Hazelnut pesto

A seasonal take on a classic pasta sauce, with woody hazelnuts, fresh parsley and the zing of lemon.


If traditional Genovese pesto, heady with basil, garlic and pine nuts, is like an edible essence of summer, then this is its autumnal counterpart. Hazelnuts, sweet and woody, are a staple of my baking life; here they’re recast in a savoury role. With them, parsley, and lots of it. I bring in just a note of lemon, yet even in the small quantity it gives this green paste real zing.

Hazelnut skins can be bitter, which is why we have to dutifully remove them when they’re being used in cakes, but here it’s not unwelcome. You can buy them skinned if you don’t want the bother, or DIY if you’re in the mood for a simple, repetitive task.

This is great with any pasta, and a tablespoon or so per person is all you need. I love it with pillowy gnocchi, tossed along with a teaspoon of butter, and a scattering of Parmesan or pecorino.

As long as there’s a layer of olive oil over it, it will keep in the fridge for a week. Try tossing it through some steamed green beans or new potatoes, too.

Hazelnut pesto


75g (½ cup) hazelnuts
30g (1 cup, packed) parsley leaves
½ teaspoon lemon zest, finely grated
½ teaspoon sea salt flakes
60ml (¼ cup) extra virgin olive oil
25g (½ cup) grated Parmesan cheese

Put the hazelnuts, parsley, lemon zest and salt in a small food processor. Pulse to break down.

Pour in the olive oil – with the motor running, if your processor allows it – until a thick paste forms. Scrape down and add just enough oil to create a pourable consistency.

Decant to a small bowl and stir in the Parmesan cheese. Cover and refrigerate until required.