This Italian Hazelnut Spread Is Artisan, Not Industrial

Enjoying this Italian hazelnut spread is an amazing taste experience that is more delicious than the popular, but industrial, hazelnut spreads known worldwide.

Italian Hazelnut Spread - Hazelnut Gift Pack

Hazelnut Gift Pack

When we arrived in Italy a couple years ago, there were a few foods that are far more important here than I had previously imagined. Pistachios, Cherries and apples are everywhere and in everything, which has been great. Another surprisingly ubiquitous food is hazelnuts. They are in gelato, cornetti, cakes and a wide range of chocolates, but most well known to me was the Chocolate/Hazelnut spread known as Nutella.

Is Nutella An Italian Hazelnut Spread?

When I was first learning about Nutella, I was led to believe that it was a hazelnut spread, but in reality it was mostly chocolate with a taste of hazelnuts. Since that early exposure I’ve been trying to find a true Nutella hazelnut spread, but I don’t think it exists even here in Italy. There are real hazelnut spreads available in Italy, but you have to find artisan producers instead of an industrial producer like Ferrero (who makes Nutella).

What Is Better Than Nutella?

On a recent trip to the Piedmont region of Italy, my wife found this amazing producer of all things hazelnut. When she brought home some of his products, I was blown away because they were not only delicious but they were crunchy and fresh, which was a different experience than the ones I’ve had in the US. I am assuming the packaging and shipping takes so long that the Italian hazelnut goes a bit stale, which is why only the industrially produced chocolate/hazelnut spreads can travel well.

Italian Hazelnut Spread - Hazelnut Cream

Cream Of Hazelnuts

What Is This Italian Hazelnut Spread From Piedmont?

As with many things in Europe and Italy, the specific location where a product is grown is very important. You’ve heard of Prosecco, Champagne and Parmigiano Reggiano. These products have a certification that they have been grown and produced in very specific regions, with well defined procedures and an inflexible list of ingredients. Hazelnuts are no exception.

Piedmont IGP hazelnuts which are of the Tonda Gentile Trilobata variety, one of the best known and most renowned in the world. The Piedmontese hazelnuts that have the IGP designation implies a guarantee of quality and authenticity about the product. The Piedmont hazelnut that has been IGP designated is universally known as the best in the world. Less restrictive than DOP, the IGP (Indicazione Geografica Protetta) label shows that the quality or reputation of your food or condiment is linked to the place or region where it is produced, processed, or prepared.

Where Should I Buy These Delicious Italian Hazelnut Products?

I’m glad you asked me this question. My favorite producer is La Regale. It is owned by Andreev Ilija, a hazelnut entrepreneur from Macedonian, who runs his family business in Sinio, Italy, which is in the Cuneo province in the Piedmont region between Torino and Genova. The business is dedicated to the cultivation of Piedmont IGP hazelnuts and their transformation into amazingly delicious products.

Italian Hazelnut Spread - Toasted Hazelnuts

Toasted Hazelnut

In 2001, when he was 29, Mr. Ilija arrived in Cuneo after leaving his previous role as a dairy entrepreneur in Macedonia (which I believe is now called: North Macedonia). For three years he collected hazelnuts, until his employer at the time leased him a small piece of land, which is where it all began. While developing this land, he alternated between a job as a driver and many other small jobs in the hazelnut groves and vineyards of the area. All useful experiences to develop skills and which built his reputation as an honest person and a hard worker.

Today “La Regale” produces a range of products from an average of fifty tons of hazelnuts a year. The first production is made of shelled and toasted hazelnuts, grains, flour and paste, ideal elements to be used for confectionery. The products expanded with pralines covered in chocolate, sweet and savory roasted hazelnuts, spreadable cream and oil, cold extracted and highly appreciated in gastronomy. All products have a delicate flavor to enhance anything they are added to.

Are Hazelnut Spreads Healthy?

Chocolate and hazelnut spreads are not particularly healthy. They contain more than 100 calories per tablespoon and more than 50% of the calories come from fat. Looking at the hazelnut spread (without chocolate) that I just bought shows pretty much the same thing. On the plus side, it does supply a good amount of key vitamins and minerals, but I wouldn’t call it a healthy food.

Italian Hazelnut Spread - Chocolate

Hazelnut And Chocolate Spread

All that being said, there is so much more to the delicious hazelnut than the spread. As mentioned before, “La Regale” offers quite a wide range of products that of course include the spreads without palm oil, but also toasted hazelnuts, and candies nuts (praline) that also don’t contain the dreaded palm oil.

Is Hazelnut Spread Healthier Than Peanut Butter?

While it is definitely tastier, unfortunately peanut butter is the healthier alternative to a hazelnut spread like Nutella. Peanut Butter is lower in sugar, higher in protein and lower in unhealthy fats, especially the more natural peanut butters, like Teddy. The Centre of Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) described Nutella as: “more sugar and modified palm oil than hazelnut”. They describe Nutella’s nutritional profile as a “sugar spread with palm oil”. You may be confused because advertising for Nutella in the US makes it seem like a healthy breakfast choice, but in 2012 Ferrero was sued for $3 Million for false advertising for leading people to believe that Nutella has nutritional and health benefits.

Italian Hazelnut Spread - Sweet And Salty

Sweet and Salty

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