When talking about food, if you’ve heard the term “margherita,” it was likely in reference to pizza toppings. Margherita is a womans name. It’s the Italian version of Margaret. In food lingo it means you’ve mixed tomato, cheese (usually mozzarella) and basil together. I have no idea why the name began to mean “tomato, cheese and basil.” I just know it’s delicious.
This stuffed mushroom recipe I must credit to my sister. She made a large entrée version of these one night several years ago, with large portabella mushroom caps, big slices of tomato, grated mozzarella, pesto and a layer of shaved prosciutto. It was delicious. Some time later I wanted a yummy appetizer because I was going to be entertaining and so shrunk the dinner size mushrooms down to these mini ones.
These make a great appetizer, side or lunch. They reheat in the oven easily. You can fix them up ahead of time and place them in the fridge until time to cook them in the oven and serve.
They are a little labor intensive only because you must tend to each little mushroom but still simple to make. They are a great thing to have the kids help prepare. My daughter, who’s 6, likes to spread the pesto in each mushroom while I chop the other ingredients.
You can prepare your own pesto if you like. You may even have your own basil growing! Pesto is a great way to use it up when the plant gets large. Pesto can be frozen in ice cube trays, for example, if you want to make it in bulk. Here’s a tutorial if you want to make your own – CLICK
If you want to purchase some pesto look for one with basil, nuts, parmesan and an oil, preferably olive oil. There may be a little salt or lemon juice added, too. An organic product is a bonus. You can freeze what you do not use or apply it in other ways throughout the week such as on meat, pasta, crusty bread, over goat cheese and baked in the oven (eaten with crackers), etc. It does keep in the refrigerator for quite some time, however, without needing to be frozen.
You can make this meatless if you prefer. I call for beef or turkey bacon because it’s leaner and less fat or liquid cooking out in the mushrooms, the better, I think, because mushrooms can release a lot of their own juices when cooked.
Choosing a mozzarella that is low moisture (firm when you squeeze it) can help to dice it up and also keeps extra liquid from cooking off into the mushrooms. I have even used a mozzarella cheese stick before because that’s all I had! If you have access to homemade mozzarella through a dairy or other resource, or make it yourself, that’s the best!
If you just have regular bacon and don’t have very firm mozzarella it’s OK! This isn’t a deal-breaker.
Here’s our Margherita Stuffed Mushrooms (w/ a few additions)!
Makes 14-16 baby portabella (or white) mushrooms Takes 45 min to an hour from start to finish.
- 2 standard size packages baby bella or white mushrooms about 1 lb
- 1/3 C or so basil pesto store-bought or homemade – see notes in post
- 2 strips turkey or beef bacon OR the equivalent amount of prosciutto or pancetta chopped
- 1 smaller tomato about 1/3 C, chopped
- 1/3 C mozzarella the low-moisture variety is easiest – see notes in post, chopped
- A sprinkle of salt & black pepper
- Right before you put the mushrooms in the oven shake a little balsamic vinegar or drizzle a bit of balsamic reduction over each one! That takes it over the top.
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
- Wipe each mushroom with a dry or slightly damp paper towel or cloth. No need to get them wet or be too over-zealous.
- Remove the stem from each mushroom and place them all in an oven proof baking dish so they look like a bunch of little bowls.
- Using a butter knife or something similar spread a tad bit of pesto into the bottom of each mushroom. Leave room for more filling. (You can have your kiddo do this part while you chop).