In recent years, nut and seed oils have garnered a lot of interest in professional kitchens. They can bring a variety of flavours and aromas to dishes that you can’t get from olive oil.
Ask a chef from a Michelin-starred kitchen, and they'll probably say that some of the best nut oils are made by Pariani. Their Italian nut oils were developed with the help of chefs like Ferran Adrià - one of the best chefs in the world today. Pariani use only the finest Italian nuts, many of which hold protected designation of origin (DOP) or protected geographical indication (IGP) status.
Pariani's most popular oil is their Piemonte IGP hazelnut oil. Read on to find out what hazelnut oil tastes like, how it's made, how to use hazelnut oil and where to buy it.
What Does Hazelnut Oil Taste Like?
As you may expect, hazelnut oil generally tastes just like, well, hazelnuts! But in oil form the flavour can be more intense than eating whole hazelnuts. This is usually because the hazelnuts are roasted before being ground or pressed to make the oil. Toasting the nuts 'concentrates' the flavour - but roast too much, and your nut oil can taste bitter.
Pariani Piemonte IGP hazelnut oil is a blend of oils extracted from roasted and raw hazelnuts. As mentioned above, the intensity of flavour comes from the roasted nuts. So how do the raw hazelnuts change the flavour? The raw nut oil balances the intense toasted notes with fresher, ‘greener’ notes. Pariani's blended hazelnut oil is therefore less bitter and truer to the hazelnuts’ flavour. But not just any hazelnuts - Pariani only uses Piemonte, or Piedmont, IGP hazelnuts. These are generally considered the finest variety in the world. Pariani hazelnut oil epitomises the flavour of hazelnuts with an unmistakeably pure hazelnut flavour and aroma.
How Is Hazelnut Oil Made?
Hazelnut oil is made by cold-pressing hazelnuts in a hydraulic press. Some producers may grind the nuts first and then press the pulp, others will press the nuts whole. Pariani are an example of a company that cold-presses whole hazelnuts.
Cold-pressing means that the nuts are put in large, metal presses and crushed at temperatures below 40°C to extract the oil. Manufacturers can get more oil per kg by heating the nuts during the pressing process, but this lowers the nutritional value of the oil and can also be detrimental to the flavour. Cold-pressing is therefore more expensive per litre, but the oil produced is of a much higher quality - both nutritionally and in terms of taste.
Ferran Adrià, one of the world's best and most influential chefs, tastes Pariani Piemonte IGP hazelnut oil.
To make sure Pariani would produce the best hazelnut oil possible, they consulted with experts and chefs like Ferran Adrià and Massimo Bottura during the development stages. Pariani's Piemonte IGP hazelnut oil is even used in some of the world’s greatest kitchens, including three Michelin-starred restaurants such as Enoteca Pinchiorri in Florence and The French Laundry in California.
What Goes Well With Hazelnut Oil?
Pariani hazelnut oil loves fresh egg pasta, mushrooms, carpaccios of meat and almost all fish. Potatoes, sharp cheddar-style cheese, pumpkin, creamy risottos, asparagus – there’s really very little that can’t be improved with a drizzle of hazelnut oil! It comes into its own as a finishing flavour – either in a dressing with a little red wine vinegar and fresh herbs, or simply as a final garnish before serving. Bitter salad leaves like chicory and radicchio, or green vegetables like kale and broccoli, are also perfect partners for hazelnut oil.
Poached quail egg in broccoli cream with Pariani Piemonte IGP hazelnut oil & gold - Enoteca Pinchiorri, 3 Michelin stars
If you want to know how to use hazelnut oil in cooking, it does wonderful things in the pan, too. Use a couple of tablespoons of hazelnut oil to pan-fry freshly homemade ravioli, perhaps stuffed with pumpkin, sage and ricotta. It lends the ravioli a delicately nutty aroma that’s quite different to using chopped hazelnuts as a garnish or in the filling. Or gently fry onions and garlic in hazelnut oil and add chopped San Marzano tomatoes to transform a simple pasta sauce into haute cuisine. Just remember to keep the heat medium to low - a searingly high heat will destroy the beautiful flavours of the oil!
