We’ve been eating grilled cheese since we were kids, and the recipe usually went a little something like this: butter two slices of Wonderbread, add a slice of Kraft American cheese, toast in a pan, and call it a day. We’re not saying that such a simple, nostalgic meal isn’t good eats, but now that we’re older, we like our grilled cheese to have a little more substance to it. If you’re in the same boat, look no further than Ina Garten‘s grilled cheese recipe. If anyone could elevate this simple sammie, duh, it’s the Barefoot Contessa!

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It’s not the cheese itself that makes this sandwich such a standout – it’s the special add-ins.

The first notable inclusion is the spread Garten slathers on the inside of each slice of bread. It’s a mixture of mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, and grated Parmesan cheese. Not only does this spread add big flavor to the bread before the melting cheese is even involved, but it also keeps the sandwiches from tasting dry. The tanginess of the mustard also helps cut through the richness of the cheese, for a more balanced bite.

Next, Garten makes these sandwiches truly worthy of dinner time by adding diced cooked bacon to each one – just a few small pieces on each sandwich. After all, “It’s a cheese sandwich, not a bacon sandwich!” as she says in the video.

The bacon adds a smoky, savory flavor to each sandwich that plays well with the cheese, and that smokiness is extra delicious when paired with a bowl of Garten’s signature tomato soup.

For the cheese, you can forget about those store-brand American singles languishing away in your deli drawer. Garten opts for a blend of grated white cheddar and grated Gruyere. The cheddar is sharp and bold, and the Gruyere is an amazing melter with a sweet, nutty flavor. Don’t be afraid to add more cheese than you think will fit on each sandwich – that cheese will melt and ooze out of the bread, becoming crispy around the edges.

Garten uses a panini press to make her grilled cheese sandwiches, buttering the exterior of the bread so it becomes toasty and golden brown (but you could also user her favorite cast iron skillet).

The end result? A crispy on the outside, melty on the inside grilled cheese sandwich that’s at once cheesy, smoky, meaty, tangy, and buttery, and just begging to be dunked into a bowl of hot soup.

Before you go, check out these Ina Garten-Approved holiday gift ideas:

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