Castagnaccio is a classic autumn sweet from the chestnut woods of Monte Amiata in south Tuscany, although slight variations can be found wherever there are chestnut woods in Italy.We ate lots of it in the cantine of Castel del Piano as part of the vino novello celebrations one December weekend.
300g chestnut flour, 100g raisins, 50g pine nuts (or walnuts), 4 spoons of extra-virgin olive oil rosemary, salt, water.
Soak the raisins and squeeze out the excess water
Sift the chestnut flour into a mixing bowl and gradually add 500ml of water, whisking continually to avoid lumps forming, until you have a smooth paste, neither too runny nor too thick, but forming ribbons when it falls from the spoon.
Add two tablespoons of oil, a pinch of salt, the raisins and pine nuts to the batter.
Pour the mixture into a shallow, greased baking tray (the cake should only be about 2cm high), sprinkle some rosemary leaves on top and drizzle a tablespoon of oil over.
Put in the oven previously heated up to 200° for thirty minutes.
Leave aside for about half an hour before serving as the cake should be eaten either tepid or cold.
See also Castagnaccio recipe from Liguria
Dan Hostetler adds:
La Cultura della Castagna (The Culture of the Chestnut) - perched on the side of the dormant volcano, Mount Amiata (that is home to a faunistic park that shelters wild chestnut forests) the town hall of Arcidosso is promoting a unique, newly opened Chestnut Trail that follows the same examples set by wine, olive oil and other gastronomic routes in Europe.
The culinary hike offers an exquisite 'passagiata' through a protected natural park of uncommon beauty that reveals glimpses of the hundreds of small, two-story stone buildings (called Seccatori, iamge above) that were built for drying chestnuts before they fell out of fashion and demand.
Local restaurants offer menus that highlight the sweet nut with dishes like chestnut pizza, chestnut polenta with pork sausage and rich chestnut pastas. Not only offered are all the sweet, roasted, flour-based and wine-soaked variations of the nutty wonder, but other local foods as well. The chestnut is an important part of the local economy here and the sponsors of this fledgling celebration are attempting to indoctrinate a new generation of Italians with the importance that the chestnut has played in Italy's survival and growth. There are also plenty of locally produced wines to wash the pasty treats down with. The chestnusts Festival begins informally the third weekend of October and runs through mid-January