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Necci – Tuscan chestnut flour pancakes

Necci – Tuscan chestnut flour pancakes

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A key player in Tuscany’s culinary heritage and a readily available staple across the region, chestnut flour is typically produced in the mountainous, forested areas of the Lunigiana and the Garfagnana, where chestnut trees abound, and where chestnuts are still dried and milled using traditional, time-honoured practices.

Locally, chestnut flour is turned into a variety of dishes, from pasta to bread and from pastries to snacks, which are a testament to the frugal yet rich culinary heritage of the area. Among them are necci – pancakes of sorts, made of nothing more than chestnut flour and water, often stuffed with sweetened ricotta.

Like most dishes hailing from the area, necci are traditionally cooked on a cast-iron pans called testi – often over an open fire. At home, a greased skillet, a spatula and a bit of practice flipping the pancakes will do.

The naturally sweet chestnut batter lends itself to sweet rather than savoury fillings. Sheep’s milk ricotta is traditional, as is a drizzle of chestnut honey to finish, and truth to be told, it’s a hard-to-beat combination. Serve your necci at the end of a meal or as a sweet snack. They are also wonderful as part of a breakfast or brunch spread.

Ingredients

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  • Necci batter

  • 275g of chestnut flour
  • 250ml of water
  • 2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing the pan
  • For the filling

  • ricotta, either sheep's or cow's milk
  • chestnut honey, for drizzling
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Method

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1
In a large bowl, stir the flour with the water and oil to get a smooth, thick-ish batter (it shouldn’t be too runny; adjust flour and water quantities if it’s too runny or too dense)
2
Heat a drop of oil in a skillet set over a medium heat. Add a couple of spoonfuls of the batter and tilt the pan to spread it evenly
3
Cook until you see that the top of the neccio looks dry – for about 2 minutes. Flip it over and cook on the other side for 1 minute more. Transfer to a plate and keep warm. Carry on with the rest of the batter, greasing the skillet in between each addition of batter
4
On each neccio, spread a dollop of ricotta stirred with a bit of honey. Roll it up and serve with another drizzle of honey
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