(I don’t know about you, but I needed a little break from fruit. Fortunately, a local foodie who wishes to remain known only as “the co-conspirator” hatched up a plan for a pasta experiment involving some chestnut flour she picked up on a recent trip to Italy. Even better, she volunteered to blog about it. Welcome, co-conspirator!)
Recently the co-conspirator and Doris set out to answer two questions: What is the best ratio of chestnut flour to wheat flour when making homemade pasta? And, which filling or sauce works best with chestnut flour pasta?
To answer these questions we prepared two kinds of dough—50/50 chestnut flour/white flour (which we’ll call heavy chestnut) and 25/75 chestnut flour/white flour (light chestnut)—and two kinds of pasta: ravioli and fettuccine. In both cases we used a standard homemade pasta ratio of 1 egg per cup of flour, with just a few drops of water, if necessary. We filled both the heavy and the light chestnut ravioli with a mixture of pumpkin and ricotta and served them with a light coating of butter with fresh cut sage and chives. For the heavy and light chestnut fettuccini, we tried a sauce of fresh chopped tomatoes in pesto. Two highly qualified tasters, whom we’ll call spouse 1 and spouse 2, were recruited to assist with the evaluation. Between tastings palettes were cleansed with chilled Prosecco. Before reporting the results we’ll discuss the difference between the doughs.
The 50/50 was extremely fragrant, redolent of chestnuts and reminding Doris of prosciutto (from pigs fed on chestnuts) and the co-conspirator of bellota ham (from pigs fed on acorns). It was darker than the 25/75 pasta. In the machine it did not stretch as easily as the 25/75 pasta, perhaps because the chestnut flour is lacking in gluten. The 25/75 pasta had some aroma, stretched better because of the gluten, but required the addition of more water than the 50/50 pasta.
(An aside from Doris: Can I just say that this was a lot of pasta?)
All four tasters agreed that the 50/50 pasta filled with the pumpkin and ricotta ravioli was superior to the 25/75 pasta. The pumpkin and chestnuts were a wonderful combination because they both have a “meaty” taste now described as umami. And, as this would suggest, the sweet tomato pesto sauce clashed with the 50/50 linguine and the four tasters all declared the 25/75 combination the superior choice but felt that traditional pasta would be a better bet for a sweet sauce. Those who wish to make chestnut flour pasta would be well advised to look for umami sauces and fillings. Mushroom stroganoff would be a good bet.
(P.S., from Doris. You don’t have to go to Italy to get chestnut flour. In Philadelphia, you can get it at the Italian market, but you can probably either find it or order it at most specialty “gourmet” stores.)