Truly, the finest crop of hazelnuts can be found in the hinterlands of Piedmont, in Northern Italy. And the famed hazelnuts are in good company, too - Piedmont is similarly renowned for its fine wines (including Barolo, a favourite of ours), truffles and exquisite cheeses. Piedmontese hazelnuts, known as “Nocciola del Piemonte IGP”, or “tonda gentile trilobata” in the vernacular, are renowned for their sweeter, more delicate qualities, and intense aroma after roasting. Smaller in size than other varieties, the distinct nutty flavour of these hazelnuts ensure their revered status. As such, production methods for this fine crop are closely measured - trees are limited in number and space, and farmers must allow the hazelnuts to ripen and fall to the ground without interference. These production methods also maintain the crops rarity. That being said, if you can get your hands on the sublime Piedmontese hazelnut, we recommend transforming the dish into a nutty and moreish pesto, as we do in the following recipe.
We blend hazelnuts with fresh basil and parsley, lending their aromatic flavour and vibrant colour to the dish. While hazelnuts add a distinctly more nutty and sweet flavour to the pesto, the signature creaminess of the dish (often derived from rich pine nuts) is achieved via sharp cheese and olive oil. This earthy twist on the traditional pesto is one that is sure to please!
Our earthy hazelnut pesto recipe
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 10 minutes
Calories per serving: 248 kcal per serving (excludes pasta)
- ½ cup raw hazelnuts
- 1 cup basil, cleaned and chopped
- 1 cup parsley, cleaned and chopped
- ⅓ cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- Salt, to taste
- Pestle and mortar
Chef’s tip: If you don’t have a pestle and mortar at home, you can use a food processor. We like a pesto that has a slightly rustic texture so be sure not to over grind.
- Begin by gently toasting the hazelnuts in a dry frying pan over medium heat. Keep moving the hazelnuts to prevent burning - you’ll know they’re ready once fragrant and nutty in aroma.
- Remove any remaining skin from the hazelnut, by gently rolling the toasted nuts between a kitchen towel. Don’t worry if some stubborn skin remains - you’ll barely notice this in the finished pesto.
- Add the hazelnuts and garlic to a pestle and mortar, and begin to crush the contents, before grinding in a circular motion, to form a rugged paste. You may need to do this in more than one batch. Remove the contents from the mortar, and set to one side.
- Put the basil, parsley, garlic and salt in the mortar and grind until creamy.
- Add the grated Parmigiano Reggiano and nuts, and continue to grind until they begin to break down and combine with the mixture.
- Slowly drizzle the olive oil into the mixture, and continue mixing until a rugged yet creamy paste is formed. We recommend leaving it a little rustic as this will help it adhere to the pasta. Taste and adjust for seasoning.
- The pesto is best eaten straight away, but can be kept in clean mason jars and stored in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Chef’s Tip: We recommend pairing this fresh hazelnut pesto with strands of fresh tagliatelle, which hail from the Emilia-Romagna region in the north of Italy. These rich ribbons of egg pasta deftly capture the rugged pesto. Buon appetito.
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