Recipes from Tuscany: the Castagnaccio dessert

by Samuele Sodini

The Castagnaccio Cake

What could be more Lucchese than Castagnaccio (chestnut tart)?
It is said to have been first created by a Pilade di Lucca. It’s a typical tuscan dessert. The key ingredient is chestnut flour “farina di castagne” or “farina dolce” traditionally made in the winter months. It is a most delicate flour with a sweet, rich flavour, made from dried, milled chestnuts.
It can now be found in specialists flour suppliers outside Italy, although readers living in Lucca willa have no diffuculty to finding excellent local produce from the Garfagnana.

Ingredients: ( serves 8 )
. 400 g chestnut flour (the best you can find, from Garfagnana)
. 6 tablespoonfuls extra virgin olive oil
. Approx 600/800 ml. water
. 1 cup of peeled pine seeds (pinoli)
. 3 tablespoonfuls of sugar
. 1 orange
. pinch of salt
. fresh rosemary leaves
. ricotta (cottage cheese of ewe’s milk)

Method:
Whisk the chestnut flour with the salt, sugar, grated orange rind and 3 tablespoonfuls of olive oil.
Warm up the water to more than lukewarm and add it little by little to the mixture to obtain a liquid creamy consistency. pour this cream into an oiled 30/32 cm diameter baking tin.
Sprinkle with the rosemary leaves and pine seeds  and spread the ramaining olive oil over it.
Place in an oven heated to 220° C and cook 30/40 minutes.
The Castagnaccio should be crispy in the top and creamy inside. Serve hot with a generous portion of fresh ricotta.
This is a very ancient local recipe, not difficult to prepare but as is always the case with simple recipes the ingriedients must be top quality.

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