What could be better than fall in Italy? I simply don’t know and it pains me dearly that I am not there right about now. It’s the best time of the year to do just about anything. Sightseeing without the crowds, and the heat, walking around with just a light jacket, and enjoying a hot cappuccino at the local bar. Indeed there isn’t much better. But until we’re able to travel back to Italy, in the fall or any time of the year for that matter, we must bring Italy to us, and one sure way to do so is by cooking Italian, of course!
Castagnaccio is a typical end-of meal dish prepared with chestnut flour and sweetened with raisins. Pine nuts, walnuts and rosemary are also added. It is difficult to establish the exact origin of the castagnaccio. And it’s just as difficult to describe the consistency. We use the term “cake” liberally here, as it’s not a cake at all, but it’s stick to your ribs thick, almost fudgy in consistency, although there’s no chocolate here. It’s not at all sweet, other than the added raisins, our version here has no sugar. This is a great way to end a meal in place of ending it with fruit or otherwise sweet dessert. One might say that this is almost savory as oppose to sweet. This is the Tuscan version of castagnaccio, but this “cake” is also prepared in Veneto, Piedmont, Lombardy, basically all the regions where chestnuts are a very popular ingredient in the kitchen. What all the variants have in common is the peasant origin of the castagnaccio: water, chestnut flour and rosemary. Each family holds their own recipe for castagnaccio and here’s our version.
Tuscan Chestnut Cake / Castagnaccio Alla Toscana
½ cup raisins (I prefer golden raisins)
4 cups chestnut flour
2 ¾ cups cold water
¾ cup pine nuts
1 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped
1 sprig of rosemary, stem removed
Dash of salt
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
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