Castagne…Italian Chestnuts

November 18, 2021

One of the advantages of being in Italy in the fall is the familiar scene  and smell of chestnut sellers roasting the brown beauties over hot coals in the middle of the piazza. You want some immediately and happily pay for a paper cone filled with the meaty, hot nuggets whose flavor can be described as sweet with the flavor of vanilla and hazelnuts and the consistency of soft bread. There are many varieties to be found in Italy.

In Florence, in the Mugello area, chestnuts have IGP status, meaning the variety is protected by the European Union who oversees their production, inspection and harvesting.

Chestnuts for export to the US come from various areas including Naples, Cuneo in the Piedmont region and Sicily. They were often referred to as “poor man’s bread, a food for the lower classes.

At holiday time, beginning around early November, chestnuts appear in grocery stores. Look for plump, heavy feeling ones with no splits or cracks. They are used in stuffing, for risotto, with pasta, in desserts and roasted.  Chestnuts are very healthy and easily digested.

To roast them, simply make an x with a small knife on the plump side of the chestnuts and place them on a baking sheet. Roast at 375F for about 15 minutes or until knife tender; cool and peel. Enjoy!

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