Pasta with Chestnuts

“Pasta con Castagne”

 

“Pasta chi Cruzziteddi”

 

 

This old recipe, pasta with chestnuts, is cooked in Pollina a town near the Parco Regionale in the Madonie Mountains, in the province of Palermo.
This simple dish, without pretentiousness and characterized with a sweet smell and an exotic taste, is made with the local chestnuts, good extra virgin olive oil, wild fennels and peperoncino, the red hot pepper.
Pasta chi Cruzziteddi is a very healthy and nutritious dish, rich in glucose, sucrose and fructose to give a fast pick up. Chestnuts are loaded with vitamins and minerals, and the high fiber content and low calories make them an ideal compliment to any dietetic regimen. It is a inexpensive dish to keep poor people healthy! 
Chestnut trees can live up to five centuries and until they are forty years old won’t produce fruits.
Chestnut leaves are used as a remedy for whooping cough and shampoos are made by infusing leaves and fruit husks.
In Sicily, fresh chestnuts are available from the beginning of fall to the middle of winter: in this recipe fresh or the dry chestnuts can be utilized.

                                            

 

 

Serves 6

 

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs. dried chestnuts or 2½ lb. fresh chestnuts
  • 1 bay leave
  • 1 lb. wild fennels, rinsed a few times and chopped
  • 1 lb. small shell or ditali macaroni
  • Peperoncino, hot red pepper
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil to drizzle

 

 

Preparation

 

  • The Dried chestnuts

Inspect dry chestnuts for any small stones or foreign articles, rinse well. Soak the chestnuts overnight in a large pot with plenty of water. When ready to cook, remove from water with a slotted spoon and peel off any skin still attached to the chestnuts.

  • The Fresh chestnuts

Rinse the chestnuts and with a sharp knife make a cross slit on the flat side.
Place in a pot, cover with water, add a bay leave and bring to a boil. Simmer for 15 minutes and remove from heat.
With a slotted spoon remove from water a few at a time and peel off the outer shell and the light brown skin attached to the chestnut. Set on the side.
Keep chestnuts in the hot water until you are ready to peel, because when they get cold it becomes very hard to remove the skin.

                Dry Chestnuts Wild FennelsPeperoncino

  • The Cooking

In a 6 quart sauce pot, place the chestnuts, fennels and enough water to cover 3 inches above them.  Bring to a boil then simmer uncovered covered for 45 minutes or until the chestnuts fall apart, stirring occasionally.
A pot of boiling water has to be kept on the side, because it will be needed in this preparation.
Add ½ tablespoon of salt, and the pasta. 
Liquid should be at least ½ inch above the minestra at all times.
Bring to a boil, than lower the heat and simmer until pasta is al dente.
If soup becomes too dry add some hot water. 
When you test for doneness, if needed, add more salt, some freshly grounded black pepper and hot red pepper to taste. 
Make individual portions and drizzle each plate with extra virgin olive oil. Place a black pepper mill and hot red pepper on the table.

 

Note:

  • This soup should not result very watery or too dry.
  • Wild fennels can be replaced with 2 fennels with stalks. Cut the greenery, feathery and the tenderest part of the stem discarding any ligneous parts. Chop finely together with ¼ of a fennel bulb. Rinse thoroughly and use in place of wild fennels.