I’m always on the lookout for a crowd pleasing, easy, appetizer for those last minute get togethers or weekends at the lake. This recipe for Pesto Caprese Dip is one of those recipes that I make again and again that requires minimal effort but packs a maximal punch. It requires only a few ingredients and can be prepared ahead of time and baked just before you’re ready to serve it, which makes it perfect for entertaining. The Pesto Caprese Dip takes advantage of the late summer bounty of cherry tomatoes and fresh basil, but if you have a source for good basil in the winter, it’s really a great recipe year round. Even my picky eater husband (who hates tomatoes!) gobbles it up. It’s rare that there are any left overs! The recipe is adapted from an appetizer a neighbor and dear friend (Hi Kara!) shared with me last summer (find the original here) and I’ve tweaked it over time to reflect my personal tastes but I will say, the original is a mighty fine option as well, particularly if you’ve run out of pesto or just don’t like it.
Now, I’ll confess: I buy my pesto. I know, I know. I should be hanging my head in shame but honestly I can’t because, I use Kirkland Signature Basil Pesto. You guys, this stuff is SO. DARN. GOOD and I pretty much always have a jar on hand or some in the freezer. If you want to make your own, I really like the Food52 methods/recipes described here. If you’re like me, though, and you want easy AND good: get the Costco stuff. I won’t judge. Another short cut I really like? Buying the toasted pine nuts at Trader Joes. They are delicious, relatively affordable (for pine nuts, any way) and save me the inevitable cursing I do when I inadvertently burn my pine nuts when attempting to toast them. #confession. You can serve the dish with bread (it’s great on little crostini) or crackers. I may or may not just eat it with a spoon sometimes.
The dish takes about 25-30 minutes to bake in a 425 degree oven. I love little bits of slightly burned cheese on the edges, so I let mine go more toward the 30 minute mark. If you don’t love that, take it out when the cheese mixtures just start to bubble. My final piece of advice for this lovely dish: let it rest. It’s gonna smell great and you will be sooooooo tempted to dive right into the cheesy, tomato-y goodness the millisecond it comes out of the oven but I implore you – wait. If you value your tastebuds and don’t want to scald off the roof of your mouth, give it a good 5 minutes. That will allow those delicious, juicy, but boiling little tomatoes to cool down to the point where they are a delightful explosion of sweetness and not a three alarm fire in your mouth.
Ok friends, I’m off to stuff my face with more Pesto Caprese Dip. Have a great weekend and we’ll see you on Monday!
- 4 tablespoons pesto
- 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
- ¾ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- 3 tablespoons basil, chopped
- Fresh cracked pepper, to taste
- 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, torn into small-medium pieces (if using mozzarella packed in water, pat pieces dry with paper towels before adding to dish)
- 8 ounces fresh cherry tomatoes
- A small handful of pine nuts
- Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.
- Spread the pesto in the bottom of a small baking pan.
- In a bowl, gently fold together the cream cheese, shredded mozzarella, basil, and pepper.
- Dollop the cheese mixture on top of the pesto and use clean fingers to gently spread it throughout the pan.
- Top with the torn fresh mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, and some additional sliced basil (for garnish).
- Bake at 425 degrees for 25-30 minutes.
- Allow to cool slightly.
- Top with a sprinkling of pine nuts.