Basil, Hazelnut and Ricotta Pesto

2009-Autumn-Oregon-Food-Recipe-Portland-Nostrana-chef-Cathy-Whims
Chef Cathy Whims from Nostrana in Portland.
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At Nostrana in Portland, chef Cathy Whims adds hazelnuts to bring an Oregonian flair to her pesto sauce, rich with Parmesan cheese, basil and extra virgin olive oil. Whims, who was a finalist this year for the prestigious James Beard Award for the best chef in the Northwest, said the hazelnut adds a lightly toasted nut flavor to her rustic Italian cuisine.

“I like cooking with hazelnuts because they are such great local treasure,” says Whims. “Also they are a highly prized nut from my favorite region of Italy—Piemonte. They find their way into many traditional Piemontese dishes here at Nostrana such as Brutti e Buoni cookies (‘ugly and good’ hazelnut meringues); gianduja gelato (chocolate hazelnut); and salsa verde, a green nut sauce.”

This recipe is a wonderful room-temperature sauce for salmon, halibut, tuna, chicken breasts and, of course, fettuccine and potato gnocchi.

 

Ingredients:

2 cloves garlic, peeled

2 cups basil leaves, tightly packed

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

¼ cup hazelnuts lightly toasted and skins off

½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

3 tablespoons fresh ricotta cheese (preferably sheep’s milk)

2 tablespoons butter at room temperature

 

Directions:

Finely chop hazelnuts. In a mortar and pestle, crush garlic to a puree with a pinch of salt. Add to a food processor along with basil. Pulse on and off until basil is chopped, then let run while pouring olive oil through the feed tube. Remove from processor to a bowl, fold in Parmigiano, ricotta and butter and season with salt.

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