Slow Food: Cutigliano, Chestnuts and Castagnaccio

From December 4 to 12, the Tuscan town of Cutigliano is hosting ‘Natale Slow’ ? a food and wine festival in association with Italy’s famed Slow Food movement.

Cutigliano is a small village town dating back to Medieval times. It is near the larger, better-known Pistoia, near the Apennines. With under 1700 inhabitants, it is a stunning place to explore as you work your way through the local foods being showcased.

Traditional Italian sweet, Castagnaccio (Photo by Lemone)

And to ensure you don’t get the guilts for too much indulgence, there is also play to be had on the ski slopes of the Doganaccia ski resort. There’s over 10 kilometers to traverse, and two cross country circuits to try your sled and snow tubes at. Or if you prefer, you can just stick to working your way through the sweets on hand!

Chestnut flour desserts are just one category of the bevy of gastronomic delights being offered.

One typical must-try chestnut flour dish is Castagnaccio ? made from chestnut flour, and spiced with raisins, pine nuts and sage, it is a typical Tuscan Christmas sweet. Below we have included two recipes, one more modern version by Tessa Kiros and the other a much older peasant variety that utilises whole, boiled chestnuts.

The ancient Castagnaccio recipe brings the concept of ‘slow food’ to a whole other level, as you’ll need to boil the chestnuts first, before painstakingly peeling each one. The result is a good, traditional Tuscan dessert for those who don’t like their sweets too sweet, and which is great also for people with gluten allergies.

If you would like to learn more about fresh produce and wholefood production, you could sign up for a market tour and cooking class in Florence, where you will learn about the traditional ingredients before heading to the kitchen to turn the products into delicious, typical dishes and then indulging in a sumptuous lunch made by you!

Exploring the Tuscany’s wine country also offers a fantastic way to learn about ? and taste ? delicious Tuscan wines, and enjoy the meals (and views!) they are best served with.

Artviva is a proud supporter and member of Slow Food, and specialises in small-group, quality (and fun) tours in Florence/Tuscany, Rome, Venice and beyond. Visit www.artviva.com for more information, or email staff@artviva.com. Tessa Kiros, a good friend of Artviva, is a participant in the Artviva Festival giving visitors to Tuscany a chance to meet local authors, artists and aristocrats, including wine tasting and insights into Italian culture.

If you’re visiting Italy in December, you may want to check out the Slow Food events for December 2010.

Castagnaccio Antico – Ancient chestnut flour recipe

Ingredients:

600 g boiled chestnuts, peeled

5 egg yolks and egg whites, separated

150 g sugar

cream

optional: brandy or honey

Mash the peeled chestnuts whilst still hot. Cream 5 egg yolks with the sugar. Mix into chestnut mash and drizzle in the cream, stirring all the while. A dash of brandy or honey can be added if desired. Stop adding in cream once the mixture is moist. Whip the egg whites until they form stiff peaks then carefully fold into the chestnut mix. Once well-blended, pour into a buttered (or oiled) cake tin and cook for 45 minutes at 200°C. Best served hot, and also nice served with whipped cream or gelato, and strawberries. You can also cover with grated chocolate if you like.

Castagnaccio- Chestnut flour cake

Recipe from Tessa Kiros’ ‘Twelve: a Tuscan cook book’

‘Originally this cake was made in December once the November chestnuts had been dried and made into flour. Nowadays chestnut flour and this rather unusual cake are both sold in November. As with all their traditional goods, the local people love this cake which they have grown up with’

Makes one 24 cm flat cake

Ingredients:

80 g sultanas

400 g chestnut flour

8 tablespoons olive oil

about 450 ml water

80 g shelled walnuts, broken up into pieces

80 g pine nuts

2 sprigs of rosemary, leaves stripped off stalk

butter for greasing

breadcrumbs for lining the cake tin

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Soak the sultanas in a little warm water to soften them. Put the chestnut flour into a bowl with 4 tablespoons of the olive oil, a pinch of salt and the water. Mix in with a wooden spoon to make a smooth and fairly liquid batter.

Drain off the water from the sultanas and add half of them to the mixture. Add half of the walnuts, pine nuts and rosemary leaves, and mix into the batter.

Butter a 24 cm round or square cake tin and sprinkle with breadcrumbs to cover the bottom, shaking away the excess. Pour in the cake mixture. Scatter the remaining rosemary, walnuts, sultanas and pine nuts over the surface of the cake. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil.

Bake for about 50 minutes or until the top has a rich, golden, yet soft crust. Remove from the oven and when it has cooled slightly, cut into small squares. This is best served warm.

About Artviva Tours, Italy

We love Italy and we’re here to share with you some tidbits from life in the Bel Paese – be it about the food, art, history, culture or some of the fun things going on that make up the mass of reasons why this truly is Bella Italia. You don’t just have to read about it though. You can live it with us too! We offer outstanding experiences in Florence, Venice, Rome, Cinque Terre and beyond. You can check out www.artviva.com to read more about our Italy tours including: Florence Tours, Tuscany Tours, Rome Tours, Venice Tours, Cinque Terre Tours, Umbria Tours, Naples Tours, Pompeii Tours and more.
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2 Responses to Slow Food: Cutigliano, Chestnuts and Castagnaccio

  1. Janice says:

    I’ve been reading more and more about chestnut flour desserts. This looks very interesting. I am going to have to try it. I work with Better Recipes and am always looking for new and different dishes. Right now I am focusing on Christmas desserts. Go here to see some great ones such as Praline Pumpkin Torte or White and Milk Chocolate Mousse Torte Christmas Dessert Recipes

  2. Pingback: Tastes of Tuscany: books, looks and cooks » Artviva Italy Blog » The Original and Best Tours Italy