Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Autumn in Italy as I remember it: castagne e porcini

I grew up in the Apennine mountains of Italy, here, and during Autumn and Winter I ate chestnuts almost every day. In Autumn I used to walk almost every afternoon to our family's chestnut wood, called Casturia, to pick chestnuts. It was a 3 km walk, downhill, and then back, uphill, with a bag full of castagne. Many families have a chestnut wood in my village, now that I live here in New Zealand I let some friends and relatives pick chestnuts and mushrooms in my woods, but it is always great to go back there to find the old trees and paths of my childhood. And if I go foraging with my Dad's cousin Mario, chances are that we also find a lot of porcini mushrooms (he is a very good mushroom hunter, I am not!).

Casturia, the chestnut wood in Poggioraso, Sestola.

Peeling roasted chestnuts in the evening

An old stone chestnut drying house in the woods

There are also porcini mushrooms
Tagliatelle with fresh porcini mushrooms

I am lucky enough to have a friend in Chirstchurch who also happens to be a good mushroom hunter, and he gave me some porcini (not the same as the Italian ones, but very similar), but I am looking for a place to go and pick chestnuts near Auckland, if you have any idea please let me know. For now I leave you with a recipe that calls for chestnut flour, yet another ingredient that I am still trying to find in NZ.

 La ricetta

Chestnut flour fritters

Frittelle di Castagne
Appennino Modenese
Emilia Romagna
Recipe from Alessandra Zecchini

These fritters were a staple in my family, they are easy to make and incredibly filling.

Mix 250g of chestnut flour with 400ml of water, mix well and add a tablespoon of sultana.

With a spoon drop some batter into the hot oil (I used rice bran oil) and cook on both sides; it only takes a couple of minutes.

Place the fritter on a paper towel to absorb the excess oil.

These fritters are actually better cold, just by themselves, or with a little ricotta cheese.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©


  1. Mi offro come assaggiatrice....! ;-)

  2. OK, fin che la farina di castagne dura :-)!

  3. What a beautiful place! No I don't know where to pick chestnut, if you find out let me know too!



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