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Pesto Grilled Cheese Dippers with Marinara

Pesto Grilled Cheese Dippers with Marinara | A Couple CooksPesto Grilled Cheese Dippers with Marinara | A Couple Cooks

Pesto Grilled Cheese Dippers with Marinara | A Couple Cooks

As the weather’s turning cooler, we’re gearing up for cozy foods and couch snuggling over here at A Couple Cooks. Alex and I have been burning through Gilmore Girls in preparation for the new season release in November, and Sunday afternoons are ripe for football. This year, we even joined a fantasy football league with our neighbors — which incidentally has made the football season much more enjoyable, even for a disinterested “fan” like me.

Here’s a recipe that would work for a game day, or just any day you’re looking for an amped up grilled cheese sandwich. Slicing the grilled cheese into thin “dippers” makes the eating experience entirely more fun — and, it also slows down the racecar pace at which we typically plow through grilled cheese! For the dipping, we created this marinara tomato sauce with fire roasted tomatoes. It’s simple, simmered with onion and garlic, and a magic splash of balsamic vinegar stirred in at the end. (As you may know, we’re a fan of fire roasted tomatoes for their mellow taste and quick cooking time. Muir Glen Organic is our favorite brand; they’re available at your local Whole Foods Market.) And for the finishing touch on the dippers, a bit of spinach for nutrients and basil pesto for a sparkle of flavor.

This just may be our new favorite way to consume grilled cheese! Move over, tomato soup.

Did you make this recipe?

We’d love to hear how it turned out. Leave a comment below or share a picture on Instagram and mention @acouplecooks.

This Pesto Grilled Cheese Dippers with Fire Roasted Marinara recipe is sponsored by Muir Glen Organic. Product opinions are our own. Thank you for supporting the sponsors of A Couple Cooks!

5.0 from 2 reviews
Pesto Grilled Cheese Dippers with Fire Roasted Marinara
Serves: 4 as a main, 8 as a side
What You Need
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 28-ounce can Muir Glen Organic fire-roasted crushed tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ cup basil pesto
  • 4 cups baby spinach leaves, loosely packed
  • 2 cups shredded Monterrey jack cheese
  • 8 slices high quality artisan or sandwich bread (gluten-free, if desired)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
What To Do
  1. Mince the onion and the garlic.
  2. In a medium saucepan, heat ¼ cup olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onion and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and stir for 30 seconds, then stir in the dried oregano. Turn down the heat slightly and immediately add the tomatoes (taking care as they will sizzle when poured into the hot oil), then stir to combine. Stir in the kosher salt and pepper. Cover and bring to a gentle simmer, then simmer for 15 minutes. Stir in balsamic vinegar, then remove from the heat. Cover until the dippers are ready.
  3. Meanwhile, add basil pesto, baby spinach leaves and 2 pinches kosher salt to a large skillet and heat over medium heat. Saute until the spinach is wilted, about 3 to 4 minutes (take care as the pesto may spit if the pan becomes too hot). Remove the spinach to a bowl, then wipe out the skillet.
  4. For each sandwich, layer one slice of bread, ¼ cup cheese, a thin layer of spinach-pesto filling, then another ¼ cup cheese and another slice of bread.
  5. In the same skillet, heat ½ tablespoon butter over medium heat. Place two sandwiches in the skillet and toast for a few minutes until the bread is golden, then flip and toast until the other bread is golden and the cheese is melted. Repeat with the remaining two sandwiches.
  6. Allow the sandwiches to cool for 2 to 3 minutes, then cut into “dipper” slices. Serve with individual bowls of marinara sauce.

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  • Reply
    Abby @ Heart of a Baker
    September 28, 2016 at 11:24 am

    Oh amen! I’ve been burning through Gilmore Girls like mad in an effort to watch it before the new ones come out, eek! These are perfect for those Sundays that involve football (something I don’t really prefer either!) xo

    • Reply
      October 2, 2016 at 3:49 pm

      Us too! Turns out even Alex is a fan (so it’s not just for girls!). So glad to hear from a fellow fan :)

  • Reply
    Bethany @ Athletic Avocado
    September 28, 2016 at 5:30 pm

    Oh my YUM ! Such a creative and sophisticated way to eat grilled cheese!

  • Reply
    October 1, 2016 at 1:54 pm

    That looks sooooo good on this cloudy, drizzly day! And I too am trying to binge on Gilmore Girls (for the third time… Kinda obsessed…) before Thanksgiving. Can’t wait!! Leftover pie and Gilmore Girls 💫

    • Reply
      October 2, 2016 at 3:50 pm

      You’re in good company — fellow obsessed fans over here! It’s been getting us through some trying times in life — it’s always nice to watch someone else’s life drama play out when your life has it as well, right?

  • Reply
    Anna @ UTHFA
    October 2, 2016 at 8:18 pm

    I served this as finger food for my guests and it disappeared within 15 minutes! So many rave reviews and recipe requests. Terrific!

    • Reply
      October 2, 2016 at 8:21 pm

      No way! SO glad to hear this — thank you for letting us know! :)

  • Reply
    Amelia @ Eating Made Easy
    October 4, 2016 at 3:24 pm

    This is one of our favorite “kid dinners” of our LOVE for pesto! But I’ve never thought to make it for game day! Would be fun to make a few different versions with different dips. Thanks for the idea, Sonja!

  • Reply
    Tina C
    December 29, 2016 at 6:47 am

    I served this as lunch for guests over the holidays and everyone gave it a thumbs up…..I added a little fontina in with the Monterey jack….made for less crispy and more gooey…but everything disappeared….folks also commented on how good the marinara was….

    • Reply
      December 29, 2016 at 10:26 am

      Oh hooray, so glad this was a hit with guests! Thank you so much for letting us know!

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    Happy Cooking! ~ Sonja & Alex