sun-dried tomato and basil pesto torte

I discovered this recipe, years ago, while browsing the cookbooks in Barnes and Noble. I jotted it down in the little brown notebook (right after chocolate peanut butter truffles and before zucchini fritters) that I used for B&N recipe filching, and then went home and made it. The recipe was a smash hit: everyone in my family loved it, and at least three of my friends now make it most every summer.

Problem is, I never posted the recipe here. Maybe I was feeling lazy, or swamped with summer produce—who knows—but I did something I never ever do which was to include the recipe in my recipe index with a link to the post that my friend did about it. In other words, I first filched the recipe and then I filched my friend’s post about the recipe. Not good.

But all that is about to be made right! I am posting the recipe here, on my blog, today. (Although I used my friend’s post to make the dip that I photographed for this post. Moral: filching is a vicious cycle.)

This dip is a bit of a production. It involves three layers, and each layer is a different recipe. There’s the cream cheese and ricotta layer, the basil pesto layer, and the sun-dried tomato pesto layer. But did you just read that? Cream cheese-ricotta and basil pesto and sun-dried tomato?! It’s a killer combination people. Killer.

But it is a kitchen event, so here’s what I suggest. Assemble your ingredients, pick a day when you’ll be home for the better part, and then make a double batch. If you’re going to go to all this trouble, you might as well make it worth your while, right? You will get two enormous pans of frozen dip that you will cut into wedges like pie, resulting in many slices of dip. Each of those slices will be individually wrapped and then stored in the freezer.

This means you will have a year’s worth of killer—killer—dip on hand for any occasion: potlucks, New Year’s Eve parties, company dinners, lazy Sunday suppers, etc. Pull one of these wedges of pesto torte out of the freezer, set it on a plate and mound crackers around it, and people will think you are the bee’s knees. And they will be right, of course, because you made a pesto torte.

Sun-Dried Tomato and Basil Pesto Torte 

I just ran downstairs and dug my little brown notebook out of my three-ring recipe binder. The original filched recipe has all sorts of notes and is somewhat different from the recipe that my friend posted and the one I just made. The following recipe is a combination of my notes, my friend’s version, and some adaptations based on my recent torte-making experience.

Use any kind of almonds: slivered, toasted, or raw. Other nuts—like pine nuts (but they’re so expensive), walnuts, or pumpkin seeds—would probably be fine. Feel free to use Romano in place of the Parmesan, if you like. I use my own oven-roasted tomatoes.

You’ll need a food processor for this recipe. If you don’t have one, borrow or buy.

What follows is a single batch so you can see the recipe in all its simplicity. But don’t make just one batch. Please, you gotta double it. Trust me on this.

Note, on July 10, 2016: I ran out of the cream cheese layer while making a double recipe. Next time I’ll triple the cream cheese part while only doubling the two pestos.

for the cream cheese layer:
1 pound cream cheese
1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter
1 cup whole-milk ricotta

Beat together until creamy. Set aside.

for the basil pesto layer:
¾ cup almonds
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 cups fresh basil, packed
¾ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
¾ cup olive oil

Combine all ingredients, except for the olive oil, in the food processor and pulse until combined. While the motor is running, slowly add the oil through the spout. Transfer the pesto to a bowl, cover with plastic, and set aside. Return the food processor bowl to the base without washing it. 

for the sun-dried tomato layer:
½ cup almonds
2 cups chopped sun-dried tomatoes
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
¾ cup Parmesan cheese
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup of the basil pesto you just made
1 to 1 1/3 cups olive oil

Process the almonds and half of the tomatoes (because adding all the tomatoes at once can overwhelm the processor’s motor). Add the remaining tomatoes, garlic, cheese, and salt and process until fairly smooth. Add the basil pesto and combine. With the motor still running, slowly add a cup of oil through the spout. If the tomatoes were very dry, you will need to add the remaining third cup of oil, but if they were juicier, then you might not need all the oil. The pesto should be creamy and smooth, not dry or runny.

for the assembly: 
Line a 10-inch springform pan with plastic wrap or spray it with cooking oil. (That said, I kind of think the torte won’t stick to the pan if you skip that step. I did, however, line the bottom of my pan with wax paper since the bottom of my pan is getting a little rusty-ish.) Set it on a cookie sheet to catch any oily drips.

