Castagnaccio recipe, a typical Tuscan dessert made with chestnut flour, 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. This chestnut flour cake is moist, 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. The quality of the ingredients is essential for its success. Chestnut flour, in particular, must be of the highest quality, so that you 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.
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- Prep Time: 20 Min
- Cook Time: 35 Min
- Servings: 6/8
Doses for 30 x 20 centimeter (12 x 8 inch) baking pan
- 300 g (2 cups) of chestnut flour. Try this Italian Chestnuts Flour by Giannetti Artisans.
- 380 ml (1 1/2 cups) of cold water
- 4 tablespoons of granulated sugar (optional)
- 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons of raisins
- 2 tablespoons of pine nuts
- 2 tablespoons of walnut kernels
- 2 sprigs of rosemary
- a pinch of salt
How to Make Castagnaccio Recipe (Chestnut Cake): Instructions
Step 1) – Start making Castagnaccio recipe by soaking 2 tablespoons of raisins in cold water for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile toast 2 tablespoons of pine nuts in a non-stick frying pan. Then, in a bowl sift 300 g (2 cups) of chestnut flour and add a pinch of salt. Now add 4 tablespoons of granulated sugar (optional), 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.
Step 2) – Add 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and 380 ml (1 1/2 cups) of cold water. You have to pour the water a little at a time. Keep stirring with a hand whisk to avoid the formation of lumps. You will have a smooth but not excessively liquid batter.
Step 3) – Now add 1 tablespoon of raisins, 1 tablespoon of the toasted pine nuts, 1 tablespoons of walnut kernels and then mix all together. Preheat the oven to 180ºC (350ºF). 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 some 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 Store 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
Like all dishes of Italian tradition, even Castagnaccio has its secrets for the good outcome of the recipe.
- BAKING PAN: 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: Chestnut flour must be of excellent quality and very fine so that it can release all its sweetness.
- SUGAR: The authentic 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.
- BATTER: 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: Some Variations
- PIEDMONT VARIATION: 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 apples, milk and honey. The result is a cake more moist and fragrant but it’s a little more elaborate recipe.
- AMARETTI AND APPLES: There is even another variation, always in Piedmont, where you have to add to the batter Amaretti crumble and apples.
- RICOTTA: 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. 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. It was once called “bread of wood” or “bread of the poor” because of the simplicity of its ingredients. But the names it takes in the different areas of Italy are really many: ghirighio, pattona, toppone, baldino…
In the beginning, Castagnaccio was a food mainly consumed by the poor peasants, obtained from the chestnut tree, very common in the countryside.
According to some historical documents, it seems that the creator of this dessert made with chestnut 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 remarkable and monstrous things of Italy and other places”) written by Ortensio Orlando and published in Venice in 1553.
Castagnaccio began to be exported to the rest of Italy in the 16th century, and from then on it was enriched with raisins, pine nuts and walnuts.
Finally, the 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 ate the cake offered by a girl would fall in love with her and marry her. So eat, enjoy and… good luck!