Castagnaccio recipe, a typical Tuscan dessert made with chestnut flour and enriched with raisins, pine nuts, walnuts and rosemary. Only extra virgin olive oil and a little water; no eggs, no butter and no yeast.
Castagnaccio is not one of those soft and airy breakfast cakes, but this chestnut flour cake is moist and compact and unleavened. If you love chestnuts and dried fruit, you will love Castagnaccio for its delicate and naturally sweet taste. Yes, because the original Tuscan recipe does not want sugar, to better appreciate the sweetness of chestnuts. We have added a little, in this way we are sure to meet the taste of many people if not all of them.
The recipe of Castagnaccio is very easy and fast but the quality of the ingredients is essential for its success. Chestnut flour, in particular, must be of the highest quality (try this one) so that it can best enjoy its natural sweetness.
This chestnut cake is rustic, with very ancient origins. In 1500 it was already well known in Tuscany where it was prepared mainly by the peasants as a poor dish. Only in the ‘800 the recipe became famous throughout Italy and enriched with raisins and pine nuts that were originally missing.
This is the traditional recipe of Tuscan chestnut cake but the recipe of Castagnaccio is also widespread in Veneto, Piedmont, Lombardy … all regions of northern Italy where chestnut is a very common cooking ingredient.
How to Make Castagnaccio (Chestnut Cake) recipe
Doses for 30 x 20 centimeter (12 x 8 inch) baking pan
- 300 g (10,5 oz) of chestnut flour
- 380 g (13,5 oz) of cold water
- 4 tablespoons of sugar (optional)
- 40 g (1,5 oz) of walnut kernels
- 2 sprigs of rosemary
- 1 pinch of salt
Step 1) – First be ready with all the ingredients. Start making Castagnaccio recipe by soaking the raisins in cold water (about 10 minutes) and toasting the pine nuts in a non-stick frying pan. In a bowl sift the chestnut flour and add a pinch of salt. Now add the sugar if you want this dessert to be particularly sweet. Remember that chestnut flour already has a slightly sweet taste so the choice is entirely personal, according to taste.
Step 2) – Then add 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and the water. The water must be added bit by bit, keeping to stir with a hand whisk to avoid the formation of lumps. You will have a smooth but not excessively liquid batter.
Step 3) – Now add half a dose of the drained raisins, pine nuts and walnuts and then mix. Preheat the oven to 180º C (350º F). Pour the batter into a 30 x 20 centimeter (12 x 8 inch) baking dish previously greased with a bit of oil. Spread evenly on top the remaining raisins, walnuts and pine nuts. Finish with the rosemary needles and a drizzle of olive oil.
Step 4) – Bake for 35 minutes, until you see small cracks appear on the surface. Take the castagnaccio out of the oven and let it cool in the pan before serving.
How to Serve Castagnaccio
Castagnaccio is best served with ricotta, chestnut honey or sweet wines such as vin santo.
How to preserve Castagnaccio
You can keep the Tuscan chestnut cake covered with a cloth out of the fridge for 3-4 days at most. We don’t recommend freezing because this type of cake would become rubbery.
Some Tips to Make the Best Castagnaccio Recipe Ever
Like all dishes of Italian tradition, even Castagnaccio has its secrets for the good outcome of the recipe so let’s see:
- You have to use a low baking pan (maximum 2 cm high (0,8 inch)), because according to tradition the castagnaccio cannot be higher than 1 cm (o,4 inch)
- Chestnut flour must be of excellent quality and very fine so that it can release all its sweetness.
- Remember that the original Tuscan recipe of Castagnaccio does not want sugar. We put it in the ingredients because we believe it depends on tastes, more or less sweetness in desserts.
- Important: prepare the batter by hand, never in the electric mixer. Only in this way will you get the right consistency and you can adjust water, if necessary.
Castagnaccio Recipe Variations
- There is a chestnut flour cake, especially in Piedmont, that is higher, softer and richer than the traditional one. It’s made with the addition of reinette apples, milk and honey. The result is a cake more moist and fragrant but a little more elaborate as a recipe.
- There is even another variation, always in Piedmont, where you have to add to the batter amaretti crumble and apples.
- Then there is the one with cow’s milk ricotta. Ricotta is maybe the cheese that goes best with castagnaccio. It’s often used as an accompaniment to a slice of classic chestnut cake, the one with pine nuts, walnuts, rosemary and raisins, but nothing prevents it from being added to the batter. Usually this variant is flavored with a small glass of aniseed liqueur or (even more delicious version) the addition of chocolate drops.
Castagnaccio: History and Curiosities
This rustic, semi-sweet cake has been known since the sixteenth century. Once it was also called wooden bread or bread of the poor for the simplicity of the ingredients (but the names it takes in the various areas of Italy are really many: ghirighio, pattona, toppone, baldino)
At the beginning Castagnaccio was a food mostly consumed by the poor peasants, obtained from the chestnut, very common in the countryside. It seems, according to some historical documents, that the creator of this dessert made with chestnuts flour was Pilade da Lucca who is mentioned in the “Commentario delle più notabili et mostruose cose d’Italia et altri luoghi” (“Commentary on the most notable and monstrous things of Italy and other places”) written by Ortensio Orlando and published in Venice in 1553. Starting from the 19th century, Castagnaccio was exported to the rest of Italy and right from this moment it comes
enriched with raisins, pine nuts and walnuts.
Finally, Castagnaccio recipe has a curious implication: it was said that the rosemary leaves used in the chestnut cake were a love filter: the boy who had eaten the cake offered to him by a girl would have fallen in love with her and would have married her. So eat, enjoy and…good luck!