Friday, September 5, 2008

Almost Heaven

The other evening, we were having dinner at a friend's home. She served the most amazing hors d'oeuvres, or would it be called a spread? It initially got my attention because her 4 year old daughter had a stool pulled up to the island and was eating cracker after cracker with this yummy spread scooped up onto them. And it wasn't even time to eat yet. When we were invited to eat and I tried this creamy, pungent torte, I knew I needed to make it. The more our lovely hostess told me about it (while she and I did our own scooping-up of the crumbs later on in the kitchen), the more I couldn't wait to make some of my own.

This recipe is a little labor intensive. Don't be scared! Don't stop reading and skip to the photos. Get a pen and write this down!! The end result is a year's worth of perfectly portioned tasty spread stashed in your freezer just waiting to be invited somewhere for dinner or pulled out when company is coming.

Pesto Torte (ever so slightly adapted from Mama JJ's recipe)

Step 1: In the bowl of an electric mixer, blend:

16 oz. cream cheese
8 tbsp. butter
1 cup whole ricotta cheese

Spread 1 and 1/3 cups of the cheese mixture into the bottom of a spring form pan coated with cooking spray. You'll note in some of my photos that I lined one pan with plastic wrap. The recipe I was given suggested this, but my friend said she skipped this step. I was making a double batch, so I tried both ways (with and without plastic wrap) and found the plastic wrap unnecessary. I did wrap the outside bottom of the pans with foil to catch any leakage.

Once the cheese layer is spread over the bottom, cover the pan with plastic wrap and put it in the freezer. You will do this after each layer to make spreading the next layer easier. I set my oven timer for 30 minutes.

(Speaking of oven timers, my husband likes to tell this joke..."Why don't women wear watches? Because there's a clock on the oven." Some might take offense to this. I don't because in my case it's true.)

In the mean time...

Step 2: In a food processor, blend well:

3/4 cup almonds (in any form)
1 1/2 tbsp. chopped garlic (I just threw in a couple whole cloves)
3 cups fresh basil
3/4 cup olive oil
3/4 cup parmesan cheese
4 tsp. sea salt

Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

Step 3: In the same food processor (don't wash it!), blend well:

1/2 cup almonds
2 tbsp. chopped garlic (or three whole cloves)
2 cups sun-dried tomatoes (I used my roasted ones)
1 1/3 cup olive oil (I used about half this amount because there was more moisture in my tomatoes than in store bought sun-dried tomatoes)
3/4 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 cup of the basil pesto you made in Step 2.

Step 4: Layering

Once your timer has gone off the first time, spread the entire amount of sun-dried tomato pesto onto the cheese mixture, spreading it all the way out to the sides (I'm just trying to show the beautiful contrast of colors in the photos). Put it back in the freezer. Set your watch...I mean timer.

On top of the tomato pesto, spread 1 and 1/3 cup of the cheese mixture. Back in the freezer.

Next, spread on all the basil pesto. Off to the freezer!

Top with the remainder of the cheese mixture and freeze, covered, overnight.

Step 5: Storing

While the torte is still frozen, cut into wedges (6 or 8). Wrap each individual wedge with plastic wrap and store in plastic bags in the freezer. Thaw for 4-5 hours on the counter, or longer in the fridge. Serve with crackers and try not to eat all of it yourself. Pin It


  1. I made this, also, with the wonderful basil you so graciously shared with me! My 9 year old thought the white layer was frosting. When my 5 year old saw me spreading the green pesto on the white layer, she said "what are you making, pesto cake?" We had some for supper last night and even my 1 year old couldn't stop licking it off the crackers and asking for more. This stuff is WELL worth making!

  2. Fantastic! What a beautiful piece of art. And you explained it very clearly---makes it look so simple. I think I'll be refering to this post when I make it in the future...


  3. Okay, so I made a vegan version of this. Unfortunatly, due to the tofu I used it didn't unthaw very well (it was runny - something I should have anticipated). Nevertheless, it was *delicious* and made a great pasta sauce. I have half the batch still in the freezer. I just need people to serve it to, since one wedge easily sauces a pound or more of pasta. At some point I'll make the dairy version. Thanks for a great recipe!

  4. So can this be thawed & "heated" to go over pasta as well? Thank you!

    1. It sounds like Lily Girl above used it as a sauce because she made it with tofu and she said it was runny. I've never used it as a sauce because it's so perfect as a dip/spread, but I'm sure it wouldn't taste bad!:-) Also, all the work to make the beautiful layers would be lost if it was mixed into pasta.

  5. I just picked up the ingredients to make this. Can't wait! I'm planning on using ready-made pesto and I have a 22oz. jar. Will this be enough? Too much? How many cups of pesto did you have when you made your own? Thanks!
    Love your website, btw...

  6. I've always made this in the summer with fresh ingredients but there's no reason prepared pesto wouldn't work:-). As far as amounts, I don't have those figured out. One option would be to eye-ball it from the pictures above- it's not going to ruin it if the proportions aren't perfect. It's still going to be really yummy:-)!

  7. For the pesto part, do you mean 1/4 teaspoon of salt instead of 4 teaspoons?

    1. No, I mean 4 teaspoon. In my cookbook I have listed 3 teaspoon so somewhere in that range is what I use/like. Thanks for checking, though:-).

    2. This is weird. Because in my original notes it says 1/4 teaspoon salt! I followed your recipe, though (which was 8 TEASPOONS OF SALT because I was doubling the recipe), and the pesto doesn't seem too salty. What's up with THAT?!

    3. I'm wondering if I used my regular pesto recipe instead of your pesto section of the torte when I started making it. Who knows?! Glad it works for you anyway!:-)


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