It may seem a strange and rather wintry dish for a day when the temperature has soared into the late 20s and everyone is seeking shade and a place to cool down. On the face of it chestnuts conjure up thoughts of Christmas and burning log fires. But to a certain extent, everyday suppers tend to be governed by how the day has gone (I’ve been working), and what’s lurking in the fridge or freezer of store cupboard. The trofie had been sitting looking at me from a bowl on my kitchen worktop since they flew back with me from Genoa in early May. I’d given half the packet to my son and had intended to make some pesto – a typical Genovese accompaniment – to stir into mine. But then Romina at Corto Deli talked to me about serving them at Christmas with pancetta … and since a packet of diced pancetta and some chestnut mushrooms nearing their last breath of life were lurking in my fridge, that seemed the way to go. I also had a freshly bought and gorgeous radicchio and I’ve seen plenty of risotto dishes mixing this with pancetta. So … all these things really did have to work together, didn’t they?
Trofie is not the most common of pastas but you can find it here. I’ve bought it in Carluccio’s and made a typical Genovese dish with potatoes, green beans and fresh pesto – which sounds a little weird (the potato bit) but works wonderfully, and I did see it on menus in Genoa. Chestnut trofie are not so common … indeed, I don’t think I can remember seeing them here but I’m guessing I may get them in Corto – at Christmas time!
Trofie are a typical Genovese pasta, small pieces of pasta shaped (originally by hand) into little twists. In the autumn and winter chestnut flour is added to the mixture. Chestnut trees abound in Liguria, of which Genoa is the capital, brought there by the Romans, and the chestnut season is October.
While many of the castagne – chestnuts – are eaten as fruit (nuts) many are ground down into chestnut flour. Some of this is used for the trofie, but some made into cakes (castagnaccio), small doughnut-like fritters (castagnole), or used to make a kind of polenta or for gnocchi. My friend Annette who lives on the Tuscan/Ligurian border has made castagnaccio with her local chestnut flour, which happily she’s brought back to London for her friends to taste!
Chestnut Trofie with Pancetta, Mushrooms & Radicchio – Serves 1
- 75-100g chestnut trofie (or ordinary trofie)
- 1 shallot
- 70g diced pancetta
- extra virgin olive oil
- 3 large chestnut mushrooms, halved and thickly sliced
- slug of white wine (if easily available but not essential)
- ¼ round radicchio (about 50g), cut into roughly 1cm slices
- freshly ground black pepper
Put the trofie on to start cooking – follow instructions on your pack but mine needed about 13 minutes.
While they’re cooking prepare the ‘sauce’. Finely slice the shallot and add it to a pan with the diced pancetta and about a tablespoon olive oil. Cook over a medium heat until colouring nicely. Now add the mushrooms.
Stir occasionally and when the mushrooms and everything has coloured nicely add a glug of white wine, if using (I had some open) and a good grating of black pepper (you probably won’t need salt because of the salty pancetta). If you have no wine, just add a little of the pasta water. Let cook down for a minute or two until the wine or water has been almost absorbed.
Slice the radicchio and add it with the cooked and drained trofie.
Mix all together and continue to cook as you carefully turn and mix well for another minute or so.
Transfer to a serving dish and grate over some Parmesan.
I served it with a green salad and sat in the garden, a glass of chilled white wine to hand. It was cooling off but still warm. However, that didn’t spoil my enjoyment of this wonderful dish. The flavours were fantastic. I guess it would be nice in the winter but really it was pretty spectacular in blazing July!!