It's been a little while between posts, but this one's a goodie and sure to become a midweek staple. The recipe for the pesto makes quite a bit so is perfect stored in a jar in the fridge and stirred through some pasta for a fast and nutritious meal! I made orecchiette from scratch, but would be just as lovely with any dried pasta. You could also use walnuts, pine nuts or even almonds instead of the hazelnuts and also omit the parmesan to make the recipe vegan-friendly!
FOR THE ORECCHIETTE
400g '00' Flour
FOR THE PESTO
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 whole dried chilli
100g roasted hazelnuts
1 bunch of cavolo nero, trimmed and washed
Zest of one lemon and juice of half
Extra virgin olive oil
1. For the orecchiette, place the flour in a bowl with a large pinch of salt. Slowly add water to the flour and mix until a stiff dough has formed. Turn onto a clean bench, bringing the dough together and knead until smooth. The dough should be firm and not sticky. Divide the dough into four pieces and working with one piece at a time, roll the dough into a sausage shape and cut the dough into small pieces. Using your finger or a knife, press down on each small piece with a slight flicking motion to create the orecchiette. Place orecchiette on a tray lined with a clean tea towel sprinkled with semolina to avoid them sticking. Repeat with remaining pieces of dough and set aside while you get on to the pesto.
2. For the pesto, bring a large pot of water to the boil and add the garlic and chilli. After a 3-4 minutes remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. If you like your pesto really garlicky and with a bigger chilli kick, you could skip this step and add the garlic and chilli into the processor raw, although if doing this I would just use one clove of garlic. Add the cavolo nero to the boiling water and blanch for 2 minutes. Remove from the water, drain and allow to cool briefly.
3. Add the hazelnuts, parmesan, garlic and chilli to a food processor and blitz until finely chopped. I like my pesto with quite a bit of texture, but you can blitz them for a little longer if you prefer a smoother consistency. Add the cavolo nero, lemon zest, juice and process until combined, adding olive oil in a steady stream until the consistency is to your liking. I tend to add just enough oil for the pesto to process well and then add some of the pasta cooking liquid when combining the pasta and pesto at the end to make the sauce creamy rather than overloading it with oil at this stage. Check for seasoning and set the pesto aside while you cook the pasta.
4. To cook the orecchiette, bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and cook the orecchiette until they float to the surface – it should only take a minute or two. I actually use the same pot of water I cooked the cavolo nero in but you can put a fresh pot on if you prefer. Drain the orecchiette and reserve some of the cooking liquid. Stir the pesto through the orecchiette, a little at a time, until the pesto to pasta ratio is to your liking – you should have quite a bit of pesto left over to use another time. Thin out if necessary with some of the reserved cooking liquid and check for seasoning. Serve immediately with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and, if desired, a little extra dried chilli and squeeze of lemon.