This lovely combination of cream cheese layered with sun-dried tomatoes and pesto is perfect for entertaining; just offer some really good crackers or slices of toasted baguette.
It isn’t difficult to make but it is a bit fiddly and you’ll need a food processor – however, for special occasions it’s well worth the effort. You’ll need to make it and chill it in the fridge for at least 24 hours and up to 3 days before you need it. After you’ve decorated it with toasted pine nuts, keep it in the fridge until you’re ready to serve.
I prefer to use Neufchatel rather than the full fat cream cheese (as in Philadelphia) but that’s entirely up to you. It does contain butter so using a lighter cream cheese won’t yield a less creamy result.
(Serves 20 as an appetizer / hors d’oeuvre)
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1 ½ cups (355ml measure) of packed fresh basil leaves
¼ cup (60ml) of pine nuts
2 tablespoons of extra-v olive oil
1 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice
2 and 2/3 cups (600g) of Neufchatel cream cheese (30% reduced fat) at room temp
¼ cup (60ml) of freshly grated parmesan cheese – the best sort
1 and 1/3 cups (315ml measure) of sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained
1/3 cup (80ml) of tomato paste / puree
¾ cup (180ml measure) of butter at room temp
Fresh basil leaves and extra pine nuts, toasted
In a food processor, pulse the garlic, fresh basil and pine nuts with the lemon juice and olive oil until it’s well blended.
Add the Parmesan cheese and 1/3 cup (80ml) of the cream cheese; pulse to combine then transfer it to a bowl.
You’ll need to wipe out the food processor bowl.
Process the sun-dried tomatoes with the tomato paste until quite smooth then add 1/3 cup (80ml) of cream cheese – blend well and transfer to another bowl.
In a separate bowl using an electric mixer, beat the remaining 2 cups of softened cream cheese with the butter until it’s light and fluffy – season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Spray a 3 pint (1.7ltr) capacity loaf pan or soufflé dish with cooking spray then line it with plastic wrap. A bit fiddly – you want to get it as smooth as possible inside leaving some overhang.
Start by spreading a layer of the butter/cream cheese mixture into the bottom of the dish and then alternate with the sun-dried tomato mix, the pesto and so on – I got a bit lazy this time and put three colored layers in the middle.
You need to finish it with a layer of butter/cream cheese mixture so that you have white layers on the top and the bottom.
Cover with plastic wrap and chill for a minimum of 24 hours and up to 3 days.
Just before you’re ready to serve it, invert the whole thing onto a platter, peel off the plastic wrap and decorate with lightly toasted pine nuts and some fresh basil leaves.
Serve with toasted baguette or your favorite crackers. Leftovers will keep covered in the fridge for several days.