Ingredients for the pasta:
about 680g CHESTNUT FLOUR (=23,99oz=5 ⅔ cup)
about 165g PLAIN FLOUR (=5,82oz=1 ⅓ cup)
about 380g lukewarm WATER (=13,40oz=3 ⅛ cup)
Ingredients for the sauce:
400g DRIED CHESTNUTS (=14,11oz)
250g RICOTTA (=8,82oz=1 cup)
210g WHOLE MILK (=7,41oz=¾ cup)
250g PDO PARMIGIANO REGGIANO 24months (=8,82oz=2 ½ cup)
Soak dried chestnuts in a bowl full of water for 1 night (about 10 hours).
The morning after, drain them and use a toothpick to make sure to remove the inner skin (membrane) that has remained stuck inside the crevices.
Pour chestnuts in a big pot filled with salted water and cook them for about 1,5-2 hours: you need to check them as they have to be soft but not overcooked.
Once chestnuts are perfectly cooked, keep them in their water (you will then use part of this water to cook pasta).
In the meantime, prepare pasta. Place 480g (=16,93oz=4 cup) chestnut flour on a working surface and dig a hole in the middle to shape it as a “fountain”. Do the same with 100g (=3,53oz=¾cup) plain flour right next to chestnut flour.
Pour some lukewarm water (not all at a time) in the chestnut flour hole and mix roughly (you just need to trap water with some of the surrounding flour). Break the egg in the plain flour hole and mix roughly again. Combine the two doughs into one and knead adding some more water and some more flour if needed (the total amount of flour specified in the ingredients list refers to the flour needed both to knead the dough and to roll and cut it). The reason why amounts are not too precise is that there is no specific rule (opposite to what happens for egg fresh pasta): you need to get to a soft but not too sticky dough.
While working the dough don’t forget to flour the working surface more than once with chestnut flour.
Cut a little pasta and flatten it with the hands, then roll it with a rolling pin to get to 1,5-2 mm thickness. Keep flouring both pasta and working surface: use plain flour when rolling the dough and use chestnut flour to separate pasta when overlapping it (for this reason you will use chestnut flour when rolling if you are rolling pasta around the rolling pin). Cut pasta strips of about 7-8 cm width (the length doesn’t matter here). Flour them with chestnut flour then overlap them. Cut ribbons of about 6mm length (the width stays 7-8 cm). Lay the floured chestnut pasta on a pastry board until you are ready to cook it (this type of pasta cannot be dried).
Prepare the sauce: pour ricotta in a bowl and work it with a fork. Add milk little by little and mix everything to get to a homogeneous sauce.
Freshly grate PDO Parmigiano Reggiano.
Pour 5000g (=176,37oz) of the chestnut cooking water in a big pot, add chestnuts and bring to boil. Once it boils, add coarse salt (only if necessary: it depends on how much salt you used when cooking chestnuts). Once it boils again, throw all the pasta in and cover with a lid. Let it boil for 10 minutes, then lower the fire and let it simmer for 5 more minutes.
Turn the fire off and add sauce and PDO Parmigiano Reggiano. Mix, then partially cover with a lid. Let it set for minimum 15 minutes (or up to 30 minutes). The result should be creamy (not too liquid and not too thick). If you feel it is too compact, you can add some more chestnut cooking water you kept apart.
The serves are many as this recipe comes from the past when families were bigger ones. Moreover, the more you warm this pasta up the tastier it becomes. If you prefer to make less pasta no problem: just make sure to substitute the egg (you cannot divide it) with some more lukewarm water. This is possible as many families don’t add any egg when making the pasta.
When warming the pasta, you can dilute it with milk as the more it sets the thicker it becomes.
This is a traditional dish from the mountain area of Corniglio (a municipality on Parma apennines) made only during winter as this is the chestnut season (and chestnut flour is freshly ground). It’s not a sunday recipe, it was an everyday one: in the past workers needed a lot more calories than we currently do!
This is the first published recipe I didn’t make myself. I asked my grandmother-in-law Ida to teach me as she was the secret keeper of this family treasure. Her mum Rosa taught her to cook this pasta when she still was a child.
It’s been touching seeing her cooking. As many people pointed out, the video showing her hands working recalled back to their memories their grandma or, on a bigger level, everybody’s grandma.
At he same time I smiled when I saw her rolling pasta with a homemade small rolling pin that originally came from a broom handle. When you are born in a small village on the mountains (Signatico) in 1933 you learn how to tighten your belt. A rich treasure hidden behind a poor plate.
Starring Ida Dallacasa, born in 1933