This 4-cheese Italian Grilled Cheese with Pesto Whipped Ricotta takes one of our favorite guilty pleasures to a whole new level. Loaded with freshly grated provolone, fontina, parmesan and pesto whipped ricotta with layers of prosciutto and roasted peppers for added flavor in every bite. Before hitting the skillet, this grown up grilled cheese is schmeared with a kicked up herby, parm butter that makes the crusty Tuscan bread deliciously golden and crisp.
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How to Make the Ultimate Grilled Cheese
Well, it's not exactly beach body weather yet so why not sneak in some good-for-the-soul comfort food before the keto, whole30 and free-of-everything salad craze takes over. This sandwich came about because I already had ricotta, parm and prosciutto in the fridge, roasted peppers and sun-dried tomatoes in the pantry, and fresh parsley and basil that needed to be used soon. I took a few extra steps to make this knockout sandwich but you can cut a few corners and still have a mouthwatering sammie.
So as it became clear this grilled cheese was going to have an Italian spin, I had to decide what other cheese to incorporate for that gooey, oozing melted cheese factor you don't get from ricotta or parmesan. Mozzarella is an obvious choice but ultimately I went with the less popular yet equally delish provolone and fontina for something a little different. Grating them ensured even melting but if you can find them sliced that would work too.
TIP: If you opt for mozzarella, avoid using fresh because it's higher moisture level will result in one soggy sandwich. AND, don't buy the packaged, pre-shredded stuff. It has a potato-starch coating that keeps it from melting evenly.
Now, you could stick with the shredded cheeses and call it day, but why not elevate this grilled cheese to something extra special?! Whipping ricotta makes it light and pillowy, and blending in some herbaceous pesto gives it a delicious touch of spring flavor. I included the recipe for this basil/parsley pesto in the recipe card below, but feel free to use your favorite store-bought brand.
Before we get these layers of deliciousness going, we need a solid foundation on which to build. Here, thickly sliced Tuscan with a beautiful crust and soft, chewy center worked perfectly. You could also go with sourdough or Texas toast style bread.
To get things started, the inside of each slice was slathered with the pesto whipped ricotta. Next, a couple good handfuls of the shredded cheeses mixed with the sun-dried tomatoes went on, then a layer of roasted peppers and prosciutto. And for fun, more provolone and fontina.
After we have our cheesy sandwiches piled high, the outside of each slice is schmeared with a softened butter mixture with parmesan, fresh parsley, lots of black pepper and a pinch of salt. Herb butters can be made in advance and are great to have on hand to put on just about anything savory. And they're freezer-friendly to boot.
Ready for the Skillet
The time has come! Preheat your skillet over medium heat. Don't make it too high otherwise the butter will burn before the cheese melts. Try to maintain that just-right Goldilocks temperature so in about five minutes on each side you'll have that beautiful golden, crisp exterior with creamy gooiness inside dripping onto the crust.
Now the PSA
As we all have experienced that burn of biting into pizza too soon after it came out of the oven, the same concept applies here. This grilled cheese will feel like lava if you dive in as soon as it's off the skillet. As hard as it is to wait, let these beauties rest a few minutes so you can truly savor all that simple magical flavor. Cheers to National Grilled Cheese Day!
Looking for more Cheesy Deliciousness? Check these out:
Italian Grilled Cheese with Pesto Whipped Ricotta & Herb Butter
Italian Grilled Cheese
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto
- 8 ounces ricotta cheese
- ¼ cup homemade* or store-bought pesto
- 3 ounces provolone cheese , freshly grated
- 3 ounces fontina cheese , freshly grated
- ¼ cup marinated sun-dried tomatoes
- 1 stick butter , room temperature
- ¼ cup parmesan cheese , freshly grated
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley , chopped
- 4 slices Tuscan or sourdough bread , ½-inch thick
- 3 ounces marinated roasted red peppers , drained and patted dry
- Kosher salt and black pepper
*Basil & Parsley Pesto
- 1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
- 1 cup loosely packed fresh parsley
- 2 large cloves garlic , peeled
- ½ cup parmesan cheese , freshly grated
- ½ lemon , juiced
- ¼ cup pine nuts (optional)
- ⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Italian Grilled Cheese
- Heat olive oil in a large cast iron or non-stick skillet over medium heat.
- Add prosciutto in a single layer and cook until starting to get crisp but not dry. Remove from skillet when done and place on a paper towel-lined plate. Set aside. Remove skillet from heat.
- In a medium bowl, whip ricotta with either homemade or your favorite store-bought pesto with a hand mixer or whisk until well combined. Set aside.
- In another medium bowl, combine provolone and fontina cheese with sun-dried tomatoes. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, use a hand mixer or whisk to blend softened butter, parmesan cheese and parsley. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Set aside.
- To assemble sandwiches, place the 4 slices of bread on a work surface. Slather each slice with the pesto ricotta (reserve extra for another use). Top 2 of the slices with about a ½ cup or so of the grated cheese blend. Top the cheese with roasted red peppers and prosciutto. Add a little more of the grated cheeses and place the other 2 slices on top ricotta side down and press slightly to hold together.
- Heat same skillet used for the prosciutto over medium heat.
- In an even layer spread herb butter on top of each sandwich. Carefully place sandwiches buttered side down in skillet. Spread butter on the top side of the sandwiches.
- Cook until the bottom side is golden brown and crisp, about 5 minutes. Carefully flip the sandwiches and cook another 5 minutes on the other side until golden and the cheese has completely melted.
- Let sandwiches rest a couple minutes before serving. Enjoy!
*Basil & Parsley Pesto
- Add basil, garlic, parmesan, and pine nuts to bowl of a food processor. Pulse until well combined.
- With the machine running, slowly pour in the oil. Process until desired consistency.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Makes about ¾ cup. Can be made ahead. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate up to 5 days.)
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