Even mayonnaise can be elevated from its status as a humdrum, everyday condiment with Pariani hazelnut oil. Follow in the footsteps of Michelin-starred restaurant, La Credenza, and use the hazelnut oil instead of olive oil to make your best mayonnaise yet. It’s especially good with peppery greens like rocket, fresh asparagus and Parma ham.
And it’s not just savoury dishes. Chocolatiers and patissiers will love using Pariani hazelnut oil, too. Bring tempting hazelnut notes to chocolate truffles without compromising on texture, or use to enhance the flavour of a hazelnut sponge.
Pariani Piemonte IGP hazelnut oil & apple mousse, apple puree and hazelnut sponge - La Credenza, 1 Michelin star
What To Cook With Hazelnut Oil
The following recipes will give you an idea of what you can cook with Pariani Piemonte IGP hazelnut oil, and will hopefully inspire you to try it in an even greater variety of dishes.
Pasta with pan-fried mushrooms and garlic is already a crowd-pleasing combination. Add in the sweet-savoury nutty flavours of Pariani hazelnut oil and you’ve got an irresistible meal that’s effortless in its execution.
A chunky, hearty soup with plenty of fragrant fresh herbs and a wonderful earthiness from porcini mushrooms. The hazelnut oil toasts add a pleasing contrast in texture as well as a burst of nutty sweetness. It’s comfort food with a gourmet edge, and is equally enjoyable whether you’re curled up on the sofa or serving it in a restaurant.
This recipe is an excellent example of how Pariani hazelnut oil works with different cuisines. Here, it works together with Japanese tamari soy sauce and sesame seeds to bring a tempting hazelnut aroma to pan-fried salmon.
Where Can I Buy Hazelnut Oil?
You can buy cheaper hazelnut oils in most supermarkets. They're a good option if you just want try hazelnut oil for the first time. However, these can start to taste off quite quickly.
A better option is La Tourangelle hazelnut oil, which you can buy right here! It's made in France from roasted and ground hazelnuts in a traditional French oil mill. The hazelnut oil is rich with a slightly sweet flavour, and is great on salads. You can even use this pure hazelnut oil in your beauty routine! It does wonders for dry, damaged skin or hair.
But for the absolute best hazelnut oil, we recommend Pariani Piemonte IGP hazelnut oil. You can also buy this wonderful hazelnut oil here at Sous Chef. Unlike cheap hazelnut oil, Pariani hazelnut oil lasts for much longer in the right storage conditions - a cool, dark place away from strong odours. And, of course, the flavour is unparalleled.
What Are Some Other Nut Oils?
Following on from the success of Piedmont IGP hazelnut oil, Pariani turned their attention to other superb Italian nuts and seeds. Sicily’s Bronte DOP pistachios and organic pine nuts from the protected natural park of San Rossore in Tuscany were the next two ingredients to meet Pariani's oil press.
Bronte DOP pistachios are also known as Sicily’s ‘green gold’. They are highly sought after for their brilliant emerald hue and unrivalled flavour that has almost no bitterness.
Pariani Bronte DOP pistachio oil is available in two formats – roasted and raw. Unlike the Piedmont IGP hazelnuts, Mattia found that Bronte pistachios produced exceptional oil whether roasted or raw – he saw no need to blend them, though of course you can experiment in your own cooking. Each is markedly pistachio, yet each brings something different to the table.
The roasted pistachio oil is more intense, more distinctly nutty and excellent with both sweet pastries and savoury carpaccios of fish.
The raw pistachio oil is subtler with a delicate sweetness, and partners perfectly with creamy cheese like ricotta, seafood salads and even fresh fruit.
Try the following recipes with both raw and roasted pistachio oils - or perhaps once with pistachio oil and once with olive oil - to see how the overall dish changes and get a feel for how to use Bronte DOP pistachio oil in your cooking.
Using only four ingredients plus seasoning, this pared back salad is a great accompaniment to chicken dishes. Or present in canape spoons for a simple yet flavourful appetiser.
