I tested this recipe for a group of my teenage son’s friends and got unanimous approval. The hazelnuts are subtle enough that traditionalists won’t balk, and are healthier than pine nuts. There are degrees of dry jack—it becomes firmer as it ages—so select a firm aged piece that exhibits Parmesan-like qualities. Makes 1 1/2 cups.
• 2⁄3 cup hazelnuts
• 3 cups ‘Genovese’ basil leaves, rinsed, dried and packed
• 2 cloves garlic
• 1⁄2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• 3⁄4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• 2⁄3 cup grated dry jack cheese
• Salt to taste
1. Place hazelnuts in a baking pan and toast in a 325-degree oven until lightly browned and fragrant, about 7 minutes. Remove pan from oven and pour nuts in the center of a clean dish towel. Fold towel over hazelnuts so that they are completely enclosed; rub the towel in a back-and-forth motion so that the friction between the hazelnuts and towel removes the hazelnuts’ skin. Place hazelnuts on a cutting board and coarsely chop.
2. Add hazelnuts, basil, garlic and pepper to a food processor; mix until finely chopped. With machine off, scrape down sides with a spatula. While processor is running, pour oil in a steady stream through processor tube. Add cheese and process until just combined. Salt to taste.
3. This recipe makes enough pesto for 2 pounds of pasta, so if desired, toss half with cooked pasta (1 pound dried) and freeze the other half in a freezer-safe container. Use within 2 months.
Sophia Markoulakis is a San Francisco-based food and garden writer and recipe developer who focuses on how food and gardening intersect to create healthy and flavorful meals.
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