Today buying good quality chestnut flour can be difficult, and it is certainly more expensive than it used to be. A good local organic stone ground wheat flour costs about 2€ a kilo. If you want to buy an organic, stone ground chestnut flour made with local chestnuts, that flour can cost from 10€ up to 15€ a kilo! It used to be the flour of poor people, of those who could not afford, or get hold of, wheat flour, and now it is considered a delicacy, as it is a gluten free flour, very nutrituous, rich in fibers, minerals and vitamins.
Yet, chestnut flour is one of the most fundamental ingredients of the cucina povera, the peasant cooking, of the Tuscan mountains, from Garfagnana and Lunigiana, through the Appennino Pitoiese, down to Mugello and Mount Amiata, basically the whole mountain right side of Tuscany, from north to south.
In today’s episode, we will explore the local traditions and recipes related to chestnuts and chestnuts flour, from bread to pasta, to castagnaccio and necci.
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Learn the Italian language of food word after word. Every year more than 200 people join our cooking classes. Speaking with them, I made a small dictionary of important words and pronunciations that can help you navigate through the immense world of Italian food. So, if you love Italian language as much as you love Italian cooking, these are a few words that can be useful for you.
Today’s word is castagna, chestnut.
As with gnocchi and lasagne, when G and N are together they are pronounced as “ny” in “canyon”.
So, if castagna means chestnut, now you can understand why the most famous Italian chestnut cake is known as castagnaccio!
At every market there’s at least one rotisserie serving roasted meats like spitfire chickens. Their enticing aromas catch your attention from afar, drawing you towards the array of meats and croquettes. My grandfather Biagio would take me to the rotisserie every Friday morning to pick up roasted potatoes, and my grandmother and I continue the tradition of an obligatory visit whenever we go to market. Occasionally I stop there on my own as well, but when I can’t, I follow this recipe of mine to immediately recreate the feeling of Sunday lunch with the family.