Several years ago, I discovered this recipe for Cheese, Basil and Sun-Dried Tomato Torte. It was printed on the inside of a box of Challenge brand Unsalted Butter and I was intrigued by the eclectic combination of ingredients. Well, I’m glad I gave it a try because to this day I still have people asking for it every holiday season. Even friends who haven’t had it in years remember it for two reasons. 1) As you can see, it’s festively pretty, and 2) It’s incredibly delicious.
Starting with the cheese layers, this is a perfect combination of crumbled feta, softened cream cheese, and good quality butter (trust me, that matters). These creamy ingredients are a heavenly combination and when you add minced garlic and fresh basil… you know you’re going to like it.
The top and bottom are covered in chopped walnuts and pine nuts and this slightly sharp and woody combination offset the cheese just right without being too bitter. It kind of holds everything together plus adds a beautiful “finished” look, like you ordered it from a gourmet-specialty store or spent A LOT of time getting every layer just right.
Nestled in the middle of everything is a layer of sun-dried tomatoes and finely grated sharp Parmesan cheese. Not only do the tomatoes give each bite a bright and fruity note, but it looks like the holidays with its bright red color. And with the brilliant combination of Greek and Italian style cheeses, this torte will take center-stage for its unique presentation.
I’ve made the cheese, basil and sun-dried tomato torte a few different ways – The recipe as shown is spread into a 6-inch spring form pan which gives a great presentation and is best for a large party, but I’ve also divided it into two 4-inch ramekins for serving separately. A friend of mine also had the idea to make it into several small little hand-formed molds, wrapped in plastic wrap to bring out for impromptu get-togethers or even to give as small gifts with nice crackers or bread. It really is good enough for gift-giving!
The torte can be assembled one or two days ahead and is then brought to room temperature before serving to ensure smooth spreading. Try different ways to mold and serve this, but I promise this is one party appetizer that everyone will remember and rave about. So have a copy of the recipe handy.
- 8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter
- 8 ounces of crumbled feta cheese
- 8 ounces of cream cheese
- ½ cup whole walnuts
- ¼ cup whole pine nuts
- ¼ cup fresh chopped basil
- 1 large garlic clove, finely minced or pressed
- ⅔ cup (2 ounces) chopped sun-dried tomatoes (do not use sun-dried tomatoes in oil)
- 1 Tablespoon finely grated Parmesan cheese
- Sprigs of fresh basil for garnish (optional)
- Favorite crackers, bagels, baguettes or celery and bell pepper slices for serving
- Great paired with pear slices and wheat crackers
- Let butter, feta and cream cheese come to room temperature. Toast nuts in a skillet over medium heat, stirring constantly until nuts are lightly toasted: remove from heat and set aside to cool. Note: I like to toast the nuts whole and chop them after to help prevent small pieces from burning.
- In the bowl of a food processor or mixer, thoroughly cream together butter, feta and cream cheese. Add garlic and basil and mix continue to mix until well incorporated.
- Chop the walnuts and pine nuts until desired consistency is reached. I like them finely chopped. Cover the bottom of a 6-inch spring form pan (or similar shaped 4-cup sized dish) with half of the nuts.
- Spoon half the cheese mixture over the nuts, spreading to edges of the pan.
- Combine sun-dried tomatoes and Parmesan Cheese and sprinkle evenly over the cheese mixture.
- Layer with remaining cheese mixture and sprinkle remaining nuts on top.
- Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Then at least 2 hours before serving, remove from refrigerator and run a knife around the side of the torte and remove the sides of the spring form pan or invert dish onto serving plate.
- Allow torte to warm to room temperature before serving.
- Garnish with sprigs of fresh basil if desired. Serve with crackers, bagels, baguette slices, pear slices, celery sticks or bell pepper slices.
- Note: Recipe can be halved and assembled in a 4-5 inch diameter spring form pan or similar shaped 2-cup dish.