It’s never easy to say goodbye to summer. But September helps soften the blow. It’s my favorite month, the “bridge” month in which it’s perfectly fine to keep eating caprese salads and grilled flank steak, but also nice to pivot to something slightly richer that leans towards fall.
For me, that means hazelnuts. Hazelnuts are a September crop, in Italy and elsewhere, and they fittingly star in this slightly unconventional but wholly delicious pasta dish of homemade farfalle (bowties) tossed with a creamy basil-free pesto. Both the pasta dough and the hazelnut pesto are spiked with unsweetened cocoa, which imparts a lovely fall color to the farfalle and the faintest bittersweet tinge to the sauce.
I was tasked with coming up with a pasta recipe using one of the tools from QB Cucina, an online purveyor of Italian pasta tools. I chose a double-headed fluted pasta cutter to make the farfalle—and I paired the recipe with a 2016 Michele Chiarlo Tortoniano Barolo, a big, elegant wine from Piemonte.
I admit to being something of a cliché when it comes to pairing food and wine, and by that I mean I usually leave it to my husband to choose the wine. But I was determined to crack this nut, so to speak, on my own (though he did serve as my official food & wine pairing taster). To that end, I put my trust in a favorite truism: what grows together goes together. Barolo, made from Nebbiolo grapes, is produced in the Langhe area of Piemonte; this same area, with its soft green hills, is also where the region’s best hazelnuts are grown (you can buy them online at Gustiamo). In this case, the truism served me well. The cocoa pasta and toasty pesto, rich in hazelnut oil and cream, stood up well to the wine’s tannins and structure.
If you get my newsletter, you already know about my love for Italian pasta tools (I wrote about it at length in the March issue). QB Cucina has some beauties, as well as other Italian kitchenware products for Italian food lovers, so be sure to click around. And if, like me, you’re not always confident about wine, you can always browse through the Learn About Wine section on Wine365: you’ll find lots of good seasonal wine and food pairings, plus solid advice on how to choose wine.
Cocoa Farfalle with Hazelnut Pesto
The cocoa pasta is a simple riff on my basic egg pasta dough; the hazelnut pesto is a slight adaptation of a recipe in “Regional Foods of Northern Italy: Recipes and Remembrances,” by Marlena De Blasi. Don’t be intimidated at the thought of shaping farfalle; they are simply little pasta rectangles that have been pinched together. You can view the technique on my Instagram feed.