Pumpkin Pesto Grilled Cheese

Oh grilled cheese, you can do no wrong.

No matter what kind of bread encompasses your cheesy center, no matter what variety of cheese comes oozing from your innards, no matter what extras I slip into the mix, you are always so good.

Even when a particular grilled cheese pales in comparison to other ones that I’ve sampled, it’s still pretty damn delectable. Unless there’s mold growing on the sandwich, it’s nearly impossible to go wrong with bread and cheese. If you know your Smart Cookie here well, then you know I have a special infatuation with bread (and all-things starch). Give me a good hunk of bread, and I can chomp on it plain, no butter or toppings required. Of course, those make it all the better.

So when you slather my beloved bread in butter, stuff it with gobs of gooey cheese, and fry it until it reaches golden, melted perfection, I can’t help but swoon. It’s nature’s perfect pairing, a match so comforting and delicious that you just can’t go wrong. I’ve tried endless variations, and just when I was looking for something new, Mother Cookie came home with a jar of pumpkin pesto.

Of course, the idea for a Pumpkin Pesto Grilled Cheese followed naturally. I paired the sweet and savory spread with fresh mozzarella, which is quite possibly the gooiest kind of cheese in existence, and melty Muenster. Muenster is a seriously under-appreciated cheese. If you’ve never tried it, it’s mild, but still has a little bit of tang and flavor, so it’s far from dull or boring.

I’ve got to tell you, nothing is more gratifying than to tear these Pumpkin Pesto Grilled Cheeses in half and watch the cheese come oozing out in all its melted glory. The first bite of a grilled cheese, I believe, is always the best. Your teeth chomp through the golden brown, buttery bread, from the crispy exterior to the tender interior, and then into the mound of melty cheese that I know you’ll have piled on thick. The mellow mozzarella and slightly tangy Muenster are just perfect with the sweet and zesty pesto. And if you’re a smart cookie like me, you’ll use a good quality garlic bread from your grocery store’s bakery to really amp up the flavor.

Oh wow.

A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. Parmesan would be delicious in place of the Muenster.
  2. The better quality bread you buy, the better your grilled cheese will be. You want something crusty & sturdy outside but soft inside. And I highly recommend going the garlic route!
  3. If you can’t find garlic bread but still want garlic flavor, rub the slices of bread with fresh garlic.
  4. Fresh mozzarella and the shredded stuff in the bags are NOT the same thing. Fresh is a whole different world, and much better if you ask me. Find it in the specialty cheese section.
  5. Sage would add great flavor to these sammies.
  6. If your bread browns before the center of the sandwich gets hot and gooey, you can pop the sandwich in the oven for a few minutes.
  7. I found pumpkin pesto at William-Sonoma. If you can’t find any, mix 1 cup pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie mix) with salt, garlic, pepper, a pinch of sugar, and 2 tbsp. olive oil.

Pumpkin Pesto Grilled Cheese
By The Smart Cookie Cook

Yield – 4 sandwiches

Ingredients:

  • 8 thick slices good-quality, fresh garlic bread (I used Tuscan Garlic Bread from Wegmans)
  • 4-6 tbsp. butter, softened
  • 4-6 tbsp. pumpkin pesto
  • 10 oz. fresh mozzarella, sliced
  • 1 – 1 1/2 cups shredded muenster cheese

Directions:

  1. Bring a skillet or grill pan to medium heat. Butter one side of each slice of bread. Place bread butter side-down and spread 4 slices with about 1 tbsp. of pumpkin pesto. Cover with a generous amount of mozzarella and muenster (about 3 slices of mozzarella and 1/4 cup of muenster) and top with a plain slice of bread, butter side-up.
  2. Cook one or two sandwiches at a time until golden brown and cheese is melted, flipping so that each side gets good and brown. Serve immediately. If you’d like to keep finished sandwiches warm while you cook the others, place in an oven at 200 degrees F.

Marinara Mozzarella en Carozza

Mozzarella en Carozza sounds very fancy-shmancy. It translates to” mozzarella in carriage.” What’s carrying the mozzarella you ask? Golden brown, battered & fried bread! So, mozzarella en carozza is a sophisticated name for a not-so-sophisticated sandwich. Fancy that!

Fried foods may not be the classiest eats on the planet, but holy cannoli, are they delicious! I have such a weakness for anything fried. It’s like it’s got a hold on my heart; the sound of a fryer makes me melt like a 13 year-old at a One Direction concert. You know what else I melt for? Grilled cheese. And grilled cheese melts for me too…literally. So obviously, a fried grilled cheese is perfection in my book.

I do think classic Mozzarella en Carozza is missing something though. Essentially, it’s a giant mozzarella stick, like mozzarella stick-meets-sandwich. And what are mozzarella sticks always served with? Marinara sauce! So you can bet your little butt that I stuffed these sammies with sweet & zesty marinara sauce. This rounded out the sandwiches beautifully, rendering them truly perfect.

