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penne with hazelnut pesto

Pesto is by far my most favorite sauce with pasta. Traditionally, pesto is made with pine nuts. In this recipe, it is made with roasted hazelnuts. Trust me when I say you’ll probably never use pine nuts again for your pesto, and I don’t even like hazelnuts! As a bonus, I’m posting two variants of the hazelnut pesto, just because its THAT good! The first one is a goat cheese hazelnut pesto, and the second is pesto with pecorino Romano and béchamel sauce. Both recipes have been adapted from Mario Batali’s ‘Simple Italian Food’.



  • 1 cup hazelnut pesto
    • 2 cups fresh basil leaves
    • 1 garlic clove
    • 1/4 cup roasted hazelnuts
    • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
    • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 4 ounces goat cheese
  • 1/2 cup pecorino romano
  • 1 cup bechamel sauce
    • 2 tbsp. butter
    • 2 tbsp. flour
    • 2 cups milk
    • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
    • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 8 ounces penne


  1. Boil the pasta according to the package instructions. Drain and set aside.
  2. Place the basil, garlic, hazelnuts, salt and pepper in a food processor and pulse a few times to chop. With the machine on, drizzle in the olive oil and blend till the sauce is smooth. Transfer to a bowl and whisk in the goat cheese to a smooth consistency.
  3. Follow the same steps as above, but omit the goat cheese. Instead, add the pecorino into the food processor and blend till the sauce is smooth. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
  4. Melt the butter on medium heat in a saucepan and add the flour. Whisk for a few minutes till the mixture turns a light brown. Add in the milk while whisking to ensure the mixture doesn’t get lumpy. Cook on medium heat, whisking occasionally till it gets thick. Turn off the heat then add in the hazelnut pesto. Whisk till smooth.
  5. Toss the cooked penne into the pesto sauce and stir together over very low heat for 1 minute, until thoroughly coated. Pour into a warm serving dish and top with either goat cheese crumbles or pecorino, and some chili flakes if you like it spicy!

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