About a year ago, I was wandering around the aisles of the Italian market in my town when the guy behind the deli counter looks over at me and goes “do you like making pasta???”
At first I was taken aback. How can he tell??
I was feeling pretty proud of the fact that I must give off pasta making vibes when he continued on, barely waiting for me to reply with an emphatic yes.
“Because we just got chestnut flour in. And you should try making your pasta with it. It’s all the rage in Italy. You can’t find it anywhere else.”
He spoke with an excitement I found to be infectious, and our short little back and forth planted a seed in my brain. In Italy, sometimes pasta is made with chestnut four. I didn’t know that before he said it.
I didn’t buy the flour that day, or in the months that followed either because the flour isn’t exactly cheap. Despite the fact that chestnut flour used to be Tuscan peasant food– a cheap, high calorie alternative to wheat flour– it is now more costly (~ $15/lb) and harder to find (i.e not stocked in your general supermarket).
But I found myself coming back to the idea of it, nonetheless. I wondered what it would taste like, wondered about the history of chestnut flour more generally, wondered about its versatility. As I’ve gotten more into foraging, the idea of foraging nuts to turn into flour myself has also become an intriguing plan for my list of projects to try.
I recently decided to splurge for the flour in the name of pandemic projects, and found it to be a WONDERFUL addition to gnocchi, alongside 00 pasta and semolina flour. It adds a subtly sweet & nutty flavor.
- 1 russet potato, steamed and riced
- 1 egg yoke
- 1/3 cup 00 pasta flour (bread flour or AP flour works too)
- 1/3 cup semolina flour
- 1/3 cup chestnut flour
- fresh or dried herbs of your choice
- Freshly ground black pepper
Note: russet potato sizes vary, but using ~ 3/4 cups total flour for every 1 lb of potato is a good ratio to keep in mind
Steam (or bake) a whole russet potato until you can easily stick a fork through it. Let the potato cool enough to peel it, but make sure it is still warm when you run it through the potato ricer (use a cheese grater if you don’t have a potato ricer! Its not ideal but it works!)
Combine riced potato with flours, egg yoke, chopped herbs, and ground black pepper. Combine with a fork/ your hands until dough ball forms and is homogenous. Don’t over knead or you’ll get weird, gummy gnocchi (because more kneading = more gluten structure formation). Don’t under knead or the gnocchi will fall apart.
Separate dough into segments. Roll segments gently into (gnocchi wide) tubes on a floured surface. Use a knife or bench scraper to cut tubes into nickel size dough pieces. Optional: Roll dough pieces against an indented surface to create grooves for the sauce to catch.
Place gnocchi in salted boiling water and strain a minute after the gnocchi begin to float.
Sear gnocchi in a pan with butter until golden brown. Add sauce of your choice.
Today I decided to make a spicy tomato anchovy sauce. I’ll try to work out an exact recipe but for now, here is an ingredient list of what I used:
Spicy Anchovy Sauce: (adjust ratio to your own taste)
- olive oil/ butter or both
- sweet onion or shallots
- crushed garlic cloves
- anchovy fillets
- herbs (thyme, chives, parsley…..)
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- splash of wine if you have it lying around
Note: after sautéing the ingredients I usually run them through the blender to get a smoother sauce