Barga, Food|

The chestnut is very important and much used in dishes in Barga and Lucca. It is a fruit that fed thousands of people during periods of poverty and famine because its versatility allows people to cook it in various ways and create both sweet and savoury recipes. Moreover, our area is famous for its chestnut groves: there are about 3,000 hectares of them today, but in 1978 there were more than 12,000 hectares; suffice it to say that in the 50s in the province of Lucca there were more than 7,000 metati, stone buildings where chestnuts are dried in 40 days and then brought to the mill to create the flour at the base of many sweet and savoury preparations.

Chestnuts can be consumed in many ways, one of which does not require long cooking procedures: we are talking about mondine and ballotte (or ballocciori). Mondine consist in cooking fresh chestnuts over a fire in a type of pan with little holes and a long wooden handle. The person who prepares them makes flipping movements to make the chestnuts cook evenly. Ballotte on the other hand are prepared by boiling fresh chestnuts in salted water with seasoning: some prefer bay leaves, others favour fennel, others still use both or other herbs to get delicious and soft chestnuts.

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Credit: BergamoNews

Another way to create chestnut based preparations is to use chestnut flour, which in Barga and the surrounding area is commonly called farina di neccio. You can prepare many dishes with chestnut flour: today the most requested are sweet preparations, but many years ago it was common to cook savoury dishes too. One of the most famous dishes is Castagnaccio, a typical cake, famous in many places in Italy, made with chestnut flour, walnuts, pine nuts, orange peel and other ingredients at the cook’s discretion. Another typical recipe in Barga and Garfagnana is necci, whose name comes fromfarina di neccio: it is a sort of crepe cooked in testi, two iron disks in the middle of which is put the dough and they are then moved on the fire for cooking; today necci are mainly eaten with sweet condiments such as ricotta and nutella, but you can consume them with cold cuts and sausages too.

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Credit: ilDesco

To conclude: there are many chestnut-based recipes, here we have just shown you a smattering of them. If you would like to taste these delicacies, you can find many of them in autumn in shops and restaurants. Moreover, in Barga and the surrounding area in October and November, mondinate, events where you can taste many products mentioned above, are organised. Bon appetit!

WEBOGRAPHY

https://www.verdeazzurronotizie.it/come-leggenda-vollela-nascita-del-castagno-in-garfagnana-storia-antica-e-rara/ (last access 8/11/2021)

https://garfagnanadream.it/blog/metato-il-docufilm-sulla-secolare-tradizione-della-castagna-in-garfagnana/ (last access 8/11/2021)

http://paolomarzi.blogspot.com/2017/10/una-bonta-tutta-garfagnina-la-farina-di.html (last access 8/11/2021)

http://www.museodelcastagno.it/ricette.php (last access 8/11/2021)

Cover photo credit: https://www.coltivazionebiologica.it/ (last access 8/11/2021)

— Written and translated by Margherita Paolinelli

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