Tuscan Chestnut Pancakes or Necci are thin pancakes made with chestnut flour and water. They are nothing more than simple crêpes, born in the area of Pistoia and Garfagnana, in northern Tuscany.
In the Tuscan dialect they are called Necci. “Neccio” in Tuscany is the chestnut tree.
Tuscan Necci are quick and easy to make. You can eat them plain or filled with ricotta and a drizzle of honey to finish. They come from Italian cucina povera, made of poor, simple and genuine ingredients.
Together with Castagnaccio, Necci belong to the gastronomic history of Tuscany.
Chestnut Flour Pancakes are great for a delicious and nutritious breakfast, for a snack or served as a dessert. Your guests will be captivated by the goodness of this truly special Italian dessert!
Try other Italian dessert recipes:
- Torta Tenerina recipe
- Italian Apple Cake Recipe.
- Italian Fruit Tart with Pastry Cream
- Zuccotto Recipe
- Chestnut Gelato Recipe
Tuscan Chestnut Pancakes Recipe
- Prep Time: 10 Min
- Cook Time: 15 Min
- Servings: 8
For 8 chestnut pancakes of about 15 cm / 6 inch in diameter
- 350 g (3 cups) of chestnut flour
- 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar (optional). The chestnut flour is already sweet, so it depends on your taste.
- 350 ml (1 ½ cup ) of warm water
- 1/2 teaspoon of fine salt
- extra virgin olive oil to grease the frying pan
For the Filling
- 350 g (1 ½ cup ) of fresh ricotta cheese. The traditional recipe wants sheep ricotta but you can use even cow ricotta.
- 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar
- some honey for garnish, better if chestnut honey but also acacia is fine.
Kitchen Tools and Equipment
To make Chestnut Flour Pancakes at home you need a few simple tools.
First of all it’s very important to have a fine mesh sieve to sift the chestnut flour before making the batter.
Then use a kitchen whisk to prevent the formation of lumps.
Even an Electric Crepe Maker is useful and practical and can also be an original gift idea.
Step 1) – First prepare the batter. Sift the chestnut flour into a bowl. Then add the salt and, if you like a slightly sweeter taste, even a spoonful of sugar.
Step 2) – Add the warm water a little at a time, continuing to mix with a whisk to avoid the formation of lumps. If the mixture is too hard, add more water. You need to get a creamy but not too thick batter.
Step 3) – Grease a non-stick pan with oil (about 1 teaspoon) and pour a ladle of dough into the hot pan.
Step 4) – Distribute the batter evenly. Cook over low heat for about 1 minute. As soon as you see that small bubbles form on the surface, turn it with a spatula and cook on the other side for about 1 minute. Repeat until you finish all the batter, stacking the ready-made Necci on a plate.
Step 5) – Now prepare the ricotta filling. Put the ricotta in a bowl, add two tablespoons of sugar and mix until you have a smooth cream.
Step 6) – Put a generous spoonful of ricotta in the center of each pancake and then roll it up as if to form a sort of cannolo. Garnish if you like with a little honey. Better to serve Tuscan Chestnut Pancakes just made and still warm.
You can keep Tuscan Chestnut Pancakes in the refrigerator for a maximum of 2-3 days. Necci without filling can be frozen separately and thawed if necessary. Just heat them for a few minutes in a pan then stuff and serve.
Necci or Tuscan Chestnut Pancakes: Gluten-Free and Vegan
Tuscan Necci are healthy and light, rich in protein and fat-free. Thanks to the absence of gluten in chestnut flour, these pancakes are also for celiacs because they are in fact gluten-free.
Furthermore, unlike classic Pancakes or classic Crepes, Tuscan Necci have neither eggs, milk nor butter. This fact makes them particularly good for people who suffer from various kinds of intolerances and for vegans.
In the traditional recipe of Italian chestnut pancakes there is not even sugar. Chestnut flour is in fact naturally quite sweet.
These characteristics refer, of course, to the non-stuffed Necci. Try them without filling! They are very tasty all the same, as a metter of fact the flavor of the chestnut is stronger.
Tuscan Chestnut Pancakes: Variations and Tips
The traditional way to taste Tuscan Chestnut Pancakes / Necci is, as we said, with a filling of ricotta and sugar.
The traditional recipe did not include sugar to the batter but only a pinch of salt.
You can of course add some sugar for a more intense flavor, but be careful not to overdo it. Chestnut flour, in fact, is already sweet and you risk ruining the success of the recipe.
Some Ideas to Enrich your Necci
If you want to make your dessert more delicious, you can add dark chocolate chips to the ricotta cream.
For a more elegant version, you can add small pieces of marron glassè and a dash of rum to the ricotta cream.
If you don’t like ricotta, you can fill the chestnut flour Pancakes with Mascarpone Cream or whipped Cream
Another idea for a very special dessert is to stuff the Necci with persimmons or figs. These autumn fruits go very well with the flavor of chestnut flour.
Salty Tuscan Chestnut Pancakes
Although the most common combination is with sweet ricotta, Necci go well also with salty foods like salami, vegetables and cheeses.
Depending on your tastes, you can give space to your imagination and experiment with new combinations. But be careful because the taste of Necci is not neutral like that of Bread or Piadina. In fact, chestnut flour has a particular strong flavor.
Instead of sweet ricotta you can use a cream based on Caprino cheese mixed with a little black pepper and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
Another very tasty combination is that of Necci with slices of seasoned Pecorino Toscano, walnuts and a drizzle of honey, a real delicacy!
Necci Recipe: History and Curiosities
Chestnut flour pancakes are one of the typical traditional dish of Pistoia and Garfagnana Mountains, where the word “neccio/necci” means “chestnut tree”.
In this area, the cultivation of the chestnut tree began around the year 1000. In the area of Lucca the spread of the chestnut tree took root so much that it was called “bread tree” because it was the main source of livelihood for the poor population.
The oldest Necci recipe was made only with water and chestnut flour.
Once, Necci were cooked on hot refractory stone on which they spread chestnut leaves to give a particular scent. Later on, they used the “Testi”: two long-handled iron discs greased with lard.
They were placed on the fire to cook Necci. Once ready, the chestnut pancakes were stacked, separated by chestnut leaves. They usually ate them plain or stuffed.
In ancient times, they ate Necci with various foods, including salty ones. Only later, they added sugar or honey to the Necci recipe, with the custom to fill them with sweet ricotta cheese.