During the winter months, there’s nothing more warming and comforting than wonderful pasta with hearty chestnuts, a wonderful winter squash, a creamy cheese, some sautéed leeks and a splash of vermouth!
Please don’t let the roasted chestnut deter you! Chestnuts are easy to find now. You no longer have to wait for the Fall/Winter seasons anymore. I order mine online now. Just google “Roasted Chestnuts” and you’ll find several online sites you can order from. I order mine from www.Amazon.com The best part is that they already come roasted, peeled and ready to use.
This earthy dish will bring you right into the heart of Tuscany. The Tuscans use homemade thick (sort-of) spaghetti called Pici or Pinci pasta. The closest pasta you will find in the U.S. is perciatelli or bucatini … or you can always try your hand and rolling out your own pici!
I first had this pasta on a January evening in a beautiful Tuscan town called Pienza. I always make it a point to ask a local for their recommendation of their favorite neighborhood restaurant. I try never to go to the tourist restaurants. I’m always on the search for an authentic experience. You can usually only find that if you venture off the well beaten path. We were definitely off that path!
The Owner of this particular “locals” ristorante sat us down on bench seating along with a few other locals. He poured us a tall glass of the house wine. He then went to fetch a piece of paper and sat down with us for a bit and explained what was on the menu that evening and what he recommended we must try. We started off with this wonderful hearty pasta.
As we were eating, I asked the Owner to come sit again for a few minutes and confirm with me the recipe as I scribbled on the backside of my paper placemat. He broke out into a huge smile and told me that everyone loved eating his food, but no-one had ever asked him for the recipe before! Once I asked him for the recipe, well, then the food just kept coming. I remember a hearty ribolito soup, some really tasty grilled fresh sausages, some sautéed fennel, and a gorgeous salad. He also made sure our wine glasses were never empty. Thank heavens we were staying in the town and only had to stumble back to our local hotel!
If you are traveling and even just a little adventurous, always ask for the restaurants the local townspeople frequent. You’ll never be disappointed; the meals are always bountiful and cost about ½ of the price in the advertised tourist locations.