Holiday Pesto Cheeseball Pinecone

Here, we’ve taken a traditional cheeseball and given it a bit of conifer flair. Too busy to make a pinecone? Feel free to roll the cheeseball in any kind of nut (like pine nuts or shelled pistachios) for a less labor-intensive but equally tasty dish.


  •  4 oz cream cheese, room temperature
  •  ¾ cup shredded whole milk mozzarella
  •  2 oz fresh goat cheese, room temperature
  •  ¼ cup grated parmesan
  •  2 tablespoons Armanino Pesto Sauce
  •  ⅛ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, optional
  •  ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  •  salt to taste
  •  2 cups sliced almonds
  •  fresh basil for garnish
  •  crackers for serving


  1. Allow at least 30 minutes for the cheeses to come to room temperature.
  2. To the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add all the ingredients – except the almonds and fresh basil. If you don’t have a standing mixer, a hand mixer or a wooden spoon and some good muscle will work too. If you go the spoon route, make sure the cream cheese is very soft.
  3. Beat on medium speed or stir vigorously until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice. Taste and add a little salt if needed.
  4. Scrape the mixture into a mound on a piece of plastic wrap, gather it gently and form a ball. Place in a small bowl to keep the shape round while it chills.
  5. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight until firm.
  6. Once well chilled, loosen the plastic wrap a little and roll on the counter to form a cone shape, wider at the top and tapering to a pointed end. Press and prod as needed to form the shape then carefully unwrap and place on a serving plate. If needed, clean up any rough spots with a knife to achieve the desired pinecone shape.
  7. Starting at the narrow pointed end, begin inserting the sliced almonds in rings, one layer at a time, overlapping slightly and pressing gently to adhere. Continue until the pinecone is fully covered. Don’t worry about neat perfect layers; it looks better if the almond placement is a little random.
  8. Garnish with a few fresh basil leaves at the top to represent pine needles. If not serving immediately, wrap loosely in plastic wrap as not to dislodge the almonds and refrigerate until needed. Let come to room temperature, about 30 minutes, and serve with crackers or fresh vegetables. Can be made up to two days ahead, however, the almonds will soften a little in the refrigerator.

Chef’s Tips

  • Pressing the almonds in overlapping layers helps achieve the pinecone visual but it does take time. If you’re not interested or a bit rushed, form the cheese mixture into a ball or log and roll in the sliced almonds or any chopped nut (pecans, pistachios, walnuts, pine nuts). Or place the cheese spread in a bowl and sprinkle the chopped nuts on top.
  • Want to mix it up? Stir in 2 tablespoons chopped drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, chopped kalamata olives or a few tablespoons marinated diced artichoke hearts.
6 servings
Prep Time
3 hours 30 minutes

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