New Wine & Roasted Chestnuts – Tuscany’s best fruits & nuts combined

Chestnuts in their spikey burrs a few months before harvest in Tuscany

The beautiful Tuscan countryside covered with chestnut trees

By an open fire, we sat around a large wooden table which had been handmade by our friend’s great-grandfather some centuries past. As we chatted away, we worked at scoring an X into the flat side of a great mound of chestnuts, just collected from our friend’s chestnut grove.

 

We then laid the nuts out on a large grill over the fire. With an occasional expert shake of the grill to turn the nuts, we watched as they turned a lovely golden brown. The room became filled with the delicious aroma of roasting chestnuts, increasing our anticipation to such a point that all conversation ceased as we watched the fire turn these hard starchy nuts into a soft and delicious winter treat.

 

When it seemed that the roasting of the chestnuts was near completion, we carefully removed one to test.

Taking a paring knife, our friend peeled the shell from the nut, removed the furry inner layer, blowing cool air on his fingers as he did so. Once revealed the light yellow flesh of the chestnut was tasted, and having confirmed the chestnuts were roasted to perfection, we removed the lot from the fireplace and started to peel – and eat! – the delicious chestnuts.

 

Chestnuts are traditionally produced in the mountainous Amiata region of Tuscany, where there are seasonal festivals dedicated to the much-loved nut that results in a banquet of fantastic Tuscan chestnut recipes.

 

The surrounding forests are filled with chestnut trees, the nuts from which are turned into a range of delicious desserts and a few savoury dishes as well.

 

The most well-known traditional Tuscany dessert recipe made from Chestnuts is the ‘Castagnaccio’. There are two versions of this Tuscan dessert recipe, an ancient one made from whole chestnuts and a more modern version (only a few centuries old!) made from chestnut flour with raisins, pine nuts and sage. This Tuscan dessert recipe is typically eaten at Christmas time once the chestnuts have been turned into chestnut flour.

 

The ancient version of Castagnaccio requires boiling the chestnuts in their shells, peeling each one before mixing in the rest of the ingredients. It is certainly much more time concerning, but also quite delicious, and not too sweet.

 

Below we have included both recipes, one more modern version by Tessa Kiros and the other a much older peasant variety that utilises whole, boiled chestnuts.

 

Typically combined with the roasted nuts however is ‘Vinnovo’ – new wine.

 

And so it was, not ones to break age-old traditions, we enjoyed our new wine with our freshly roasted chestnuts, the crackling fire slowly burning out beside us.

 

To learn about food and have fun learning discovering tasty ways to use seasonal Italian ingredients to make delicious, typical dishes before indulging in a delicious meal made by you, we have hands-on cooking classes in Florence.

If you would like to immerse yourself in the Tuscan culture, we have a small-group Best of Tuscany tour visiting Siena, San Gimignano and Monteriggioni too, as well as stopping for lunch and wine tasting at an award-winning wine estate. See the highlights of Tuscany in one spectacular day tour from Florence – Best of Tuscany small-group tour.

Join us to have fun on an exhilarating bike ride from Florence to the Tuscan countryside, whizzing up and down the rolling Tuscan hills that form the stunning Tuscany countryside as you tour to a great Tuscan villa wine estate to visit their wine cellar for a Tuscan wine tasting, and dine at an award-winning Tuscan restaurant. During the warmer months, you may want to add a splash of extra fun to your Tuscany bike tour with our unique  Tuscany Bike Ride with a Villa Swim. Should you wish to skip the Tuscan bike riding altogether and head straight pool-side, we have our Wine Tour and Villa Swim with lunch or simply enjoy a Villa Swim and Lunch in Tuscany.

Visit a Tuscan villa on the Taste of Tuscany at the Villa wine tour. Explore historic wine estates before undertaking a wine tasting. Tread through the terrain, enjoying spectacular views of the Tuscan countryside up-close and personal.

Stroll through the Tuscan countryside, join us for a Perfect Morning in Tuscany small-group walking tour. Leaving from Florence’s city centre and heading to the surrounding countryside, this small-group walking tour includes, well, walking in Tuscany, as well as lunch with wine at a stunning Renaissance Villa Estate, accompanied by an expert tour guide.

If you would like to have a private guide accompanying you, we have private tours that cater to your every desire. From Florence (and Tuscany) to RomeVenice to the Cinque Terre and beyond, we are at your beck and call.

To explore other areas of Italy, can check out our Artviva Walking Tours website to read more about the tours we have to offer in Florence, RomeVeniceCinque Terre, Umbria, Naples, Pompeii and more.

 

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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