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Pesto Torte

Torta di Pesto

SERVES 10 TO 12

Pesto is the classic sauce from Genoa made from pungent basil leaves. The Genovese remove not only the stems but also the center vein of each leaf when making this sauce. Pesto is especially delicious in this torta, which can be prepared up to three days ahead.

Ingredients

1/2 cup pine nuts

1 pound butter, softened

3/4 pound cream cheese, softened

1/4 pound mascarpone cheese, at room temperature

A few fresh basil leaves

3/4 cup Pesto - see Recipe Box

24 1-inch-thick slices Italian bread (from a narrow baguette-type loaf)

 Filippo Berio extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Spread the pine nuts on a baking sheet and toast them until lightly golden, about 5 minutes; be careful not to burn them. Let cool.

In a food processor, or in a bowl, combine the butter, cream cheese, and mascarpone cheese. Process, or beat with a wooden spoon, until very smooth. Set aside.

Line a 9- x 5-inch loaf pan or a 6-cup round mold with a double thickness of damp cheesecloth large enough to hang over the sides of the mold. Scatter some of the pine nuts in the bottom of the mold and arrange the basil leaves, shiny side down, to make an attractive design.

Spoon one third of the cheese mixture into the mold and smooth it to make an even layer. Carefully spoon half of the pesto sauce on top of the cheese layer and sprinkle with the remaining pine nuts. Add another layer of the cheese mixture, spoon the remaining pesto sauce over it, and top with the remainder of the cheese mixture. Bring the cheesecloth edges up over the top of the mold. Press lightly on the top of the mold to settle the ingredients. Cover the mold with foil and refrigerate for several hours, or up to 3 days.

To serve, remove the foil and turn the mold upside down onto a serving dish. Remove the cheesecloth; let the torta come to room temperature.

In a large skillet, heat 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil and fry the bread slices a few at a time until golden brown on both sides, adding more olive oil as needed. Place the bread around the base of the torta, and cut it into slices or wedges to serve.

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