Chestnuts and hazelnuts abound this season. While chestnuts are often most associated with street side vendors roasting large pans of them and are often used in roast stuffings, the Tuscans grind them into a flour and make them into thin pancakes using only water and salt.
Necci are a traditional sweet from the mountain communities in the provinces of Pistoia, Garfagnana and Lunigiana. They have a sweet earthiness about them which marries perfectly with the honey drizzled over them. Creamy ricotta can be used to stuff them and the crepe rolled around its creamy core. Some like to add chocolate drops to the ricotta to make it even more luxurious. A bit of baking powder can also be added to the mixture to be deep-fried into fritters.
What I appreciate even more about necci is that they are gluten and dairy-free and are vegan, not something easily achievable in a dessert, particularly when one is partial to traditional recipes. Furthermore, everyone loves them and won’t even notice that they are healthy. Vegans can top theirs with maple syrup, dairy-free chocolate sauce or golden syrup. It’s a stress-free, universally appealing dessert for the holidays.
While Necci are traditionally cooked using flat iron griddle pan on a long handle to hold over an open flame, a crepe pan or frying pan will work just fine.
Necci (chestnut crepes) – Toscana
Necci can be enjoyed in many combinations: plain, filled with ricotta and rolled, filled with ricotta and chocolate and rolled and any of these combinations, drizzled with honey. More or less water may be added to the mixture depending on how thick you like your crepes. For illustrated step-by-step instructions, click here.
350 grams chestnut flour
500 mls water
To serve (optional):
300 grams fresh ricotta, strained
Dark chocolate drops or grated
Whisk together the chestnut flour, water, olive oil and a pinch of salt until well combined. Heat a crepe pan over medium heat until hot. Brush the pan with oil and ladle the chestnut mixture into the pan to form a 20 cm (8 inch) crepe. When the edges are dry, use a spatula to flip the neccio over. Cook for a minute or two until cooked through and remove to a plate. Either drizzle with honey and serve plain or stuff with ricotta and/or chocolate and roll the neccio around to enclose the filling. Drizzle with honey if you like and eat hot.