Autumn brings lots of chestnuts to Tuscany and Tuscany brings Necci to us.
Necci, chestnut crepes stuffed with soft cheese, are one of the most popular traditional Tuscan sweets. Pancakes, to be precise, made from chestnut flour and water mixed to get a smooth batter, slightly thicker than a normal crepe.
Then Necci or “Nicci”, meaning “chestnut” in Tuscan dialect, are filled with ricotta and honey. Simple as that. No sugar, no butter. After all Italian cuisine is the emblem of “the less, the better”, right?
I made my own version, thinner and softer by replacing water with milk to get a silky batter (I poured 1 ladle of batter per crepe), adding eggs and topping off the crepes with an extremely simple and delicious “drunken” berry coulis. Believe me: raspberries, redcurrants and blackberries love to simmer together with a spoon of gin/rum (or whatever liqueur you have on hand).
What about the nutrients? Chestnut flour is gluten free, low in fat and calories and with an increased antioxidant capacity (it’s just not very rich in protein, nobody’s perfect). Italian bakers use it to make pretty much everything, from tagliatelle and gnocchi to cakes, breads and muffins.
I have found a scientific study published last September, showing that more furans – with their toasty and nutty notes – and more phenolic compounds – with their woody and smoky notes – are found in this naturally sweet type of flour.
Not that I was thinking of nutrients and physico-chemical properties when I ate these beautiful crepes on a finally bright Sunday morning in London…
Gluten-Free Tuscan Chestnut Crepes
- 200 gr chestnut flour about 1 cup
- olive oil
- 1 cup milk
- 2 eggs
For the filling
- 300 gr ricotta
- 2 tablespoons honey
- cinnamon and nutmeg
For the berry coulis
- 60 g brown or coconut sugar
- 1 cup berries
- 2 tablespoons rum
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- In a large bowl, mix the flour with enough milk to get a smooth crepe batter. Set aside.
- Meantime prepare the berry coulis simmering the berries with the rest of the ingredients for the coulis for 5 mins until the fruit is soft. Remove and allow to cool down.
- Heat and lightly oil a frying pan. Add 1 ladle of the batter to the pan and tilt slightly to evenly coat the pan.
- Cook for about 2 minutes or until you see that the top of the batter looks dry. Loosen with a spatula, flip over and cook the other side for one minute. Set aside and keep warm.
- Spread a spoonful (or more) of fresh ricotta mixed with honey on each, fold them and serve drizzled with berry coulis.