Basil and Cheese Torta

"This is a great appetizer to make now while basil is plentiful and stash in the freezer to use all year. I pull one out of the freezer when I need something quick for a dinner party appetizer or potluck. Use 6 or 10 oz custard cups"
photo by ktdid photo by ktdid
photo by ktdid
photo by ktdid photo by ktdid
photo by ktdid photo by ktdid
Ready In:
5-8 small tortas




  • With electric mixer, beat cream cheese and butter until smooth, scraping sides of bowl as needed.
  • Set aside.
  • Prepare Pesto: In a blender or food processor, whirl to a paste the basil, parmesan or romano cheese, and olive oil.
  • Stir in pine nuts.
  • Set aside.
  • Cut cheesecloth squares about 10-12" square to line custard cups (It needs to be able to cover the bottom, go up the sides and still have some to fold over the top of the torta).
  • If you use the really loose weave stuff (standard grocery store cheesecloth), you'll need two pieces per custard cup.
  • Moisten the cheesecloth with water, wring dry and lay two sheets out flat on top of each other.
  • Smoothly line your custard cups with the cheesecloth (this can be a bit tricky, but it doesn't have to be perfectly smooth).
  • With your fingers or a flexible rubber spatula, spread a thin layer (about 1/2 inch) of the cheese mixture in a lined custard cup.
  • Cover with 1/4-/12 inch pesto.
  • Put another layer of cheese.
  • If you can, do another layer of pesto and cheese, so you end up with 3 cheese layers and 2 pesto layers.
  • Two layers of cheese and one of pesto works if that's the way it comes out.
  • Fold the ends of the cheesecloth neatly over the top of the torta and press down lightly with fingers.
  • Repeat with remaining cheese and pesto.
  • I get 5 large custard cups or 6 small cups plus one large cup from this quantity of ingredients.
  • Chill until tortas are firm when pressed (at least 2 hrs, I usually just let them go overnight).
  • Remove from custard cups by gently pulling on the cheesecloth around the edges.
  • Remove the cheesecloth and wrap the torta tightly in two layers of saran wrap.
  • Seal in sandwich size ziplock freezer bags and place in freezer.
  • To serve: Remove from freezer and thaw (overnight in frig works well).
  • Bring to near room temp and srve with sliced baguettes and crisp raw vegetables.
  • Variation: For a large party, do one massive torta in a charlotte mold, loaf pan or a clean clay flowerpot.
  • You'll end up with 7-8 layers of each filling in this one.
  • I wouldn't freeze this size, but it will keep in the frig for up to 5 days.

Questions & Replies

  1. How can I print this out? Thank you!


  1. We loved this. My husband says its addictive. And it freezes so nicely.
  2. This is a fabulous recipe! I have made this using both green pesto and a sun dried tomato pesto, alternating layers for a festive holiday appetizer.


I've lived in Seattle for the past 20 years. I'm a scientist who works in the pharmaceutical industry and I cook for fun and relaxation. I read cookbooks like novels and have trouble passing a used bookstore without going in. My current favorite cookbooks are Pam Anderson's How to Cook Without a Book, Jerry Traunfeld's The Herbfarm Cookbook, and Shirley Corriher's Cookwise.
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