There's one thing that many of these recipes showcasing the best nut oils have in common – they are simple. When you have an ingredient of such high quality, why hide it away in a dish with lots of ingredients? This ‘pesto’, from a dish made by Michelin-starred restaurant Al Caval, stays true to that formula. Vibrant, nutty and fresh, stir it through fresh egg pasta for a satisfying supper that bursts with the flavour of Sicily. Or form the mixture into quenelles and serve with roasted game birds like guinea fowl.
Organic San Rossore pine nuts are rich and buttery with warm notes of resin and a subtly floral aroma. They are cold-pressed when raw to make one of Pariani’s most popular oils.
When you think that pine nuts are used to make pesto, you’ll find you can easily pair the pine nut oil with almost any dish that uses basil, garlic, parmesan or a combination of the three.
Pariani pine nut oil is also rather magical with artichokes. Drizzle it straight over roasted artichoke hearts, or whisk into a white wine vinaigrette with fresh parsley and enjoy as a dip with steamed artichoke leaves. The rich, buttery nature of pine nut oil also means that it’s fabulous with white fish.
The History of Pariani
Mattia Pariani is the founder of Pariani, a family business based in Piedmont with a passion for Italian nuts. In his pursuit of the highest quality nuts and seeds, Mattia is almost obsessive. But it’s been worth it – Pariani nut oils, nuts, nut flours and nut pastes can be found in some of the world's best kitchens. What makes this even more impressive is that Pariani didn’t start trading until 2010. However, Pariani’s story starts with a chance meeting in 2001.
In 2001, Mattia Pariani was studying for a degree in Agriculture at the University of Turin, in the heart of the Piedmont region. He was already thinking of how he could either invent an entirely new gastronomic product or revive a forgotten one. One day he a met a local chef who happened to mention that he used hazelnut oil a lot in his restaurant. However, he had to buy it from France because it wasn’t available in Italy.
This got Mattia thinking. The Piedmont region is home to one of the best varieties of hazelnuts in the world. So why was no one making Italian hazelnut oil? It was a question that would inform the rest of Mattia’s university studies.
Mattia formed a research group called Driade with two of his friends. Together they discovered that, in fact, making and using hazelnut oil for cooking was historically a big part of the Piedmontese peasant tradition. Farming families couldn’t afford expensive olives and olive oil, so they pressed the hazelnuts that grew in abundance on their land. But for some reason, the practice of using hazelnut oil had been forgotten for around 60 years.
During his studies and further research into the subject, Mattia came across a European Community project called Leader Plus. The project was led by two professors at his college and was focused on the development of hazelnut ‘by-products’ – like hazelnut oil. Needless to say, Mattia and Driade became heavily involved with the project and, in 2003, he submitted his final thesis. The title? Il Nocciolio – a compound word made up of nocciola (hazelnut) and olio (oil). Around a year after presenting his thesis, Mattia founded Pariani and the company started its journey.
Right from the start, Pariani was committed to only using Piedmont IGP hazelnuts to produce its oil. Mattia reasoned that, if he wanted to revive a Piedmontese tradition, he needed to use Piedmontese produce. As a bonus, Piedmont IGP hazelnuts are considered one of the best hazelnut varieties in the world – so Mattia knew he had a good chance at making a hazelnut oil with outstanding flavour.
By 2008, the Pariani laboratory in Cortemilia was up and running, toasting and cold-pressing Piedmont IGP hazelnuts to Mattia’s exacting standards. Though rigorously tested in the early development stages, Mattia still tweaks the level of roasting and the ratio of roasted to raw hazelnuts depending on each batch’s characteristics. Every harvest of hazelnuts will naturally vary – sometimes the nuts will be oilier, sometimes sweeter, etc. It is Mattia’s never-ending labour of love to ensure his hazelnut oil is always the very best it can be.
Mattia Pariani inspects the hazelnuts.
Do you love Pariani’s nut oils? Let us know your favourite Pariani nut oil recipes, hints and tips in the comments below.