Jokes aside, mascarpone is magical stuff. Is it a cream? Is it a cheese? Is it a decadent hybrid of both? Don't care. Pass the spoon.
A few weekends ago I was in Rome. Amid the tsunami of delicious food, I tried basil and walnut gelato and, oh my, it was good. (I also tried ricotta with truffle honey, but in a cake I imagine that would be both scary and luxurious, a bit like Joan Crawford).
So instead, here is a winning combination: basil, walnut, mascarpone and chocolate. An Italian take on a cheesecake, this is light, creamy, not too sweet, nutty, chocolatey and deeply satisfying.
Best of all, it requires no cooking, so can be made in a tiny kitchen with no oven somewhere in the heart of Trastevere... or you know, in a tent in Skegness.
Torta di Basilico (Basil and Walnut Mascarpone Cheesecake)
You will need:
- 120g plain digestive biscuits (preferably whole-wheat variety)
- 60g butter
- 60g dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa content)
- 500g mascarpone
- 6 tbsp icing sugar
- 30g fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
- 80g walnuts, crushed
- Whole basil leaves, to decorate
- Crumble the biscuits into small pieces. (Bash lightly with the end of a rolling pin to speed up the process).
- Melt the butter, then stir into the biscuit mix. Transfer to a 20cm round dish or tin at least 7cm deep, and press down firmly across the bottom to form the biscuit base.
- Melt the chocolate in a bain-marie (a glass bowl set over some boiling water) or in 20 second blasts in the microwave, stirring frequently.
- Pour the chocolate over the biscuit layer and smooth out until even. Cover and chill whilst you make the mascarpone topping.
- Place the mascarpone in a large bowl. Sift in the icing sugar and stir well. (You may want to add a little more, according to taste). Add the finely chopped basil and walnuts and mix until well combined.
- Spoon onto your biscuit base, smoothing towards the edges until even.
- Cover and return to the fridge, chilling overnight or for at least an hour.
- Decorate with a sprig of fresh basil leaves.
- For maximum Italian-points, devour with a tiny cup of very strong coffee whilst yelling the day's gossip through the window at your neighbour.