Caldarroste (Roasted Chestnuts)

 

Caldarroste is Italian for ‘roasted chestnuts’ – something that’s actually rather common in all the Mediterranean countries featuring mountains close enough to the sea to create the ideal environment for chestnut trees. Yet again, Italy with its Alps and the Apennine “spine” running all along its territory has several mountain regions where these trees abound, and so the recipes using their fruits.

Given their simple preparation, caldarroste are then a familiar sight all over the country in Fall, when street vendors pop up everywhere filling the air with the delicious aroma of the chestnuts roasted on their mobile stoves. In fact, the caldarroste sold on the street are also very appreciated in northern Italy both for their taste and for their other traditional use – as pocket warmers, by sliding a just-made paper cone in the coat to help fighting the cold winter wind. Roasting chestnuts at home, without an actual open fire, just doesn’t give comparable results. Everyone claims to know a family secret to make them in the oven or on the hob, but they are usually bunk. The truth is that the only way to make the peel not to stick to the fruit, which renders eating chestnuts a torment, is to find the right balance between a very hot fire and the correct air humidity – and that only happens if you are outside.

So, is there any actual trick for making great Italian-style caldarroste at home? Our experts found two. The first is to use actual Italian chestnuts, like the marrone del Mugello variety, or the equally good marrone di Combai and di San Zeno. They are large and sweet, almost entirely different from common varieties. Then you shouldn’t even try cooking them on a fire: roast them in a ventilated oven instead, placing a pan filled with salted water next to them. Or – of course – come over and enjoy them in the piazza del Duomo in Milano.