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A new look for vintage fruits

by Maria Linardi last modified 2008-06-20 15:12

Make the most of the Autumn by going chestnut or pear gathering. And then delight your family and friends with these modern takes on some of nature's oldest fruits.

The old chestnutThe old chestnut
Up until the Middle Ages chestnuts were a staple part of the diet of all Italians living in the hills or mountains. In the year 1000 chestnut groves were planted instead of oak in the Apennines and chestnut trees were popularly known as bread trees by the people. Italians use two type of edible chestnut, chestnuts and marrons (a larger chestnut usually grown in the Apennines between Emilia and Tuscany, Piedmont and in some parts of Lazio). The recipe below uses marrons.
Quality chestnuts come with an IGP mark, and chestnut-lovers should try the Castel del Rio variety.

Chestnut Tortellacci with Herbs and Mushrooms


3 eggs
300 gr of flour
a pinch of salt
200 gr chestnuts (boiled and pureed)
100 gr mortadella (diced)
100 gr grated parmesan
a pinch of nutmeg
salt and pepper
half a clove of garlic (crushed)

Combine the pureed chestnuts with the other ingredients and leave aside. Sieve the flour and break in the eggs. Add the salt and work the flour and eggs together until you have a smooth dough. Knead until it is smooth, firm and elastic. Roll out the dough on a floured surface until it is thin. Cut into squares and place a spoonful of the filling in each one. Fold and close the tortellaci pressing with your fingers (use some oil to help make the pasta stick). Cook the pasta in boiling salted water until firm but ready (al dente) adding a spoonful of oil to the water just before draining. Stir in the sauce made with the mushrooms, garlic, herbs and oil.

Pears for everyonePears for everyone

The pear tree is one of our oldest known fruit trees and comes in thousands of varieties, few of which are commercially grown. Italy is the top pear-growing country in the world.

Pears are highly nutritious and are rich in mineral and natural sugars. Most of the pears we buy are picked before ripening and are kept at room temperature. Varieties can be split into "summer" and "autumn-winter" pears. Pears lend themselves to a variety of dishes. The recipe we give below uses Kaiser pears, a variety of pear available throughout the Autumn and Winter and is delicious as either a starter or second course.

Baked pears with speck and gorgonzola

3 Kaiser pears Kaiser (all approx. the same size and weighing a kilo in total)
100 gr sliced speck
100 gr strong gorgonzola
chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Peel, core and quarter the pears. Wrap a slice of speck around each quarter and cook in the oven for 15 minutes. Crumble the gorgonzola into a pan. Add 3 or 4 tablespoons of milk and heat gently mixing with a wooden spoon until the cheese melts. Pour the sauce over the pears and top with the chopped walnuts. Serve with a chilled Chardonnay from Trentino.

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