Hazelnut pesto

I can’t even remember the last time I made pesto — it must be decades ago. I do usually have a jar of commercial pesto in the fridge for perking up pasta dishes though. I was impelled to try by the massive bush of basil in the tub outside the door — I’ve never had such a flourishing plant, while everything else wilts in the heat.

I had some leftover roasted hazelnuts from a salad, so I used those instead of pine nuts. Excellent idea — the toasty flavour really came through. And fresh pesto is an eye-opener — so zingy and green. If you have a food processor, that’s the obvious tool — I didn’t replace mine when it broke, so I used the mini chopper to start with and finished off with a stick blender. I’m not hardcore enough to use a mortar and pestle.

This recipe makes a small jar — it will keep for about a week in the fridge covered with a slick of olive oil, but it’s best to use as soon as possible.

Quantities are approximate — use your judgement. I didn’t use as much olive oil as most recipes because I don’t like excess oiliness and prefer to thin it with pasta water. I didn’t use my best oil either, the other flavours are enough.

50 g toasted hazelnuts (see below)
2 large cloves of garlic
50 g fresh basil, leaves only
60 g freshly grated Parmesan
5-6 tbs olive oil

I bought blanched skinned hazelnuts and toasted them in a dry pan. If you have unblanched ones, spread them on a baking tray and roust them in a 180C oven for 10 minutes or so, stirring halfway through. Then tip them into a tea towel, scrunch up, and scrub vigorously between your hands to remove as much skin as possible.

Process the hazelnuts and garlic until finely ground. Add the basil and cheese and pulse until you have a thick paste. Now gradually add oil with the motor running until you have a consistency you like. Store in a small airtight jar covered with olive oil.

To use, boil your chosen pasta. When you drain it, reserve a little of the water. Return the pasta to the hot pan and add about a tablespoon of pesto per person, plus a little water. Use a fork to toss thoroughly, and add enough water to make a creamy sauce. You can garnish with extra Parmesan if you like.

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