Love hazelnuts, love this pasta that's ready in no time

 09 Aug 2016 - 16:44

Love hazelnuts, love this pasta that's ready in no time
Hazelnut Pasta (Photo: Deb Lindsey / The Washington Post)

 

By Bonnie S. Benwick
Hazelnuts have been favoured for centuries and that's not just because the nuts have a little sweetness when toasted/roasted - and really, they should be sold that way. Or because they are close to almonds in healthful properties: low in saturated fats; a good source of fiber, potassium and vitamin E. It's not because they were deemed "one of the five sacred nourishments God bestowed on human beings" in an ancient Chinese manuscript, according to Oregon's Hazelnut Industry Office.

It is because they are so very versatile and complement so many flavors. So it's no surprise that they are the star of this main course, included in a cookbook of Mediterranean recipes designed for folks who need to follow a low-glucose regimen. But be assured: This pasta is all about being delicious.

Hazelnut Pasta

2 or 3 servings

Serve with a salad of peppery greens.

Adapted from "Mediterranean Cooking for Diabetics: Delicious Dishes to Control or Avoid Diabetes," by Robin Ellis (Little Brown, 2016).

Ingredients

3 ounces skinned hazelnuts

2 to 3 cloves garlic

2 small dried chili peppers (may substitute 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes; omit the chilies' chopping step)

Leaves from 2 to 4 stems flat-leaf parsley

Kosher or fine sea salt

7 ounces dried whole-wheat penne or dried gemelli

3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for optional drizzling

1 teaspoon hazelnut oil (optional)

2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, shaved or grated

2 tablespoons finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Steps

Bring a pot of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the hazelnuts on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake the nuts for 5 to 7 minutes or until fragrant and lightly browned, with a slight sheen. Cool slightly, then coarsely chop by hand or in a mini-food processor.

Meanwhile, use the flat side of a chef's knife to smash the garlic cloves (to taste) on a cutting board, then mince and smash to form a coarse paste. Seed, then chop the dried chilies. Chop the parsley.

Add a generous pinch of salt and the pasta to the boiling water; cook according to the package directions until al dente (slightly underdone).

As the pasta cooks, heat the olive oil and hazelnut oil, if using, in a medium saute pan over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and cook for a few minutes, until fragrant. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the garlic to a small bowl (so it doesn't darken further).

Add the chopped dried chilies to the saute pan. Cook for about 3 minutes, then stir in the parsley. Use a Microplane zester to grate the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese over the saute pan, then add the Pecorino Romano cheese to the pan as well.

Drain the pasta, reserving 2 to 3 tablespoons of its cooking water. Add the pasta to the saute pan, along with the chopped hazelnuts, sauteed garlic and some or all of the reserved cooking water, as needed. Toss to coat evenly; taste, and add salt, as needed.

Divide among individual wide, shallow bowls; drizzle each portion with a little more olive oil, if desired. Serve right away.

NOTE: To skin hazelnuts, bring a few inches of water to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add about 1 teaspoon of baking soda and then the hazelnuts. Boil for several minutes, until the water turns dark brown and the skins begin to easily peel off the nuts. (You can test one by removing it from the pot, running it under cool water and seeing how well the skin slips off.) Drain the nuts, let them cool until you can handle them, and then use your fingers to remove the skins.

Nutrition | Per serving (based on 3): 610 calories, 23 g protein, 53 g carbohydrates, 38 g fat, 7 g saturated fat, 15 mg cholesterol, 420 mg sodium, 10 g dietary fiber, 1 g sugar

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