I first had something similar to this beautiful appetizer when I bought it from a local farmers market many, many years ago. Truth be told, I had never heard of mascarpone cheese at that time, so on top of beautiful, it seemed exotic too. This is a recreation of that dish. It makes a simple and beautiful presentation with the layers of red, green and white mimicking the colors of the Italian flag!
Sun-Dried Tomato and Pesto Torta
- 4 garlic cloves
- 1 1/2 cups (packed) fresh basil leaves
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 2 2/3 cups mascarpone (or substitute cream cheese), room temperature (about 21 ounces)
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 1/3 cups drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
- 1/3 cup tomato paste
- 3/4 cup butter, room temperature
- Nonstick vegetable oil spray
- Fresh basil sprigs
- Toasted pine nuts
- Baguette slices, toasted
- Finely chop garlic in processor. Add basil, 1/4 cup pine nuts, oil and lemon juice. Process until well blended. Add 1/3 cup cream cheese and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Using on/off turns, process just until blended. Transfer pesto to medium bowl.
- Coarsely chop tomatoes in processor. Add tomato paste and process until mixture is almost smooth. Add 1/3 cup cream cheese and blend well.
- Using electric mixer, beat 2 cups cream cheese and butter in large bowl until fluffy. Season with salt and pepper.
- Spray 6-cup soufflé dish with nonstick spray. Line with plastic wrap, extending plastic over sides. Spread 3/4 cup cream cheese-butter mixture evenly over bottom of prepared dish. Top with half of tomato mixture, then 1/2 cup cream cheese-butter mixture, then half of pesto mixture. Repeat layering with 1/2 cup cream cheese-butter mixture, remaining tomato mixture, 1/2 cup cream cheese-butter mixture and remaining pesto. Top with remaining cream cheese-butter mixture. Cover and chill overnight. (Can be made 3 days ahead. Keep refrigerated.)
- Invert torta onto platter. Peel off plastic. Garnish with basil sprigs and toasted pine nuts. Serve with baguette slices.