Categories: Food+Drink Recipes

Basil, Hazelnut and Ricotta Pesto

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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