Savory Pesto Cheesecake



Savory cheesecake…why not?  It’s like a pâté made with ricotta cheese.

Are you hosting a party and want something that can be prepared a day ahead, a treat that includes the greenery of summer and is also a hearty spread for crackers?   Need an afternoon munchable served as people drink their mojitos?   Here you go.   I use this appetizer both in the summer when the herbs are fresh, and in the winter when the frozen pesto brings a welcomed glimpse of warmer times.


Don’t be intimidated by the process!  Or if you are, try to overcome the urge to run.

It is recommended to bake it in a springform pan that has been buttered and shaken with breadcrumbs.  I didn’t have a springform, so instead I used the pan I use for pâté—I buttered it, lined it with parchment paper, buttered the parchment, then sprinkled gluten free toasted bread crumbs over that.   Lots of butter and layers that will help the baked cheesecake to separate from the pan when it is flipped upside down.




Bake in a water bath:  A water bath,  a.k.a. bain-marie (bath of Mary), is a method of gentle cooking in a pan that is immersed in another pan of hot water to help distribute the heat more evenly, whether it be on the stovetop or oven.  In the case of a cheesecake this method helps keep the oven moist and the top from cracking down the middle.

Soo….to which Mary does this bath belong?  At least four theories exist:  Maria de’ Cleofa who developed the technique;  the Virgin Mary (a gentle cooking method as she was gentle); Miriam, sister of Moses; or Mary, an ancient alchemist of Alexandria.


The water bath is the part of the process that often scares people.  You will need a pan slightly larger that the cheesecake pan, with enough water to reach at least halfway up the cheesecake depth.  Be careful that the water does not spill into the cheesecake while transporting it to the oven.  Or you could pour water into the larger pan in the oven first, then lower the cheesecake pan into it, still being careful of the water depth and splashes.


If you are concerned your springform pan will leak, wrap it in foil before setting it into the water bath.  Or use a different pan as I did.



After it has baked, let it cool and refrigerate for many hours or overnight.  Then flip upside down onto a tray—if you are using parchment paper, gently remove it.  Slather with sour cream and pesto, and if you have access to rehydrated sundried tomatoes they add a lovely tangy touch to the end.



The origins of this recipe is a favorite from the 1997 Joy of Cooking, adapted to include even more fresh herbs.

You could also view the savory cheesecake concept as a base idea, and experiment with other flavors:

  • sage
  • cilantro
  • oregano
  • dill
  • chervil
  • chipotle
  • roasted garlic
  • smoked paprika
  • curry
  • cumin
  • sauteed onions or shallots


Have fun!


Savory Pesto Herb Cheesecake

Prep Time:  15 minutes (not including pesto or breadcrumbs)    Bake Time:  1 hour

Finishing Time: 15 minutes (not including cooling time)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Have on hand:

1 1/4  cup Pesto (or more)

Breadcrumbs (Udi’s gluten free works for me!)


Prep the springform pan by buttering it and sprinkling with:


If you don’t have a springform, butter a pan, line it with parchment paper, lightly butter the parchment paper, then sprinkle with breadcrumbs.


In a bowl mix together:

3/4 cup Pesto

1/2 cup Sour Cream

1 pound Ricotta Cheese or Fresh Cheese

1 cup Parmesan Cheese

4 large Eggs

3 – 4 Tablespoons fresh Thyme, finely chopped

1 Tablespoon fresh Rosemary, finely chopped

Other Fresh Herbs, if you have them

2 teaspoons Lemon Zest

1 teaspoon Paprika

1/2 teaspoon Nutmeg

1-1 1/2 teaspoon Salt

1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper, freshly ground

Pour in to the pan lined with breadcrumbs, and bake in a water bath for around 1 hour—the center should be a little bit wobbly.

Let cool in the water bath, then remove from the water and refrigerate for at least 8 hours.

To remove: run a knife along the edge of the springform pan to separate the cheesecake from the sides.  Set a tray on the top of the pan and flip everything over so the cheesecake falls onto the tray.  If you used parchment paper, remove it carefully.

Smooth out the sides with your finger if there are cracks or breaks. 

Spread on top:

1/2 cup sour cream

Dabble on:

1/2 – 3/4 cup pesto

1/2 – 3/4 cup rehydrated sun-dried tomatoes, chopped

Store in the refrigerator.

Serve with crackers or sourdough bread.



This is a Stone and Marble showroom we visited near Green Bay a while ago.  The yard was full of stone fountains, statues, staircases and other examples of their trade.





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