On my birthday last year when I stayed in the totally beautiful Casina Degli Specchi during the chestnut festival I was told by my hosts where to go in the town to eat local ravioli castagne not just filled with chestnuts but also made with chestnut flour I thoroughly enjoyed adding this to my list of chestnut treats during the weekend long chestnut festival. I loved it but did however find it a tad too sweet. More like eating a dessert course and so I am attempting here to create my own more savoury version using the chestnut flour I bought during my stay in Soriano nel Chimino. Chestnut flour has a slightly sweet nutty taste so I’ve also added walnuts to heighten the nutty bitterness inside the pasta pocket.
Now I know traditionally pasta is made on a marble table by creating a flour volcano into which the eggs are cracked into the crater. But I suspect that this is because in the warm temperatures of Italy, the coolness of the marble aides the mixing of the pasta dough. However I find cleaning down a worktop too messy and I don’t have a marble topped table to hand most often. So I have always mixed my pasta dough in a large ceramic bowl.
Making pasta is so very simple and immense fun. I bought a pasta factory a few years ago which now I’m without a home I leave with a friend as I can no longer eat pasta unless it’s freshly made. What a food snob I’ve turned into but seriously make your own pasta and see for yourself how it changes you. I dare you to taste the difference. Once you’ve gorged on homemade pasta you’ll never want to eat dried or shop bought pasta ever again. My general rule of thumb is 100g of flour and 1 egg per person. Here I’m making ravioli for so I’m using 300g of flour and 3 eggs. Chestnut flour needs to be mixed with pasta flour to create a dough that can be rolled without tearing. I’m using Merchant Gourmet chestnut purée but I only need half the packet. As I took this photo I thought they could do with their brand name being clearer. Turns out they’re ahead of the game and new packaging is on the way.
150g chestnut flour
150g 00 pasta flour
Generous pinch of sea salt
1 small onion
Drizzle of olive oil
40g goats gouda
100g puréed chestnuts
Salt and black pepper
Sage or oregano
Grated cheese to serve
Pop the two flours and the salt into a large bowl and crack the eggs on top. Mix this together with a spoon until it forms dry lumps before getting stuck in with your hands to bring it together into a single ball.
Dust the work surface with a little flour and place the ball on top. Using the heel of the hand, need the dough for about 5 minutes and then wrap in cling film and refrigerate for about half an hour.
This gives the gluten in the dough time to become active. For a vegan version instead of the eggs just use water to create the pasta. Add in small amounts and keep stirring until it comes together.
Now chop the onion extremely finely and fry in the olive oil. It should be about 40g of onion or shallots.
Chop the walnuts very finely with a knife or a mezzaluna. Don’t blitz them as this makes the end mixture too smooth. Place the walnuts, grated gouda (or vegan cheese or no cheese at all), black pepper, salt and fried onions in a bowl and toss the ingredients to mix. Then add the puréed chestnuts and fold in as quickly as possible. Cover in clingfilm and chill.
Cut the chilled pasta dough into four pieces. Set the pasta roller on the thickest setting and pass each ball through the machine twice.
Then dust all the sheets with flour and fold over the ends to create a neat top and bottom. This process is then repeated with the setting being turned up a notch each time. Again pass the sheets through twice, fold the ends if they become misshapen and dust again. Do this until you get the sheets about 1mm thick. Practise will help you to gauge the point at which the pasta sheet will tear. If it does just start it over again on the thickest setting. If you don’t have a pasta machine you can roll by hand with a wooden rolling pin but this will feel like an upper body workout at the gym.
If you have a fancy pasta factory you can use the ravioli attachment. If not use two square pastry cutters to create fluted edges. Using two sizes allows the smaller square of pasta to be the base and the slightly large square to fit onto over the filling and fit snugly without the filling bleeding out as you seal it.
Set out two sheets worth of pasta squares and brush with water. place a small dollop of the filling in the centre of the square and then add the top square and press together with your fingers.
Bring a pan of water to the boil and drop the ravioli into the water and cook for 2-3 minutes. The pasta will expand as it softens and cooks. Serve tossed in butter and black pepper. You can also add a little sage or oregano too. And grate your favourite cheese on top too, greedy. Hehe. I used Cropwell Bishop Shropshire Blue for a bright bite. Interestingly this cheese has nothing to do with Shropshire at all. It comes from Scotland and is made in several English counties, go figure. Its a jolly tasty cheese though. Also any left over filling is great on toast the following morning for breakfast.