I have a very special relationship with this recipe as it has always been one of my favorite desserts of Fall but also because of the incredible heritage associated with its main ingredient, Chestnut. Delicious, filling and extremely peasant, largely responsible through the centuries for keeping alive generations of poor mountain families of center Italy, especially during periods of plague and war.
In fact chestnut flour is a prerogative ingredient of those communities that in Italy had historical scarce access to wheat. The use of this flour is embedded in the traditions of Tuscan Hunters and their families, that have forever celebrated the arrival of the cold season with a slice of Castagnaccio and a glass of young wine.
Indeed an acquired taste is preferable, as the first impression of the Castagnaccio texture might be absolutely foreign and disarming… but be confident that the flavors and the aromas of nuts and herbs will conquer your palate before you can think twice about it. So drizzle a slice with new olive oil and fill up your glass with some young Chianti, and be transported on the misty Apennine Mountains of Tuscany.
Serves: 6 / Prep time: 20 mins / Inactive Prep Time: 20 mins (raisins) / Cook time: 40 mins
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 pound sweet chestnut flour
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- Pinch of salt
- Grated zest of 1/2 orange
- 2 ounces raisins, soaked in water for 20 minutes and drained
- 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves, whole
- 1 ounce chopped walnuts
- 1 ounce pignoli nuts (pine nuts)
1Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease an 11-inch pie plate (one with 2-inch-high sides) with 1 tablespoon of the extra virgin olive oil.
2Sift the chestnut flour in a large bowl. Mix in the sugar, salt, and orange zest. Gently stir in 2 cups of water.
3Using a hand mixer, beat the mixture well, making sure to eliminate any lumps. Add 2 tablespoons of the extra virgin olive oil and half of the raisins, and mix again.
4Pour the mixture into the pie plate; it should be no more than 1/3- inch thick. Sprinkle the cake with the rosemary, walnuts, pine nuts, and remaining raisins. Drizzle the remaining 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil on top.
5Bake for 40 minutes, or until the top is chestnut brown and begins to crack, and wrinkle-like lines begin to form. Remove from the oven, slice, and serve.