Some of the finest hazelnuts in Europe are grown in Cortemilia – the global capital of the renowned IGP Piedmont hazelnut(Tonda Gentile della Langa) or sweet round and refined of the Langhe.
The rich taste, superb quality and longer shelf life of the species is what sets it apart from other varieties. Limited production makes Tonda Gentile della Langa (TGDL) an expensive commodity — almost doubling the market price of Turkish or Oregonian hazelnuts.
Pastry chefs from upscale restaurants, chocolate houses and confectioneries prefer to use Langhe hazelnuts over other varieties in their recipes because of its excellent qualities. The most exquisite torrone nougat in the world is made with Langhe hazelnuts.
“Cortemilia contributes about 2 % of the world’s hazelnuts,” remarked Chef Zarri Carlo. In 1993, he started using Gentile della Langa in his cooking, and was granted an award for his innovation. The same year, this coveted hazelnut was awarded the prestigious Protected Geographical Status (I.G.P.).
Commonly known as filbert, hazelnuts are calories rich, high in monounsaturated fat content, a great source of phosphorus, potassium and Vitamin B1.
According to the Italian Trade Commission, Italy is the second leading hazelnut producer in the world after Turkey. In the province of Cuneo, close to 90% (about 7,000 hectares) of the land is zoned for hazelnut cultivation — and the province supplies almost 85% of regional production.
The popular Nutella (pasta gianduja) — a hazelnut cream and cocoa spread was a creation of Alba pastry maker and Ferrero company founder, Pietro Ferrero. During the 2nd World War, availability of chocolate was limited as cocoa was in short supply. To extend his chocolate stock, Ferrero blended hazelnut to his cocoa spread, hence Nutella was born.
Gianduja is commonly used as a spread between layers of cakes, on bread and cookies or can be savoured straight from the jar.
Every August, locals and visitors congregate in Cortemilia to celebrate the Sagra Della Nocciola (Hazelnut Fair) — a community based festival showcasing local gastronomy, culture, and hazelnut specialty products ranging from finger-licking chocolate cakes to delicious cookies, cream and aromatic oil.
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