Spread 1/3 of the cream cheese mixture over the bottom of the pan. Slip the pan into the freezer for thirty minutes.

Spread the tomato mixture over the cream cheese base. Go all the way out to the edges. Slip the pan into the freezer for 60-90 minutes. This layer doesn’t freeze as quickly, and if it’s not frozen solid, it will smear up the next white layer (see my photos).

Spread the second third of the cream cheese layer over the tomato layer. Freeze for 45 minutes. 

Spread the basil pesto mixture over the cream cheese. This is a thinner layer. Freeze for 1 hour. 

Spread the remaining cream cheese mixture over the top. (I dirty iced the torte with just half of the mixture, froze it for 30 minutes, and then used the last bit to finish off the torte, all pretty-like.) Cover the torte and return to the freezer for a good hour.

Once the torte is frozen solid, remove it from the freezer. Remove the sides of the springform pan, and transfer the torte from the bottom pan to a cutting board. Slice the torte into the desired number of pieces, tightly wrap each piece in plastic, and slip the pieces into a plastic bag. Freeze.

To serve: unwrap one piece of frozen torte and set it on a plate to thaw. Serve with crackers, chips, toasts, pretzels, or whatever crunchy-munchies you have on hand.

This same time, years previous: on unschooling and parental comfort level, bruschetta, stewed greens with tomato and chili, the quotidian (8.20.12), photo shoot, this is what crazy looks like, two-minute peanut butter chocolate cake, red raspberry ice cream, earthy ponderations, part one, oven-roasted roma tomatoes, and cold curried corn soup.      


  • Lindsay

    I've made this several times since your *friend* posted the recipe some years ago. It's always a hit.
    I line my whole pan with plastic wrap, I find it a lot easier to get it out without accidentally breaking the edges. For those who find it challenging to slice, I have found a long, sharp knife that I've warmed in hot water helps, along with rewarming and wiping it off between each cut.

  • Anonymous

    Sooo, I'm curious what cracker goes best with this. Ritz? Saltine? Looks like tortilla chips in the picture. I'm thinking super thin slices of French bread that are slightly toasted. What have you found is the best?

    • Jennifer Jo

      Yes, that's tortilla chips in the photo but only because that's all I had. Normally, I like crackers, like Wheat Thins or something grainy. Pita chips is another good option. Your idea of toasted French bread would be fab, too.

  • Starr

    I made a batch this afternoon–haven't tried the finished product as it's still in the freezer, but the layers taste great on their own. I told my book club that I spent 6 hours slaving over it so they'd better be grateful!

  • Becky

    Yes, yes, yes! Can't wait to try this.
    And I've filched your bruschetta recipe for years – I've even used in a cooking class here recently. We all filch.

  • Rachel

    Yes, I had trouble cutting mine too, but I let them sit a little bit first and that helped. Also some trouble getting the wax paper off the bottom where it had gotten into the creases (sitting out helped with that, too). My bottom layer cracked in several pieces–I wonder if next time a little less butter in that layer might help it be more flexible? We haven't eaten it yet except for tastes while I was making it, but my whole family is won over. YUM.

  • Lauralli

    I just made this a few weeks ago. (And, yes a double batch!) It's still sitting in my freezer waiting to be divided up–the most dreaded part as far as I'm concerned! What method do you use to cut it up? I got quite the workout last year! But, the oohs and aahs when people are eating it is worth the work!

    • Jennifer Jo

      It was quite easy to slice—with just a butcher knife and cutting board. I don't think my tortes were frozen rock-hard, though they were nice and solid. So maybe that made it easier? Perhaps let them sit out at room temp for 20 minutes before cutting?

Leave a Comment