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These grilled cheese dippers are the new best way to eat grilled cheese: either to slow down your sandwich, or as a game day appetizer!

Pesto Grilled Cheese Dippers with Marinara | A Couple Cooks

This post was created in partnership with Muir Glen Organic. Product opinions are our own.

As the weather turns 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 on Netflix, and Sunday afternoons are ripe for football. This year, we even joined a fantasy football league with our neighbors. It’s incidentally made the football season much more enjoyable, even for a disinterested “fan” like me. These grilled cheese dippers are perfect game day recipes, or for really any day you’re looking for an amped up grilled cheese sandwich.

How to make grilled cheese dippers

Slicing a grilled cheese sandwich into grilled cheese dippers suddenly makes the eating experience entirely more fun! It also slows down the race car pace at which we typically plow through grilled cheese. And for dipping those grilled cheese dippers, we created this easy marinara 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.

The finishing touch on the grilled cheese dippers is 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.

Pesto Grilled Cheese Dippers with Marinara | A Couple Cooks

Did you make this recipe?

If you make our pesto grilled cheese dippers recipe, we’d love to hear how it turned out. Leave a comment below or share a picture on Instagram and mention @acouplecooks.

This recipe is…

This pesto grilled cheese dippers recipe is vegetarian. For gluten free, use gluten free bread.

Pesto Grilled Cheese Dippers with Marinara | A Couple Cooks

Looking for game day recipes? 

These grilled cheese dippers are the perfect game day recipe to serve for tailgating at a big table of snacks. A few of our top game day recipes:

Looking for kid friendly recipes? 

Grilled cheese dippers might be the definition of a kid friendly recipe! In addition to the healthy snacks above, here are a few more of our kid friendly recipes on A Couple Cooks:

This recipe is…

This grilled cheese dippers recipe is vegetarian. For gluten free, use gluten free bread.

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Pesto Grilled Cheese Dippers with Fire Roasted Marinara

  • Author: a Couple Cooks
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 4 as a main, 8 as a side 1x


These grilled cheese dippers are the new best way to eat grilled cheese: either to slow down your sandwich, or as a game day appetizer!


  • 1 yellow onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 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 (purchased, homemade or  vegan 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


  1. Mince the onion. Mince 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.
  • Category: Main Dish, Appetizer
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: Grilled Cheese, Marinara, Appetizer, Game Day, Football, Tailgating, Vegetarian, Pesto, Kids, Healthy Dinner Ideas for Kids

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes for memorable kitchen moments! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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  1. 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

  2. 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 ?

    1. 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?

  3. 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!

  4. 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….