grown up grilled cheese with tomato dipping sauce

grilled cheese

Until we moved to America I thought the whole world knew what a cheese toastie was, but I was wrong. Over there it is a grilled cheese – even though it is usually cooked in a frying pan rather than under the grill (known as a broiler in the US). Confused much? I’d always made my cheese toasties under the grill but I do like the frying pan version so wanted to share it and a gorgeous flavour combo with you.

Perfect for parties

Think of this as the sophisticated older sister of that favourite childhood comfort food combo of grilled cheese and tomato soup.  The more grown up flavours of Gruyere, sage or basil and prosciutto come together in these dainty mouthfuls of deliciousness.

I love serving these, chopped into small chunks as a cocktail soaker-upper at parties. They always get hoovered up straight away and are all together much more satisfying and nostalgic than a re-heated mini quiche. Bonus is, you can throw them together with minimal fuss ahead of time so that you can enjoy the start of your party alongside your guests.

Get little ones in on the grilled cheese action

This is a brilliantly easy recipe for little ones to make. Just keep and eye on them with the grating and be on hand when it comes to cooking the sandwiches in the pan. Have them think of the combinations of flavours they’d like. I think this is a fun thing to make instead of pizza for an after school or after sports treat or at a sleepover.

Try different flavour combos for your grilled cheese

Once you’ve mastered the art of making these delicious bites, let your creativity run wild and try different combinations of flavours such as mozzarella and sundried tomato paste with basil, or goats cheese with fig jam and thyme, or Cheddar with mango chutney. You can also try using different types of bread to mix it up further.

The tomato dipping sauce below is basically my You Say Tomato easy-peasy tomato pasta sauce recipe. Feel free to quadruple the quantities when you make it as it freezes brilliantly and will become your go-to sauce for quick, healthy pastas or to serve alongside quinoa, cous cous, veggies, meat or fish or as a base for soups.

Ingredients (makes around 24 mini sandwiches for a party or 3 main meal sandwiches)

Around 60g salted butter (around Half a stick/2oz)

1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard

6 large slices of good wholegrain sourdough bread

6 slices of prosciutto or Parma ham

10 oz of a strong-tasting Mature Cheddar or Gruyere cheese. In the US try Trader Joes Unexpected Cheddar

12 sage or basil leaves

Plus tomato dipping sauce or one of my soups to serve and dunk in

To make:

  1. Grate the cheese using a coarse box grater.
  2. Lay out the bread and spread one side of each slice with the butter (this will be the outside of your sandwich)
  3. Spread the mustard thinly and evenly on the unbuttered side of the bread
  4. Lay the ham on top of the mustard and top the ham with the grated cheese before topping with the second slice of bread (butter facing outwards so you have a sandwich that is buttered on the outside)
  5. Press down well to ensure it sticks together. At this stage you can keep the sandwiches for a couple of hours, covered, in the fridge
  6. Just before serving, heat a large skillet or non-stick frying pan on a medium heat and press the basil or sage leaves into one side of the buttered outside of the sandwiches. The butter will hold the leaves in place
  7. Cook the sandwiches sage/basil side down for around 3 minutes. Place a plate on top of them, weighted down with a couple of cans to help speed up the cooking time and get them extra crispy. Or press down gently with a spatula as they cook. Don’t move them around as it will take longer for them to turn golden
  8. Flip over and cook for around another 3 minutes, or until the cheese has melted and the bread has browned
  9. Transfer to a cutting board then squish down then cut each sandwich into quarters, then if you’re making them for a party, cut each quarter in half (to make 8 mini sandwiches). Either triangles, fingers or squares work well. Feel free to cut the crusts off it you want to be dainty – but be sure to nibble them as a cook’s treat
  10. Serve as they are or alongside soup, tomato dipping sauce or fig chutney.


You can now buy the equipment I use in this recipe through my shop. I’ve spent years testing my favourite bits of equipment so rest-assured that whatever I recommend is the best tool for the job and will give you great results without cluttering your kitchen with unused tools.

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