Cheese
For the Pesto
- Toasting the nuts first really adds flavor to the pesto. You are welcome to skip this step to save time, however, I highly recommend it. I use toasted nuts for many of my dishes so I like to toast them and store them in my pantry. For toasting your walnuts on the stove top, toast on medium-high heat for about 5-7 minutes while tossing occasionally (careful not to burn them, as they brown quickly).
- To get the best basil walnut pesto recipe down, add the walnuts to the food processor first. Pulse until they're crumbly. Then add the rest of the ingredients. The pesto should have a little bit of texture to it, not be uniformly smooth.
For the Garlic Butter
- I like more garlic but if you find it too pungent, you can add 2 cloves instead of 4.
Making the Sandwich
- If your loaf is not precut, cut your sourdough into thick slices. The thickness really helps the sandwich not get so soggy.
- I use a very basic Panini Press. You don't need a fancy one. In fact, if you don't have a panini press or a sandwich maker, just make it on the stove in a skillet!
- I recommend eating the sandwiches fresh as they can get soggy when you store them in the fridge.
- Store unused pesto in an airtight jar in the fridge for up to one week with a layer of olive oil on top. Or freeze for up to 6 months.
- You can store the unused butter in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. Soften before use.
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Pesto Grilled Cheese
For the Sandwich
- 1 sourdough loaf
- 8-12 slices of pepper jack cheese
- 4 roma or vine ripe tomatoes
Basil Walnut Pesto
- 3 cups loosely packed basil leaves
- 1 cup walnuts
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 teaspoons nutritional yeast
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2-3 tablespoons water, as needed
- ½ cup butter, softened at room temperature
- 2-4 cloves of garlic, grated
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon italian seasoning
Make the Pesto
- First toast your walnuts on the stove top (optional step but recommend for added flavor): In a skillet, toast on medium-high heat for about 5-7 minutes until a nutty aroma has released, while tossing occasionally (careful not to burn them, they brown quickly).
- Add the walnuts to the food processor until slightly crumbled. Add the basil, garlic, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, and sea salt. Blend until it becomes a paste consistency. Scrape the sides and gradually add the olive oil until pesto becomes like a sauce.
- Pesto should have some texture to it and is not completely smooth.
Make the Garlic Butter
- In a medium bowl, take the softened butter and add the grated garlic, red pepper flakes, and Italian seasoning. Combine well.
Making the Sandwich
- If your loaf is not precut, cut your sourdough into thick slices.
- Spread the garlic butter on both sides of the bread. On both slices, spread the pesto evenly on one side. To one slice, add one slice of cheese, then add tomatoes. Optionally, you can end with a second slice of cheese and close the sandwich.
- Close the sandwich maker and cook according to your panini press instructions (or until both sides are browned and cheese is melted).
- If you don’t have a sandwich maker or panini press, you can use a skillet and cook the sandwich like a grilled cheese. Spread the butter on both sides of the bread and cook one side of the bread. Add pesto on the cooked side of both slices, layer the cheese and tomatoes to one slice and close the bread. Grill on medium low heat and cook both sides until the cheese melts.
- Enjoy your sandwich warm!