The acidity of the marinara sauce balances out all the wonderful cheese and bread. When you bite through the crispy, golden brown battered exterior, you hit the fluffy interior, then move on to a sea of ooey-gooey cheese, reminiscent of something you’ve seen only in your dreams. Then you get that marinara, and your eating experience comes full-circle. It’s such indulgent, cheesy bliss. So guilt-inducing, but so worth it. You’ll feel like a sinner, but you will love every bite of it.

If you love grilled cheese, then you’ll really love its battered & fried cousin. Fry one up tonight!A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. You can serve the marinara on the side for dipping if you prefer.
  2. Add pepperoni for a pizza experience!
  3. A softer bread is recommended.
  4. Stuff with spinach for a vegetarian twist.

Marinara Mozzarella en Carozza
By The Smart Cookie Cook

Yield: 4 sandwiches

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 egg
  • 8 slices Italian bread (about 1/2 inch thick)
  • 2 cups marinara sauce (I used store-bought)
  • 1 lb. (16-oz.) fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
  • vegetable oil, for frying

Directions:

  1. Pour the oil into a large, deep skillet until it’s 1/2-inch deep. Bring to high medium-heat.
  2. Meanwhile, assemble the sandwiches: Spread desired amount of marinara sauce onto a slice of bread. Lay a few slices of mozzarella down on top of the sauce then top with another slice of bread.
  3. Put the flour, salt, and pepper, in a large bowl and mix to combine. Pour the milk into another bowl and whisk in eggs. Take a sandwich and carefully dredge one side in the flour. Flip and coat the other side. Then dip both sides of the sandwich into the egg-milk mixture.
  4. Before cooking the sandwiches, make sure you oil is hot enough: place a small hunk of bread in the oil. If it sizzles, you’re ready to go. Place one or two sandwiches in the pan and fry until the bottom is golden brown. Flip and fry the other side until golden brown and cheese is melted and oozing.
  5. Remove finished sandwiches form pan and place on a tray lined with paper towels to soak up extra oil. If you’d like to keep finished sandwiches warm while you cook the remaining sandwiches, place them on a baking sheet and stick in an oven at 200 degrees F. Slice and enjoy!


Grilled Cheese Roll-Up Dippers

When I think of childhood American eats, I think of PB & J, Spaghetti-O’s, sugary cereals, and grilled cheese. Although I adore all of these treats, grilled cheese is the one that takes the special spot in my adult heart. You see, all of those other foods, delicious as they may be, are specifically classified as “kid food.” Grilled cheese, however, is not limited to any one age group (although it is a go-to kid lunch). You can enjoy grilled cheese until you’re 97 if you want (as long as you have dentures to chew it with), and no one will judge you.

If you know anything about your Smart Cookie Cook, then you know I love me some starch. Give me a hunk of good bread and I will go to town. Of course, I take pleasure in some mounds of melted cheese too. Therefore, the grilled cheese, which combines these two beautiful foods, is basically the holy grail of comfort food in my eyes. I know I’m not alone in this opinion. No matter how old we get, our love for ooey, gooey cheese inside of warm, golden bread never weakens.

Now, I know grilled cheese is wonderful enough in its most basic form, but I would like to introduce you to a whimsical new way to enjoy this gooey classic: Grilled Cheese Roll-Up Dippers. We’re taking tasty grilled cheese and turning it into fun, dippable* roll-ups!

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Triple Grilled Cheese

My cookies, allow me to bestow upon you a few choice words:

A trio of complimentary cheeses, melting and oozing out from beneath two slices of crusty, buttery, golden brown bread.

Is that enough for you?

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3-Cheese Spinach & Tomato Melt

What’s easy, cheesy, and crazy delicious?

This 3-Cheese Spinach & Tomato Melt!

Is there anything better than mounds of gooey cheese sandwiched between golden brown, buttery bread? Probably not. But perhaps the typical American & white bread gets old for you from time to time. A classic, yes, but sometimes, you need a change! That’s when you whip up this baby. Packin’ triple the cheese & fresh veggies, it’s a toasty treat that’s sure to please.

When you’ve got three kinds of cheese stuffed into a sandwich (Mozarella, Cheddar, and Muenster), you know you’re in for something good. This trio works fantastically well together. It’s teamwork at its finest, like an elite team of Olympian cheeses, working together to win the gold medal of deliciousness.

Although the cheeses play a vital role in this sammy, we mustn’t forget the equally important veggies. You’ve got fresh spinach to give the sammy some bulk and add a nutritious advantage over the average grilled cheese. Then, you finish with that juicy tomato, adding a hint of sweetness that perfectly compliments the symphony of cheesy wonder. This melt is a prime example of great flavors working together in harmony to create something that’s simple but perfect.

Build this baby on a whole-wheat sandwich thin for an extra bit of healthiness and a slightly sweet flavor. It’s shape & size works perfectly for this melt. Then, add a touch of freshly ground pepper for kick and, you’ve got yourself a sammy.

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