Golden Pesto Grilled Cheese Sandwich

What to do when you have to lots of leftover pesto? Slather it all over sourdough bread and layer it up with tangy cheese and then toast the whole thing for a simply perfectly golden pesto grilled cheese sandwich. Cozy in some thick slices of summer tomatoes to make a sandwich ideal for the ladies lunch group or a light summer family meal.

close up of pesto grilled cheese with big cheese pull.

Every summer, I have great intentions of growing bushels of basil like my grandpap used to. “THIS is going to be the summer”, I say, “I’m going to grow basil for pesto.” And every year, I just don’t. So —instead, I do what one does: I buy basil plants and keep them on the counter or greedily accept offerings from friends and family who seem to be much more motivated than me. But… I still make pesto!

In addition to really loving pesto, I also love a good grilled cheese sandwich. (If you haven’t tried my ultimate cheesy grilled cheese, make it. TODAY.) So pairing pesto with grilled cheese to me was a natural.

And the results are nothing less than stellar.

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Start with the pesto

I have several pesto recipes on the blog. My classic pesto recipe is a good starting point as is my pistachio pesto. Another good choice? This roasted tomato pesto! Do a quick “pesto sauce” search as proof of the depths of my obsession.

Or maybe you’re feeling a little less motivated to make your own pesto. And, my friend, I honor that. Instead, pick up a big jar of my favorite pesto from Costco and use it instead. You’re still going to absolutely adore this sandwich.

Gather your sandwich ingredients

ingredients for pesto grilled cheese sandwich on a wooden cutting board.

1. Cheese

The next noteworthy ingredient after the pesto is cheese. And because pesto is so flavor-forward and a tad on the bitter side, I look for cheeses with the following characteristics:

  • Creamy. I chose fresh mozzarella because it has a creamy stringy texture for a great cheese pull but I would also love a more buttery cheese like an Italian fontina.
  • Smooth with rich flavor. Now isn’t the time to pull out a camembert or creamy blue cheese. Extra sharp white cheddar adds a little bit of mustiness.
  • Lighter in color. Forget the yellow cheddar and go for a white cheddar. Sometimes

2. Only the right bread

No one craves a soft or soggy grilled cheese. (Do they? Maybe I’m missing something). So a hearty bread is needed to support the pesto but also not so hearty that the fresh mozzarella and cheddar don’t melt. Worse than a soft and soggy grilled cheese is one with partially melted cheese.

For all those reasons and for this particular grilled cheese sandwich recipe, I recommend sourdough bread. Do yourself a favor and make it a good one from the bakery section of the grocery store.

Other bread options:

  • Tuscan sliced bread. But not too thick!
  • Country white bread. Typically heartier and firmer than traditional white bread.

Skip: brioche, soft white bread, French bread.

3. Butter or mayonnaise for grilled cheese?

My favorite is mayonnaise. It adds tremendous flavor and gets golden brown in the best way. My favorite mayonnaise is Hellman’s Real Mayonnaise (Best if you live on the West coast), or Dukes’. Please skip the mayonnaise alternatives!

How to make pesto grilled cheese

mayonnaise being spread onto slices of bread near a bowl of pesto sauce.
Mayo is the best for a crispy, golden grilled cheese.
pesto being spread on bread for grilled cheese.
Pesto first on one side of the sandwich.
  1. Spread mayonnaise on the outside of both slices of bread, making sure to match them up. Turn the bread over onto a cutting board.
  2. On the inside of one slice of bread, spread a healthy tablespoon or two of pesto.
cutting board with one slice of bread spread with pesto and another topped with cheese.
White cheddar and fresh mozzarella for the ultimate in flavor and cheese pulls!
mayonnaise coated grilled cheese sandwich in a black skillet.
Heat a skillet and add the sandwich to toast for a couple of minutes.
toasted pesto grilled cheese sandwich in a cast iron skillet.
Golden brown is grilled cheese goals!
  1. To the other side of bread, start layering slices of fresh mozzarella with cheddar ending with the opposite with which you started first. So if you start with fresh mozz end with cheddar. Lay the pesto coated bread on top of the cheese stacked piece.
  2. Heat a cast iron skillet over medium high heat and add the sandwich to the pan. Lower the heat and check after a couple of minutes. You’re looking for a golden brown. Flip and cover the pan until the cheese is melted and the sandwich is evenly cooked on both sides.

Insider grilled cheese tips

overhead triangles of grilled pesto cheese sandwich on cutting board.
  • My favorite pan for making grilled cheese sandwiches is a cast iron skillet. It’s the ultimate non-stick skillet and makes the best grilled cheese!
  • Use a lid that matches or is slightly larger than your skillet to cover the pan. This allows the cheese to melt quickly and evenly.
  • To check if the skillet is hot enough, carefully touch the edge of the pan.

Good idea add ins

Like I said at the beginning, slices of juicy summer tomatoes or oven roasted tomatoes would be SOOO good in this simple grilled cheese sandwich! And thin slices of my foolproof, pan roasted chicken would take this sandwich to main course level in minutes.

For some greenery, I love the idea of sprinkling in some fresh spinach leaves or top the whole sandwich with a heap of lemony arugula salad

Made this recipe?

I’d love it if you’d share your review and leave a star rating and comment!

close up of pesto grilled cheese with big cheese pull.
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Golden Pesto Grilled Cheese Sandwich

What to do with lots of leftover pesto. Spread some on sourdough bread and layer it up with tangy cheese. Toast the whole thing for the best, simply perfect pesto grilled cheese sandwich. Your summer tomatoes just might have found their new home!
Prep Time:2 minutes
Cook Time:5 minutes
Total Time:7 minutes
Servings 1 sandwich



  • Spread mayonnaise on outside of each slice of bread. Spread pesto on the inside of one slice of bread. To the other slice, add alternating slices of fresh mozzarella and cheddar.
    2 slices sourdough bread, 2 teaspoons mayonnaise, 1 Tablespoon pesto, 3-4 slices fresh mozzarella cheese, 3-4 slices sharp cheddar cheese
  • Heat a skillet over medium high heat and when heated, add the sandwich. Lower the heat and cook until brown, checking periodically. Flip the sandwich, lower the heat some more and cover the skillet until the cheese is melted and the bread is golden brown.
Course: Main Course, Sandwiches
Cuisine: American, Italian
Author: Lori Murphy
Did you make this recipe? Tag @josieandnina or tag #josieandnina!

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