Toasted Hazelnut Polenta

Recipe: Nostrana | Photo: John Valls
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Repeatedly recognized among the best Portland restaurants, six-time James Beard award finalist Cathy Whims dishes up Italian home cooking at her southeast restaurant, Nostrana. Focusing on hand-tossed pizza and seasonal pasta, Whims’ Toasted Hazelnut Polenta is an Italian comfort classic.


  • 2 cups raw Oregon hazelnuts
  • 9 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 3 cups white polenta
  • 1 stick unsalted butter


Heat oven to 325 F. Toast  hazelnuts for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.

Remove skins by placing them in a metal strainer and stir them vigorously with a metal spoon. Once nuts are completely cool, pulse them into a medium-fine meal in a food processor, taking care not to turn them into hazelnut butter.

Bring water to a rapid boil in a large saucepan, add salt. Slowly add in dry polenta while whisking. Stir until the polenta thickens up and turn the heat to low. After simmering for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until desired thickness. Mix in the ground hazelnuts until fully incorporated.

Continue to simmer on very low heat, stirring occasionally for 30 minutes.

Cut butter into chunks and mix into polenta until fully incorporated. Taste for seasoning and add salt as needed.