Mozzarella Pesto Veggie Melt #CADairyHealthy #Sponsored

I received a gift card to offset the expense of my ingredients. By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by the California Milk Advisory Board and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.

Though I love sandwiches, I will be the first to complain when a restaurant’s sole vegetarian option is a cold sandwich that’s pretty much just hummus and cucumber.  Just because I don’t eat meat doesn’t mean that I don’t a wide variety of delicious foods.  Luckily, there’s a small Italian diner near me that makes a killer veggie sandwich.  Un-luckily, that delicious, hot sandwich probably involves a ton of butter and oil and just isn’t an every day thing.

Mozzarella, Veggie, and Pesto Sandwich

I took inspiration from that tasty $5 sandwich and made a healthier version at home.  Most people hear cheese and think that’s the culprit when a meal has a high calorie count, but that’s totally not the case.  I was challenged by and (Dairy Council of California) to use California dairy to lighten up a dish — and let me tell you how easy it is.  Pairing the right kind of cheese (while keeping my serving size in check) with sautéed veggies makes any sandwich taste over the top delicious without a ton of calories while a light dab of butter on the bread provides the perfect crispy, crunch.  While I’m not a dietitian, I am scientist enough to mention that studies have shown eating low fat dairy 3 times a day may help in maintaining a healthy body weight.  Plus, I always find that adding dairy like cheese or yogurt to a snack or meal helps keep me full longer.

Mozzarella, Veggie, and Pesto Sandwich

When I first when to the store to pickup California dairy, I was fairly certain I’ve had no luck.  For some reason, I had it in my head that Wisconsin = dairy and since Michigan is right next to Wisconsin, that’s where all of our dairy would come from.  Apparently I’ve never bothered to look at a label before!  California is the number one producer of butter, milk, and ice cream in America and #2 in cheese and yogurt.  Look for the Real California Milk or Real California Cheese seals on packaging.

Mozzarella Pesto Veggie Melt #CADairyHealthy #Sponsored
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 

Serves: 4

  • 1 tbsp. California Butter, plus extra for bread
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ½ onion
  • 1 orange bell pepper
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 2 zucchini
  • 1 yellow summer squash
  • 8 oz baby bella mushrooms
  • 4 oz California Mozzarella, sliced
  • 8 slices bread (I used a multigrain sourdough. Any kind including GF will work)
  • 2 tbsp. California Yogurt (Plain. Regular or Greek style)
  • 2 tbsp. pesto, jarred or homemade
  • Marinara for dipping, optional

  1. Mince the garlic and roughly chop the remaining vegetables.
  2. In a nonstick pan, melt the 1 tbsp. butter. Sauté the onion, garlic, and peppers until almost soft (~5 minutes), then add the zucchini, yellow squash, and mushrooms. Continue sautéing until all veggies are cooked to your liking. Remove from heat and set aside.
  3. If you have a Panini press, preheat. If not, clean out the pan you sautéed the veggies in and heat over medium.
  4. Mix the yogurt with the pesto. Taste and adjust the ratio if it is too tangy for your liking.
  5. Spread the outsides of the bread with a small amount of butter. On the unbuttered side of 4 slices, put ¼ of the veggie mixture and top ¼ of the mozzarella. Spread the remaining slices of bread with the pesto mixture (on the unbuttered side) and place on top of the veggies and cheese, pesto side down.
  6. Carefully place the sandwiches on the pan or in the Panini maker. If using the Panini press, carefully press down and cook for 5 minutes, until the outsides are crispy and the cheese is melty. If cooking in the pan, press the top down with the back of a spatula and flip after 3-4 minutes, when the bread begins to get crispy, and cook until the other side is done.
  7. Slice in half and serve with warm marinara, if desired.

I found that using a Panini press allowed me to use all of the veggies if I carefully pressed. If cooking in a pan and flipping, you may have veggie mixture left over.
Using gluten free bread will make the sandwich gluten free.

Nutrition Information
Serving size: 1 sandwich Calories: 300

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    thespeckledpalate Mar 14, 2014

    I’m a HUGE fan of a panini sandwich, and I love how you’ve transformed a relatively unhealthy version from a local restaurant into something just as equally wonderful that’s made at home! I’m gonna have to give this a shot soon because I am ALWAYS looking for good, light lunches… and what’s better than a warm sandwich?

    Taylor @ greens & chocolate Mar 14, 2014

    Wow I had no idea about California being a big dairy producer! Also – this gooey sandwich looks yummy…I love stuffing tons of veggies in my sandwiches!

    Sarah Grace Mar 13, 2014

    Wow this reminds me of a better Panera Bread sandwich! Mmmm!! Great job with using dairy 🙂

    xoxo Sarah Grace, Fresh Fit N Healthy.

    Ashley Mar 12, 2014

    This sandwich sounds so so good! I love all the veggies you have in here, and then the pesto and cheese. Want to come make me one for lunch?? lol I’m feeling lazy today.

    Joanne Mar 12, 2014

    Boring sandwiches are basically my biggest pet peeve!! Especially when all I need is some roasted veggies and melty cheese to get me excited. Such a great sandwich!

    marcie@flavorthemoments Mar 11, 2014

    This sandwich looks incredible with all of those veggies and melted cheese! Anything with mozzarella and pesto, and I’m in! 🙂

    Rachel @ Bakerita Mar 11, 2014

    I LOVE all the veggies in here, and I’m always on board for some pesto and cheese. This looks so delicious!

    cheri Mar 10, 2014

    Great looking sandwich Kelly! Can’t wait to try.

    cleaneatingveggiegirl Mar 10, 2014

    This sounds deeeelicious!! I definitely need to try this with vegan cheese! 🙂

    Deanna Segrave-Daly (@tspbasil) Mar 10, 2014

    OK – you seriously just inspired my lunch! I have a panini maker and rarely use it. Gonna use up some veggies in the fridge and make some pesto too!