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Cookbooks and chestnut flour tagliatelle with mushrooms

Chestnut flour tagliatelle with mushrooms

Grandma’s cooking was very homely and substantial.
While seasoning chestnut flour tagliatelle with mushrooms, she said the flavors of the wood call to each other. So simple.

But her repertoire changed on the occasion of holidays, events, and Sunday lunches.
At that time, even religious precepts affected the family menu.

Chestnut flour tagliatelle with mushrooms

Women’s stories through cookbooks

Reading and studying old cookbooks, I see that the women of my grandmother’s generation, born between the 1910s, 1920s, and 1930s, had very considerable repertoires that embraced local, Italian and international cuisine.

Contemporary home recipe books are also full of recipes of all kinds. Today’s women have an impressive tool like the web (blogs and social networks) at their disposal.

At the beginning of the 20th century, women did not have the internet and social networks.
But, likewise, their recipe books are a door open to the world. And from these collections, you can understand a lot about a woman.

Women of high social standing inherited family culinary books which they enriched with new recipes over time. For example, thanks to the network of other women working for them as cooks or maidservants, who brought their recipes from the countryside where they came from, and those they exchanged with other servant women from other homes.

Of course, ladies of high society discovered new dishes traveling and exchanging recipes by letter. They were women who had no qualms about asking, even when they were not famous for sharing.

I think of Claudia, a superb cook and bad character, as well as my husband’s grandmother.

She wanted and got the recipe for cassata from the Caflisch bakery, which was at its peak during the Belle Époque years while she lived in Sicily.

Claudia was the daughter of a prefect of the Kingdom of Italy sent by the regime to fight mafias, and during her Sicilian years, she learned to cook extraordinary dishes.

She made cassata siciliana for Christmas lunch every year until her death. Then he died taking that and many other recipes with him.

One day I will tell you her story. But today, I go back to the tale of Sara, my maternal grandmother.

Sara’s cookbook

When I leaf through her recipe books, I think of her social background.

Sara was born into a family of farmworkers, the worst condition for a farmer.
You work when and if someone calls you. At that time, and unfortunately also today, there was a system of illegal hiring out (called caporalato).

When she was a child, she started to work in the fields. But even if a woman, poor and illiterate, Sara was resolutely escaped from that life. She has learned to read and write, and above all, thanks to her work, she sent her daughter to college to study.

Rethinking about the variety of recipes in her repertoire, for the reasons I have told you, I find it tells an incredible story.

Among those peasant dishes, what is surprising are the French and German recipes and the recipes for the table of the lords, from the local and Italian traditions. Her cookbooks tell about her determination to change her destiny. Among those recipes, I find names of forgotten dishes and desserts. Of most of those recipes, I also ignore their origins.

My mother has never had the desire to cook, although she has recently discovered the world of pots and pans. But she is the person who preserved notebooks, loose sheets, and grandmother’s books.

We often still rummage through boxes and cupboards in search of some culinary memories, and it still happens that at the bottom of a drawer, we find one of her notes.

Sometimes we recover a memory. The wood’s fruits call each other, like chestnuts with mushrooms.

Chestnut flour tagliatelle with mushrooms.

Chestnut flour tagliatelle with mushrooms

When, in November, I met Mrs. Paola at the farmers’ market in Piazza Carducci, she was cooking fragrant mistocchine on a stove. On that occasion, she said, if I like it, I could buy the chestnut flour that she produces on her family-run farm in Bologna.

In December, an SMS informed me chestnut flour, I’m waiting for, is ready.

Of course, it depends on the area and the climate of the season, and for some years now, chestnut flour has been ready earlier than it used to be, but still, there is no point in looking for new flour in September. It’s too early.

We organize the delivery crazily. But in mid-December, I am taken in other preparations and store the chestnut flour in the pantry, forgetting about it until a Sunday morning in mid-January.

I’m in my rooftop kitchen that, news has it, will soon no longer be my kitchen, and I’m preparing a sauce of mixed mushrooms leftover from a braised mushroom stew.

Suddenly I think back to my grandmother, who used to say ingredients of the wood call for other wood flavors, to the chestnut flour patiently waiting for its moment, and to the mushrooms in the pan.

So I decide to take out my cutting board and rolling pin to make the pasta dough.

Chestnut pasta dough recipe

Chestnut pasta dough for tagliatelle

It is traditional. Some people also make it without eggs.
But I propose it as I have always seen it done: eggs and flour.
The flour is a mix of chestnut flour and 0 or 00 flour.

For two reasons: the first is that if you only use chestnut flour it is impossible to make the pasta dough, and the second is a question of taste.

Chestnut flour is gluten-free and has a very persistent and naturally sweet flavor.
If you use too much, you can compromise the final balance of flavors.

This pasta tends to puff up when cooked, so roll pasta dough out very thin and cut narrow tagliatelle, not too wide.

Grandma loved to dress them with a simple sauce of mixed mushrooms.
When in season, she enriched it with porcini.

In the Romagna Apennines, chestnut flour tagliatelle are usually served with a shallot sauce. I also like them very much with a white sausage ragout.

Buona cucina, Monica

Cook with me

Among my family’s recipes for chestnut flour, HERE is one for making castagnaccio.
It is a gluten-free, low-sugar sweet from the peasant tradition.

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Chestnut flour tagliatelle with mushrooms

Mushrooms sauce for pasta

Chestnut flour tagliatelle with mushrooms

serves 4
The list of Ingredients

pasta dough
chestnut flour, 100 g
00 flour, 300 g
4 eggs

mushrooms sauce
mixed mushrooms (for instance champignon, Portobello or shiitake mushrooms, king trumpet mushrooms)
broth or water, 50 ml
a knob of butter and olive oil
salt and pepper to taste


Mix the two flours in a bowl, add the eggs.

Knead the dough.

To make pasta dough proceed as you prefer: HERE is how to make pasta dough traditionally or, if you prefer, use the pasta machine. In both cases, make a thin sheet of pasta dough.

Roll up the pasta dough and cut the tagliatelle, narrow rather than large.

Make nests out of the noodles, not too narrow, and leave to rest.

Wash and clean the mushrooms, remove the stalks, and finely slice the rest. Set aside.

In a large frying pan, where you can season the pasta, cook the shallot or onion on a low flame with a knob of butter, olive oil, a pinch of salt, and a sprig of rosemary.

When the mixture is soft and translucent, add the mushrooms and cook over a low flame for about ten minutes. If you like, you can add Marsala wine, add salt to taste, and turn off the heat.

Cook the tagliatelle in salted water, drain, and season.

Serve with grated Parmesan aside.

Chestnut flour tagliatelle recipe

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