Caldarroste (Roasted Chestnuts)

Nicknamed ‘caldarroste’ in Italian, roasted chestnuts are a great segue in the series of seasonal classics. Traditionally, caldarroste are fire-roasted in a holed pan, but they can also be made at home – in the oven or, as described in this recipe, on the stove.

Cooked chestnuts have a unique mealy texture thanks to their high content of starch and low content of oil, compared to other seeds, and are considered a true delicacy. In late fall, chestnut-gathering is a common leisure activity in the vast spontaneous chestnuts groves (‘castagneti’) that can be found all throughout Italy. During their season, cultivated chestnuts can also be found at greengrocer’s shops. In big cities, roasted chestnuts are commonly sold by street vendors, especially around the holidays.

Before roasting, chestnuts need to be prepared with an incision on the skin (as shown in the picture). As the chestnut cooks, the cut will allow the vapor to escape and the skin to open up as it shrinks – when the chestnut will be fully cooked, the skin will come off easily.

Chestnuts can be roasted on the gas burner in a holed aluminum pan used directly on the flame. On the electric burner, good results can be obtained by using a large stainless steel pot, at a high temperature. As the skin starts to burn, keep tossing the chestnuts around for 15-20 minutes, depending on the size. Two or three times during the cooking time, toss a tablespoon of water into the pot and place a lid on it for a couple of minutes to steam the chestnuts and help them cook more uniformly. Chestnuts can also be boiled in water for 30-40 minutes, in which case no incision is needed.

13 thoughts on “Caldarroste (Roasted Chestnuts)”

  1. Oh wow – such a special winter treat! Stefano's dad used to peel them for Cara when they were still really hot, so she didn't burn her fingers. We have such a hard time finding good quality chestnuts here. When we do have them, we usually roast them right in the oven. We'll have to try them over gas. A glass of red wine is a must!

  2. We used to buy a case in the fall in my mother's village (which had castagneti nearby), and then eat them for many day afterwards. My mother would alternate between roasting and boiling them. The chestnuts were nice and plump, each one a mouthful of great flavor and texture. My mother used to tell me that once picked, chestnut must be "cured" to make them last properly. However, I don't know what the process entailed. Lovely photo.

  3. Thanks for your contributions! This is what I love the most about blogging, meeting other people and getting to know their stories.

    Simona, the only thing that I found about 'curing' chestnuts is that it's best to let fresh chestnuts rest for a few days to let some of the starch turn into sugar. Chestnuts are quite perishable because of their high content of water, they should be stored in the fridge in an air-tight container, or frozen.

  4. Your posts always make me want to try new things, P.

    How are the chestnuts sold in the streets of downtown Vancouver? They smell pretty good, but I wouldn't know an impostor. If they're not the real deal, where should I grab some?

    I had a boss in Japan who used to love eating acorns in a similar manner. Do Italians eat acorns too? My folks have a few huge oak trees, and in the fall the lawn is lousy with acorns. You can hear them rain down on the roof when the wind blows. They're a big nuisance, but if we could eat them, that would really be something.

  5. Thanks for your questions πŸ™‚ I honestly never tried the chestnuts that are sold by street vendors in Vancouver, they seem too expensive.

    Even though edible, Italian acorns are not for human consumption – they're fed to some farm animals. Japanese acorns must be different πŸ™‚

  6. I tried roasted chestnuts for the first time this year and I did like them, but yes – they did have a mealy texture. However, the flavor was great! After looking at yours, I don't believe that I roasted mine long enough. I'm planning on trying again next year and to use your method. Yours look MUCH better than mine!

  7. I have my grandparents' chestnut roaster that my mother brought back from Rome and then passed on to me. It gets pulled out every year at Thanksgiving. Another reason a gas stove is a must πŸ™‚

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