Chestnuts, known as castagne or marroni in Italian, are the important ingredients of the Tuscany cuisine. They grow in the mountain regions of the Tuscany but are enjoyed throughout the whole area. Chestnuts mature in the month of October and this is the time when they are the best for eating. Across Italy there are many food festivals (Sagre di castagne) dedicated to this amazing fruit on which local people present authentic local dishes prepared from chestnuts.
Most of the people adore roasted chestnuts which you can buy from many street sellers across Italy during autumn and winter. But chestnuts are also precious ingredients in many savoury and sweet recipes allowing this fruit to be enjoyed completely. Delicious desserts can be made with chestnuts, the chestnut pureé or sweet chestnut flour.
Chestnut flour is one of the widely used ingredients for both savoury and sweet recipes throughout Italy. The chestnuts are first dried and then grinded in the traditional stone mills. This flour can be bought directly from local producers as you will get the best quality chestnut flour for your dishes or in special food stores such as Castroni in Rome.
We have a selection of recipes which uses chestnut flour for delicious and unique desserts. Some of them are traditional Italian recipes while others are a bit on a modern side. One of the most traditional cakes made with this sweet flour is castagnaccio which can be found throughout Italy. This is a dense cake made from chestnut flour and water with addition of raisins, pine nuts and rosemary.
There are many variations of this cake, depending on the region, so you can find that somewhere they change water for milk or substitute pine nuts with walnuts or plum for the raisins. When preparing at home you can play around and make you own combination of ingredients.
Another popular treat originated from Tuscany made from chestnut flour are are rustic pancakes called necci. You can still find necci on the menu of the restaurants when you visit mountain parts of Tuscany in winter. Necci are very simple dish to prepare, you just need to mix the chestnut flour with water and then fry them on the frying pan. Necci are traditionaly baked in between two very hot cast-iron round plates but are still great when prepared on the frying pan. They are traditionaly filled with ricotta cheese but are also great with any other filling.
In Prato and Mugello, you'll find fritelle di castagne, fried chestnut fritters which are very easy to make and can include raisins and mix of walnuts, tosted almonds and pine nuts. You can add some orange zest or a bit of sugar.
Chestnut flour can be used for preparing delicious cookies giving them that special roasted chestnut flavour. We have recipes for simple chestnut flour cookies and spice cookies that combines several spices and chestnut flour. During the Carnival time in Italy, castagnole are popular treat prepare at home. We adore this simple recipe for this special kind of castagnole made with chestnut flour. For those in love with chocolate, we have a recipe for muffins made with combination of chestnut purée and chestnut flour.
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