Pesto Grilled Cheese Dippers with Marinara

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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!

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.

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.


  • 1 yellow onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 28-ounce can Muir Glen Organic fire-roasted crushed tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 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 1/4 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, 1/4 cup cheese, a thin layer of spinach-pesto filling, then another 1/4 cup cheese and another slice of bread.
  5. In the same skillet, heat 1/2 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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