another perfect sauce: hazelnut and sundried tomato pesto

hazelnut and sundried tomato pesto
A hazelnut and sundried tomato pesto will probably have Italian grandmothers from Calabria to Sicily gesticulating violently at this bastardisation of Italian cooking. But if a good idea works, what is the problem?
erhaps the old ladies will calm down once they have tasted this pesto as the intense nutty flavour of toasted hazelnuts with sweet dried tomatoes really is delicious.

I realise that what I have probably been doing is taking a leaf out of other Mediterranean grannies' recipes, from Spain and France to Turkey, because I think this sauce is really a bit of a trip; a a hint of picada, some aillade and a smidgen of tarator (a word I really like for some reason!).

Once I'd tasted this pesto I started to make more plans. That night we just had the pesto stirred into pasta with a roasted tomato salad. Over the next few days, the pesto then turned up on toast as a sort of amuse-bouche (well I know my mouth was happy), was dolloped on top of some cooked carrots, used to thicken a chorizo and butter bean stew and was lobbed generously onto a nutty artichoke soup. Absolute heaven.

Skill level: Easy

150g hazelnuts, lightly toasted
100g sundried tomatoes
2-3 x garlic cloves, roughly chopped
50g fresh flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
½ tsp smoked paprika or cayenne pepper (optional)
1 tsp sherry vinegar (or lemon juice)
50g grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese
a pinch of sugar (optional)
150-200ml extra virgin olive oil

  1. When I am using the sort of plan sundried tomatoes that come in a packet, as is, then I will soak them in a little boiling water before using as I think it makes them easier to blend. However, if you were to use the type of sundried tomatoes that come in oil, I wouldn't bother, but I would use some of their preserving oil in the pesto for extra sweet tomato flavour. I also reserve the soaking water for another time; it gets used in soups and cooked sauces with stock for extra flavour.
  2. If the hazelnuts have their skins on, then wrap the lot in a clean tea towel and rub gently to remove the skins. Personally I don't mind a bit of extra roughage, but some people do!
  3. Make the pesto by putting the hazelnuts, sundried tomatoes, garlic, parsley, paprika, vinegar, cheese into a food processor and whizz up to a course paste. Add a splash of the olive oil and begin to blend again. Taste to see how salty it is so that you can judge how much salt you will need to add before serving (since the cheese may be quite salty).
  4. Had about 100 millilitres of olive oil and blend again. Add more to get the right consistency.
  5. Check the seasoning. You may need to add a pinch of sugar and more salt to balance the flavours.

  • This makes the perfect topping for crostini or bruschetta.
  • Lovely dolloped onto soups or coating a piece of fish.
  • Use to thicken spicy stews or top vegetables such as cooked carrots or asparagus.
  • Replace the paprika with chilli flakes.
  • Add a few black or green olives for an extra umami hit.


o cozinheiro este algarve said...

This is a truly fine recipe.Never mind the Calabrian nonnas its time they moved on.I just love all your serving suggestions too.Plese may I colour match this and post on my Pinterest cooking with colour board?

Louise at Cake and Calico said...

Oh yum! Your pesto sounds delicious. I'm off to give it a try. Thank you for sharing.

belleau kitchen said...

love a twist on the pesto theme...

Marmaduke Scarlet said...

Algarve - pin it with pleasure! I really do want to get involved in your colour matching Pinterest project but at the moment, as mentioned, still having problems with my Pinterest boards . . . argh!

Marmaduke Scarlet said...

Louise - Hi! Nice to meet you - I have started following you on twitter!

Marmaduke Scarlet said...

Dom - I think I may be going through a pesto obsession at the moment - just about any herb or nut is fair game, though some less successful than others. Still my awful coriander pesto got bunged into a curry where it worked a treat!

Karen S Booth said...

A GENIUS idea for pesto Rachel and one that I must try, as I have a bag of hazelnuts that need using! Karen

Johanna GGG said...

Looks fantastic! I have found a similar recipe for walnut pesto but I might steal a few ideas from you because this is so full of things I love!

Marmaduke Scarlet said...

I have really loved it. Yesterday we had artichoke soup, which frankly didn't needed anything else to jazz it up but needless to say it got the last dollop of pesto from the jar and was simply gorgeous (sorry I am blowing my own trumpet but it was fab!)

Marmaduke Scarlet said...

Joanna - steal away. Let me know how you get on and I shall probably steal back!