Tuscan Recipe for Necci (Chestnut Flour Crepes)
The fall is one of our favorite times to travel to Europe. From Spain’s Basque Country to Italy’s heel (the region of Puglia), Europe is full of autumn bounty from September through November. One sure sign of fall for me is the reappearance of chestnuts, which make the appearance in a number of authentic Tuscan recipes.
On the streets of Rome you can smell the distinct fragrance of chestnuts roasting, and it always gives me a thrill to see the chestnut vendors start popping up in piazzas and on street corners, scooping hot roasted chestnuts into paper cones.
Italy in particular is a land of the chestnut, and the fall sees numerous regions and communities celebrating the chestnut harvest. One of these is Tuscan, where raw chestnuts (those fuzzy things pictured) are gradually turned into chestnut flour and used to make necci, the simplest, most delicious dish. These chestnut flour crepes are traditionally served with fresh cow’s milk ricotta and honey – chestnut honey if you can get it. But you can use any kind of mild cheese, or can simply drizzle them with honey or chocolate sauce for a sweet treat.
14 ounces Chestnut flour
pinch of salt
16-18 ounces of water
*Available at specialty food stores or Italian grocers.
Mix the flour and salt together, then whisk in the water. Chestnut flour can vary in how much it absorbs, but the batter should be thin enough that it will form a thin coat on the pan (and thus a thin crepe). Set aside for 15 minutes, then whisk again until smooth.
Heat a crepe pan (or non-stick skillet) over medium heat. Use a paper towel or brush to lightly coat with oil, then add just enough batter to cover about 2/3 the bottom of the pan. Quickly swirl the batter around so that it thinly coats the rest of the bottom.
Cook for a minute (or until lightly golden brown), then flip. Cook for another minute and remove, placing in layers on a plate. Cover with a clean towel and start the next one.
When the crepes are made, fill them with a bit of the ricotta, drizzle with honey, and roll up.
Another fun fact? Traditionally when making necci one would place a chestnut leaf between each layer. That might be a tall order (unless you have a chestnut tree in your yard)!
You can try your hand at making necci or other Tuscan specialties on any of our Tuscany cooking vacations.
What are your favorite fall ingredients and your favorite fall recipes?
By Peg Kern
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