Formaggio al Basilico

 

Fresh, quality ingredients are important for this dish

Gruff Junction goat cheese and home-made mascarpone

 

This appetizing Italian cheese paté flavoured with basil is easy to prepare and makes a decorative centerpiece for the table. The custom of mixing herbs with cheese is a very old one, and often spices were added as well. The combination is mentioned in the recipe collection of an anonymous Tuscan writer, as far back as the fourteenth century. This particular recipe is one I adapted from Lorenza Di Medici, the matriarch of Italian fine cooking. Like all good Italian recipes, the beauty of the dish is in its simplicity. Its success depends on using good quality ingredients. I was inspired to make this dish recently when Graeme sourced an excellent local olive oil from a small family-run olive plantation west of Christchurch. The oil’s peppery, grassy notes go so well in this dish. Teamed with some mild Gruff Junction soft goat’s cheese from the Lyttelton Farmer’s market and some home-made mascarpone the flavour of this recipe is so much more than the sum of its parts. If you don’t like goat’s cheese or can’t get fresh mascarpone then try a combination of cream cheese and a mild feta.

  • 180g fresh goat cheese
  • 180g mascarpone cheese
  • 1 large bunch basil (about 30 leaves)
  • ¼ cup (60ml) extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and freshly ground pepper

    Use grissini, crostini or celery stalks to serve

    A delicious, easy appetiser for a family gathering

Thoroughly mix the two cheeses together. Place half the cheese in a small serving bowl and smooth out the top. Tear half of the basil leaves (basil is better torn rather than cut because it bruises so easily)and lay them over the cheese completely covering it. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of the oil over the basil layer. Season with freshly ground salt and pepper. Add the remaining cheese in another layer. Garnish with the remaining basil around the edges. Pour on the remaining oil, and season again with freshly ground salt and pepper. Serve with crusty bread or grissini, crostini or celery stalks.

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