Castagnaccio is a traditional Tuscan cake born as a poor peasant dish thanks to its cheap main ingredients: chestnut flour and water. To give it more flavor it’s then enriched with raisins, pine nuts, olive oil and rosemary. I know it sounds like a savory dish, but you’ll be surprised by its sweetness.
You know it’s really Autumn when Tuscan moms and grandmas start baking the Castagnaccio. Thanks to its super-easy recipe, every woman in Tuscany knows how to bake this sweet and savory chestnut cake. Even if they don’t know how to cook anything else. So, it comes the time of year (late October and November) where every household eat Castagnaccio.
It’s so quick and easy to make that I never see my mom or grandma making it. It just suddenly appears on the table and everybody was so excited to eat it that it disappeared rather quickly as well.
When I asked my mom for her Castagnaccio recipe, she just told me “mix flour and water until you get a pancake batter consistency”. That’s it. No measurements, as it often happens with Italian moms and grandmas. But in this case, it really is that easy and it’s almost impossible to get it wrong.
In my family the Castagnaccio is always in squares (or rectangles), not slices. So, I did this recipe in a 20x20cm (8×8″) square baking pan. Although there are really no restrictions, so you can easily make it in a round pan of 22cm (8.6″) diameter as well.
Chestnut Flour: How it’s made and used
Chestnuts harvest is in October, when they start falling from the trees. In this period, you’ll find around the streets of some Italian cities, men selling roasted chestnuts in paper cones, called Caldarroste. When you walk around the city you’ll immediately smell the amazing aroma from far away. It will attract you like a magnet to the small Caldarroste cart.
Chestnut flour producers harvest the chestnuts and then dry them for about 20 days. After which they will toast them and grind them to get fresh chestnut flour, also called “farina dolce” (sweet flour).
In Tuscany there are many chestnut trees and the chestnut flour is therefore quite easy to find. Thanks to this we have a long tradition of chestnut cookies and cakes. The most famous one is the Castagnaccio – also called Baldino or Pattona in other parts of Tuscany. There are also different variation of this cake in other parts of Tuscany, with walnuts in place of pine nuts or with the addition of orange peel.
If you want another yummy recipe that uses chestnut flour, try these Chestnut cookies with Pumpkin jam.
“Castagnaccio”, Tuscan Chestnut cake
- 250 g (2 cups) Chestnut Flour
- 50 g (1/3 cup) Pine Nuts
- 40 g (1/4 cup) Raisins
- 300-350 ml (1+1/3 cups) Water
- EVO Oil
- Pinch of Salt
- In a small bowl add the raisins and cover with warm water. Set aside and let them rehydrate for about 10 minutes.
- Sift the chestnut flour in a large bowl, then slowly add the water while mixing with a whisk until you get a pancake batter consistency.
- Add a pinch of salt, then transfer the batter in a well oiled baking pan. It should not be thicker than 1.5 cm (1/2 inch). Sprinkle on top the pine nuts, the drained (and squeezed) raisins and the rosemary needles.
- As a finishing touch, drizzle on top with a little bit of olive oil.
- Bake in pre-heated over at 180°C (350°F) for about 25-30 minutes or until the cake is firm and the surface is dry and cracked.
- Let the Castagnaccio cool down and serve tepid or room temperature.
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