Rather than a making a dip, give this torta a try.  Similar to a savory cheesecake, the bright flavor of pesto and sundried tomoatoes are layered with creamy deliciousness.  This hearty spread will serve a large group and is a true crowd-pleaser.

It’s a bit time consuming to prepare and requires a fair amount of patience, but the end result is well worth it.  The torta can be prepared up to three days in advance and kept refrigerated.  It also freezes well and can be frozen for up to one month and defrosted in the refrigerator for 1 day before serving.  Be sure to make neat layers so each color is separate once inverted.

This recipe is adapted from a recipe originally found in Bon Appetit (August 1999).

Sundried Tomato & Pesto Torta

4 garlic cloves

1 1/2 cups (packed) fresh basil leaves

1/4 cup pine nuts

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1 2/3 cups cream cheese, room temperature (about 21 ounces)

1 cup goat cheese, softened

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1 1/3 cups oil-packed sundried tomatoes, drained

1/3 cup tomato paste

1/2 cup butter, room temperature

Nonstick vegetable oil spray

Fresh basil sprigs

Toasted pine nuts

Sourdough baguette slices, lightly toasted

To make pesto:  With the motor running, put garlic cloves through the feeding shoot of a food processor until garlic is minced.  Add basil, ¼ cup pine nuts, olive oil and lemon juice and process until well combined.  Add ¼ cup parmesan cheese and 1/3 cup cream cheese and pulse with basil mixture until mostly smooth and blended.  Transfer to a medium bowl.

To make sun-dried tomato pesto:  Puree tomatoes in food processor until smooth.  Add tomato paste and mix into tomato mixture.  Add 1/3 cup cream cheese and pulse with tomato until mostly smooth and blended.

To make goat cheese mixture:  Using electric mixer, beat 1 cups cream cheese, 1 cup goat cheese and softened butter in large bowl until fluffy.  Season with salt and pepper.

Spray 6-cup soufflé dish with nonstick spray.  Line with plastic wrap, extending plastic over sides.  Spread 3/4 cup goat cheese mixture into an even layer on the bottom of prepared dish.  Freeze for a few minutes to harden and help evenly spread next layer.  Top with half of tomato pesto, then 1/2 cup goat cheese mixture, then half of pesto mixture, using the back of a spoon to spread each layer and freezing for 2 minutes between each layer.  Repeat layering and freezing with 1/2 cup goat cheese mixture, remaining tomato pesto, 1/2 cup goat cheese mixture and remaining pesto.  Top with remaining goat cheese mixture.  Cover with plastic wrap and chill overnight.  (Can be made 3 days ahead and kept refrigerated, or frozen for up to 1 month and defrosted 1 day in advance.)

Invert torta onto platter by gently pulling edges of plastic wrap to lift torta out of prepared dish.  Peel off plastic and smooth any wrinkles with the edge of a knife run under hot water.  Top with sprigs of fresh basil and toasted pine nuts.  Serve with sourdough baguette slices.