Grilled Potato Spinach Quesadillas is my most popular recipe. There’s something about the flavor, texture, and simplicity of these quesadillas that resonates.
My latest variation on the original Grilled Potato Spinach Quesadilla is just as addicting. It incorporates one of my favorite foods: pesto.
Grilled Potato Pesto Quesadillas
These Grilled Potato Pesto Quesadillas use the same potato base as the classic GPSQ. But there’s no spinach in these quesadillas.
The Crisp Breadcrumb Edge
Instead, homemade pesto is spread over the potatoes during the quesadilla compilation process. The pesto is then topped with thinly sliced tomatoes and freshly grated cheddar.
Just before frying, a breadcrumb/cornmeal mixture is sprinkled along the edge of each quesadilla. During frying, that breadcrumb/cornmeal mixture adheres to the cheddar, and makes a delicious crispy edge on the quesadillas.
Make Grilled Potato Pesto Quesadillas
It’s just about impossible to stop at one Grilled Potato Pesto Quesadilla. The flavors of the pesto and cheddar, coupled with textures of the smooth mashed potatoes, fresh tomato, and crisp breadcrumbs are addicting.
Serve these Grilled Potato Pesto Quesadillas with roasted Beyond Meat Sausage and my Champagne Vinaigrette Salad for a complete meal. Or serve them alone for an elegant appetizer. Either way, these Grilled Potato Pesto Quesadillas are as showstopping as the classic.
A Few Things!
I don’t believe in store-bought pesto. If you’ve had homemade pesto before, you probably feel the same way.
If you’ve never had homemade pesto before, just trust me. It’s worth the small amount of time it takes to make the pesto yourself. Use my recipe below. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
Use mini street taco size tortillas for these quesadillas. Use flour tortillas for a fluffier quesadilla, and use corn tortillas for a crisper quesadilla that’s also gluten-free.
I highly recommend using an offset spatula to spread the pesto over the potatoes. This inexpensive tool makes spreading the pesto easy, and speeds up the quesadilla compilation process. Here’s my favorite offset spatula set on Amazon [aff. link]. You can also find it in my Amazon store here.
Grilled Potato Pesto Quesadillas
For the pesto:
- ¾ cup pine nuts
- 2-3 garlic cloves
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 4 cups fresh basil, rinsed
- ⅓ cup Pecorino, freshly ground or grated (you can grind the cheese in your food processor before making the pesto.)
- ⅓ cup Parmesan, freshly ground or grated (you can grind the cheese in your food processor before making the pesto.)
- ¾ cup olive oil
For the potato filling:
- 1 ½ pounds potatoes, peeled; preferably a white or yellow potato variety, such as russet or Yukon gold.
- ¼ cup milk of choice, I prefer unsweetened almond milk
- 2 Tbsp butter, use Earth Balance or olive oil to keep vegan
- 2 Tbsp mascarpone, (optional, but highly recommended; omit to keep vegan, or substitute with vegan cream cheese)
- 1 tsp sea salt
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- ½ tsp onion salt
For the cornmeal breadcrumbs:
- ⅓ cup breadcrumbs, plain
- ⅓ cup cornmeal
- 1-2 cups cheddar, freshly grated (omit to keep vegan, or use your favorite vegan cheddar)
- 8-10 oz cherry or grape tomatoes, thinly sliced
- 30-40 mini street taco size tortillas, flour or corn
- canola oil or olive oil, for frying
Boil the potatoes
- Bring the potatoes to a boil in a large soup pot of water. There should be at least 1 inch of water above the potatoes.
- Boil for about 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft, and a fork goes easily through when the potatoes are pricked.
- Note: if using large potatoes, I recommend cutting them in halves or quarters before boiling so they cook faster.
- While the potatoes boil, make the pesto, grate the cheese, slice the tomatoes, and prepare the breadcrumbs
Make the pesto
- To the bowl of your food processor/preferred processing apparatus, add the pine nuts and garlic cloves.
- Pulse a few times, then process until the pine nuts and garlic are mostly smooth and combined.
- Now add the basil and sea salt to the pine nut/garlic mixture. Process again until a green paste forms.
- Now add the Pecorino and Parmesan. Process until the cheeses have completely incorporated.
- Last, add the olive oil to the food processor. Process until the olive oil incorporates completely into the rest of the ingredients. Pesto is done.
Prepare the cornmeal breadcrumbs
- Simply add the breadcrumbs and cornmeal to a small bowl. Whisk them together with a fork until completely combined and evenly distributed.
Drain the potatoes and add the seasonings
- Back to the potatoes. Once the potatoes are cooked through, drain the potatoes, and put them back in the pot.
- To the pot, now add the milk, butter, mascarpone, salt, garlic powder, and onion salt.
Mash the potatoes
- With a handheld mixer, mix the potatoes on medium speed until smooth, and the butter and mascarpone are completely incorporated.
Compile the quesadillas
- Now take a tortilla. Spread ½ - 1 Tbsp of the mashed potatoes on half of the tortilla.
- Note: use ½ Tbsp mashed potatoes for a less packed quesadilla. Use 1 Tbsp for a fuller quesadilla. I recommend making a quesadilla each way to sample, then stick with the filling amount that tastes better to you for the rest of the quesadillas you compile.
- Next, use an offset spatula to spread ½ - 1 tsp of pesto over the mashed potatoes.
- Now take 3-4 tomato slices and press them into the mashed potatoes and pesto.
- Top the tomatoes with 1 Tbsp of freshly grated cheddar.
- Last, fold the other half of the tortilla over the top of the potato filling, pesto, tomatoes, and cheddar.
- Repeat this process until you’ve used up all of the potato filling. Alternately, compile as many quesadillas as you want for the meal, and save the remaining potatoes and pesto for another time.
Grill the quesadillas
- In a medium to large-sized skillet, heat a few Tbsp of olive oil or canola oil over medium heat for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
- While the oil heats up, take a compiled quesadilla, and sprinkle the breadcrumb/cornmeal mixture around the edge of the quesadilla. It's ok if some of the mixture goes inside the quesadilla.
- Repeat the breadcrumb sprinkling on as many quesadillas as you plan to fry at one time. I recommend sprinkling the breadcrumbs on the quesadillas just before frying, not during the quesadilla compilation process. The breadcrumbs are more likely to fall off the longer the quesadillas sit before frying.
- Once the oil is hot, add 1-3 quesadillas to the skillet. Grill/fry the quesadillas over medium heat until the side in the pan turns golden brown, about 2-4 minutes.
- Flip each quesadilla over, and grill the other side until golden brown, another 2-4 minutes.
- Take the quesadillas out of the skillet, and put them on a paper towel-lined plate to remove excess oil.
- Repeat the grilling process with all the quesadillas you’ve assembled.