Looking for the perfect holiday appetizer recipe for a Christmas or New Year’s Eve party? Make this easy, yet elegant Pesto and Sun-Dried Tomato Cheese Torta, which is basically a fancy Holiday Cheese Ball!
We are in full swing party season and if you are looking for a flawless, fancy appetizer then you have to make this Pesto and Sun-Dried Tomato Cheese Torta recipe! It’s been a major hit at every holiday party I’ve brought it to and it is so easy!
I love this time of year for so many reasons, from time spent with friends and family, to putting up the festive décor (I seriously have the Christmas Tree lit up 24/7), and all of our fun traditions!
I particularly love going to all the special events, from the Trail of Lights, to the seasonal plays and concerts, to all the holiday parties. Not only are these events fun and create life long memories, I love all the special foods that go with these events.
Like getting hot chocolate, a special treat (either kettle corn or a funnel cake) and dinner from a local food truck is a must when we visit the Trail of Lights. And every year we try to treat ourselves to tickets to a holiday concert (like the Tran-Siberian Orchestra) or holiday show (like The Nutcracker or a holiday themed play) and before the show treat ourselves to dinner at a nice restaurant.
And then there are all the holiday parties with all the holiday goodies and food! I mentioned earlier this week that for Christmas Eve we have a classic Italian Christmas Eve dinner, The Feast of the Seven Fishes, with my in-laws. And usually at my family’s Christmas party we have some sort of traditional southern fare like gumbo, fried chicken or barbecue.
And even though all those meals are amazing, what I really look forward to this time of year are all the special appetizers and desserts! Give me all the peppermint, eggnog and gingerbread recipes right now because unlike pumpkin or apple, we only get a few short weeks to enjoy these special flavors.
And I am totally fine going to a party and making a meal out of appetizers and truth be told, could snack all day on things like veggies with hummus, or cheese and crackers (particularly a block of cream cheese covered in raspberry chipotle jelly or pepper jelly) and those classic cocktail meatballs, ugh, I could totally eat those plain or served over rice.
Since I’m a totally fan girl of all the appetizers, I’m sharing an appetizer recipe today and have another planned sometime soon. And who knows, maybe more before New Year’s! Today’s appetizer recipe, this Pesto and Sun-Dried Tomato Cheese Torta, is one I made for multiple events all holiday season long last year.
I first made it for a holiday dinner party I did for a client, per their request. She had eaten a similar appetizer at a party she went to, jotted the down the recipe and some notes, after asking the host of that party for more details, and asked me to recreate it. The recipe below is the version I created. It is way easier than the recipe I was shown by my client, and I think is more party worthy, than most cheese torta recipes, with the addition of the pine nut and fresh basil garnish.
A cheese torta, sometimes called a cheese torte, is basically a fancy name for a cheese ball layered with other things, instead of mixed in. Today’s recipe is layered with pesto sauce and sun-dried tomatoes, but I’ve seen variations using olive tapenade, roasted red bell peppers and even fresh vegetables for the layers.
This holiday version, Pesto and Sun-Dried Tomato Cheese Torta, was such a hit at my client’s holiday party, that I then made it 3 more times for other holiday parties last year and so far once this year. Since you do have to let the cheese ball set in the bowl for several hours before inverting on a plate and serving, this recipe does require thinking ahead. But other than that, this cheese torta is SO incredibly easy, only uses five ingredients and will have all the party guests oohing and ahhing over how delectable and festive it is! I mean, the natural white, green and red colors just scream Christmas!
Helpful Tips and Information:
Make It Homemade – To keep things easy, I usually just buy store bought pesto for this recipe, but you could make your own using my Classic Pesto Sauce recipe.
Make Ahead – Since the cheese ball needs to be refrigerated for several hours to set, you can make this Pesto and Sun-Dried Tomato Cheese Torta recipe at least 24 hours in advance.
However, if you are short on time, I have placed the bowl with the cheese ball filling in the freezer for about 45-60 minutes to speed up the setting process.
If you like this Pesto and Sun-Dried Tomato Cheese Torta recipe, then you’ll love these other dip and cheese ball recipes:
Hot 7 Layer Dip
Christmas Cheese Tree
Layered Greek Dip
Red Velvet Cheese Ball
Artichoke and White Bean Dip
- 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
- 1 (8-ounce) package garlic herb goat cheese
- 1 (7-ounce) container prepared basil pesto
- 1 (8-ounce) jar minced oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, well drained
- 1/3 cup pine nuts
- Basil or parsley leaves, for garnish
Combine the cream cheese and goat cheese in a food processor. Cover and process until smooth and creamy. Set aside.
Line a 5-inch wide (at top) bowl with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic wrap firmly to the sides and bottom of the bowl and leaving several inches of plastic wrap hanging over the edges of the bowl (you may need several pieces of plastic wrap to do this). Spray plastic wrap with cooking spray.
Spoon about half of the cheese mixture into the bottom of the bowl; smooth top with spatula. Spoon pesto evenly over cheese layer. Spoon half of the remaining cheese mixture over the pesto layer; smoothing the cheese with a spatula. Spoon sun-dried tomatoes evenly over second layer of cheese. Spoon remaining cheese mixture over tomatoes, smoothing cheese with a spatula. Gently tap the filled bowl on the counter to pack down.
Cover the top of the cheese with the overhanging plastic wrap and add additional plastic wrap, if needed, to cover tightly. Refrigerate cheese torta for 6-8 hours, before serving.
Right before serving, place pine nuts in a small sauté pan over low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the pine nuts are golden brown. Set aside to cool completely.
When ready to serve, unwrap plastic from the top of the bowl. Turn bowl upside down onto a serving platter or plate and remove plastic wrap. Press toasted pine nuts onto the sides of the torta (to cover the layers) and top with fresh basil leaves. Serve with baguette slices or crackers.