Fanny Slater is the winner of The Rachael Ray Show’s Great American Cookbook Competition. A native of Raleigh, she now lives in Wilmington, North Carolina, where she is a recipe developer and teaches fun, interactive cooking classes as part of her self-made business, Fanfare. She is also a food writer, restaurant critic, and has appeared numerous times on television, including The Rachael Ray Show. Orange, Lavender, & Figs (published by Rachael Ray Books, a division of Atria Books and the Simon & Schuster, Inc., our sister company) is now available wherever books are sold.
Cream cheese and pesto in the same sentence? Don’t worry, you’re not dreaming. The name may sound fancy, but just a few buzzes of the food processor and you’re on your way to whipping up this savory spreadable sauce filled with fluffy cream cheese and tart lemon.
Sunflower Seed-Cream Cheese Pesto
Makes About 1½ Cups
- ¼ cup unsalted raw sunflower seeds
- 2 small cloves garlic
- Kosher salt and coarse black pepper
- ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1½ cups packed fresh basil leaves
- 1 teaspoon honey
- Juice of 1 lemon
- ½ cup olive oil
- ½ cup whipped cream cheese
- In a dry small skillet, toast the sunflower seeds over medium-low heat, tossing frequently, until lightly golden and very fragrant, about 5 minutes. Immediately remove the seeds from the pan and transfer to a bowl to stop the cooking process.
- In a food processor, pulse the sunflower seeds, garlic, and a generous pinch each of salt and pepper until the seeds are broken down. Add the parmesan, basil, honey, and lemon juice and pulse until thoroughly combined. With the motor running, stream in the olive oil a little bit at a time until the pesto is velvety.
- Add the cream cheese to the food processor and pulse until the pesto is very creamy and smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- This spreadable sauce ain’t just for spreadin’. Toss it with al dente elbow noodles and sharp cheddar, pour into a soup crock, top with parmesan, and bake until golden for the mack daddy of mac and cheese.
- Sunflower seeds are the perfect substitute for pricey pine nuts—which typically go in pesto. They also work as a fantastic variation for those with nut allergies. Can’t find sunflower seeds? Roasted unsalted pumpkin seeds work like a charm.