“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…” It’s difficult to escape Nat King Cole smoothly and melodically introduce that classic Christmas tune in your head every time you see fresh chestnuts, even if it isn’t Christmas. Without fail, each and every time I see fresh chestnuts, I break out into that tune. And for effect, as Caterina and I brainstormed and developed a series of chestnut recipes, I played the song on repeat, over and over again.
Caterina and I both grew up with parents who revelled in the notion of igniting a wood fire in the cooler Autumn and Winter months, huddling around that fire, and celebrating the roasted sweetness of chestnuts. I remember mum pulling the blistered chestnuts off the fire, eagerly peeling their skins away, unconcerned about burning her fingers. “This reminds me of back home” she would say, nostalgically reminiscing of collecting chestnuts in her Northern Greek village, and roasting them the same way. Caterina’s dad has even custom built a roasting tool specifically for the task, and always shows up with a box of fresh chestnuts when they are in their peak season, ready for the annual roasting ritual.
While chestnuts may have been famously sung about, and most of us are familiar with scenes of chestnuts roasting on open fires, I think it is fair to say that as an ingredient in both savoury and sweet dishes, to the average home cook in Australia, this humble nut is somewhat of an enigma. With an abundance of premium quality, Australian grown chestnuts, in the peak of their season, it is the perfect opportunity to experiment with them in the kitchen. And that is exactly what Caterina and I did (with Nat King Cole creating ambience). A cooked chestnut has a beautiful earthy sweetness to it, so it is suitable for use in both sweet and savoury dishes. Being pasta lovers, we have chosen to share a pasta recipe with you, a beautiful chestnut and pear ravioli in a nutty burnt butter and sage sauce.
The inspiration for the recipe came from a recent dining experience at Barangaroo’s Bel and Brio, where executive Chef Davide Incardona cooked us his favourite dish on the restaurant’s current menu, a wild boar ragu and chestnut pasta. Inspired by memories and experiences of the food he grew up with in Italy’s Brescia, you can see that Chef Davide has a clear vision and passion for what he does. “Chestnuts remind me of home, I grew up with them, and we always cooked a lot with them, they were the inspiration for this dish”.
Chef Davide Incardona from Bel and Brio
Davide’s signature dish speaks for itself. The robust flavour of wild boar balances perfectly with the crumbled sweetness of chestnuts, each forkful of freshly made pasta beautifully coating the palate. When someone creates and cooks with passion, it shows on the plate. The Bel and Brio menu has Chef Davide’s passion written all over it. A combination of traditional Italian cooking methods, combined with fresh seasonal Australian produce, the end plated results are comforting and mouth-watering.
While we don’t claim to cook as well as chef Davide, we think you’ll enjoy our ravioli recipe. It’s comforting and warming, and a true celebration of the beautiful chestnuts our Australian farmers work so hard at growing. If you haven’t experimented with chestnuts in the kitchen, give them a go. This recipe makes a great starting point. For more chestnut recipe inspiration visit www.chestnutsaustralia.com.au
Chestnut & Pear Ravioli in a sage, burnt butter and chestnut sauce
We used freshly made lasagne sheets from our local pasta shop to create the ravioli. You can, of course, make your own.
For the ravioli
1 large pear, peeled and coarsely grated
100 grams feta
4 large sage leaves, finely chopped
10 roasted chestnuts, chopped
1 tablespoon thickened cream
1 tablespoon honey
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped
500g fresh lasagne sheets
2 egg whites, lightly whisked
For the sauce
¼ cup sage leaves, coarsely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
½ cup chopped roasted chestnuts
Grated parmesan cheese
- To roast the chestnuts: using a sharp knife, score a cross in each chestnut. Place the chestnuts on a baking tray. Roast in the oven at 200 degrees Celsius for 45 minutes. Allow to cool completely before peeling.
- To make the ravioli filling, in a large bowl, combine the pear, feta, sage leaves, chestnuts, cream, honey, nutmeg, pepper and parsley. Mix with a spoon until combined.
- Place the mixture in a blender or nutri bullet and blend until smooth in texture. Place the mixture in a bowl and refrigerate for at least 60 minutes. The mixture needs to be slightly firm to easily form the ravioli.
- Lay out half of the lasagne sheets onto a flat surface.
- We have made our ravioli into 7cm diameter scalloped edged circles. You can use either a sharp edged cookie cutter or pasta cutter. Alternatively, you can make them into rectangular shapes using a knife if you don’t have a round cookie cutter.
- Spoon a heaped teaspoon of the mixture onto the lasagne sheets, allowing enough room between each spoonful (you can use your cookie cutter or pasta cutter as a guide)
- Brush egg whites around each spoon of filling, ensuring each edge is well coated.
- Place the remaining half of the lasagne sheets over the ravioli filling, pressing the sheets of pasta around the ravioli filling gently together, removing any pockets of air.
- Using your cookie or pasta cutter, cut the ravioli into shape. Place the prepared ravioli onto a tray lined with baking paper.
- Bring a large pot of water to the boil. While the water is boiling, prepare your sauce.
- To prepare the sauce, in a large frying pan, on medium heat, melt the butter.
- Add the sage leaves. Cook on a medium heat until the butter has a light brown colour to it, and the butter has started to burn slightly.
- Add the ravioli to the boiling water. Cook for 5 minutes, or according to your fresh pasta cooking instructions.
- Remove the ravioli from the water and transfer them to the frying pan with the sauce. Coat the pasta with the sauce. Add the pepper and chopped chestnuts to the pan and stir gently to coat.
- Serve immediately with grated parmesan cheese to taste.