Castagnaccio - An Unexpected Culinary Delight
Fall has arrived, and as we get ready for the holidays, you may want to have a recipe that you can snack on with no guilt - it has no sugar, no butter, no eggs…it is an ancient recipe, that continues to be popular in the fall in Italy. It is called castagnaccio, because it is made with castagne, in English, chestnuts.
Often it is described as a cake, but it is not sweet, so I think it is better to consider it a snack. In Italy it is often served for merenda, which means after school snack. The first time I had it was in the fall of 1985, when I was a student in Florence. One Saturday afternoon, Francesco invited me to his family’s home. When I entered, the entire home had this delicious aroma! And, there on the table was this lovely looking dish, which I imagined was brownies - since it looked a lot like a pan of brownies. When I took a bite, I was expecting sweet, chocolate flavor. Instead, it was nutty and not at all sweet! It was hard to appreciate the flavor at the time, expecting something completely different, but now I do appreciate it. The simple, genuine flavors that are typical of recipes that are centuries old. In fact, castagnaccio has been around for centuries, it seems that the Romans, who inhabited the Tuscan area, invented the recipe.
Last week I decided to make a batch, so, we contacted Francesco's nanny to get her recipe - and even at the age of 95 she had no problem reciting the ingredients and process, she grew up eating and making this dish! I could hardly believe it only called for water, chestnut flour, pine nuts, raisins, olive oil, walnuts, rosemary and a pinch of salt! It's definitely a good snack to have for anyone who is gluten intolerant, lactose intolerant and doesn’t want any added sugar! Of course, good quality ingredients are fundamental, most I could find in town, but it is not easy to find chestnut flour, so I had to order that online. If you want to try making it, click here for the recipe - and enjoy a guilt-free dish that takes you back to ancient traditions.
Share your comments with us - Let us know if you make it and what you think - or if you have any suggestions for a tasty merenda!