Tapenade Grilled Cheese

Tapenade Grilled Cheese

A grilled cheese made with mozzarella and an olive, roasted garlic, sun-dried tomato tapenade.


Tapenade Grilled Cheese

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I’ve had some pretty intense posts over the last few days (Review of Eating Animals and a post with excellent comments On Food Labels). So I thought I’d post something a bit more lighthearted today and revisit something that I used to do more frequently on Macheesmo, which is search for the perfect grilled cheese sandwich.

You can find all the previous entries under the Grilled Cheese Trials. Today’s entry is a tapenade sandwich with homemade bread and mozzarella cheese!

I came up with this idea largely because I had some great tapenade ingredients left over from my Greek nachos experiment. I figured why not make a sandwich with them!

Tapenade Grilled Cheese

2 sandwiches
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Tapenade Grilled Cheese
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Small food processor

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A grilled cheese made with mozzarella and an olive, roasted garlic, sun-dried tomato tapenade.


1 head roasted garlic
1/3 Cup sun-dried tomatoes
1/3 Cup kalamata olives
2-3 Tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
6-8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese
Fresh basil
4 slices sturdy, rustic bread. A sourdough loaf would be good.
2-3 Tablespoons butter


1) Roast the garlic by cutting the top off the entire bulb, drizzle with a bit of olive oil and sprinkle with salt then wrap the entire thing in foil.

2) Bake at 350 degrees for 30 – 40 minutes.

3) In a food processor, chop sun-dried tomatoes then add olives and cloves of roasted garlic. Drizzle in a few tablespoons of olive oil until mixture comes together leaving it a bit chunky.

4) Take two slices of bread and lightly spread butter on them.

5) Flip the pieces over and slather on some tapenade onto both sides of the bread.

6) Layer on sliced mozzarella and some fresh basil and press together so the buttered sides are on the outside.

7) Grill on a medium to medium-high heat for a few minutes gently give it a flip as often as needed.

Making the Tapenade

You could make a more traditional tapenade with capers and anchovies if that’s your thing. I went with a roasted garlic and sun-dried tomato version though.

To start, you need to roast a head of garlic. This couldn’t be easier. Just chop off the top off an entire bulb, drizzle it with a bit of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and wrap the whole thing in foil.

roasting garlic
Pretty straightforward

Bake it at 350 for about 30-40 minutes. Your house will smell delicious and the garlic should be a nice light brown color. Let it cool for a few minutes.

Roasted garlic done
If they made a candle, I’d buy a box.

If you’re making my version of the tapenade you’ll need these things also:

Tapenade Ingredients
Ingredients for the tapenade.

I have a tiny 3 Cup food processor that’s perfect for mixing up stuff like this. I threw in my sun-dried tomatoes first as they would be the hardest to chop and gave them a spin for a few seconds. Then I added my olives and finally my cloves of roasted garlic. Drizzle in a few tablespoons of olive oil until the mixture comes together.

garlic tapenade
Looks like a lot of garlic… don’t worry.

It looks like a lot of garlic, but the flavor is actually pretty mild.

Pulse it a few times to combine everything and you’ll be all set. You don’t want to over-process this spread. A bit chunky is good in my book.

Tapenade Finished

Making the Sandwich

I think that choosing the appropriate bread is one of the most important things you can do for a grilled cheese. For this sandwich, I think I chose wisely. I went with a rustic loaf of homemade no knead bread. This is actually my normal bread that I make once a week and it worked great with this sandwich. I wanted to make sure I had something hearty enough to stand up to the tapenade.

homemade bread
Can’t buy this!

To get the sandwich ready, take two slices of bread and lightly spread butter on them. That will be the outside of the sandwich. Then flip the pieces over and slather on some tapenade onto both sides of the bread. Layer on sliced mozzarella and some fresh basil and smoosh it all together so the buttered sides are on the outside!

It’s ready for the heat!

Making the Sandwich
Get it?

The key thing about a grilled cheese is controlling the heat. To hot and you’ll burn your bread before your cheese is melted. Too low on the heat and you’ll starve before it’s done.

A medium to medium-high heat should be about right depending on your stove and pan. Just set the sandwich in and let it cook for a few minutes and gently give it a flip. These aren’t like pancakes, you can flip them over and over again and that’s just fine.

This is about as perfect as it gets in my book:

cooking the sandwich
Grill baby grill.

The good news about this sandwich is that mozzarella melts incredibly fast. So you shouldn’t have to worry about the bread being toasted before the cheese is melted.

Grilled cheese made

As with all the other grilled cheese trial submissions, here’s my verdict:

Cheesiness: 7. I think mozzarella is better for pizzas than sandwiches. It was good, don’t get me wrong, but it was almost too melty. It made it kind of hard to eat!
Bread: 9. The bread was great. Nicely toasted with a good crunch to it. It held up perfectly to the toppings.
Fillings: 9. I swooned over this tapenade. I could just eat it with a spoon.
Overall: 8. Unfortunately, not the best sandwich I’ve made for this competition, but definitely a worthy competitor. I think if I subbed out a slightly more flavorful cheese, I’d be onto something.

Got an idea for a grilled cheese? Leave a comment!

20 Responses to “Tapenade Grilled Cheese” Leave a comment

  1. Well I think this sandwich looks yummy. I will have to think about what other cheese to try.

    Hmm, what kind of soup do you think would be good with it?

  2. Love, love, LOVE tapenade on my grilled cheese.
    I’ve found quite a bit of variation in mozzarella cheeses… some get uber melty and don’t have much flavor, others are just right for grilled cheese sandwiches (flavorful and less drippy). Maybe try another brand of cheese? I’m a big fan of fontina for grilled cheese — but it also tends toward being pretty melty.

  3. That bread does seem that it worked out perfectly. I think mozzarella can work for my taste & preferences in small amounts (shredded) and in combination with another cheese.

    I like the tapenade.

  4. That looks absolutly delicious. Whenever I’m in Italy, a Caprese (tomato/basil/mozz) panini is my go-to cafe breakfast so this looks great to me. I’ve got no problem with mozzarella melted in my sandwiches. ;-)
    Congrats on having this post featured on the Food News Journal today.

  5. I made this yesterday and it was really great! My six year old even loved it. Also, the sun dried tomato spread is great on bread by itself without all the other sandwich stuff. I'm going to put it out this weekend as an appetizer along with some home-made bread for a get together I'm having with friends.

  6. Always looking for yummy recipes and this one definitely does it. I made some changes based on the above comments though. I added a little thin sliced swiss and some feta cheese sprinkled on. Gives a little stronger bite to the cheese taste to counteract the tart tapenade while maintaining that yummy, stringy mozzarella

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