Once the fall months and cooler weather arrived, early years at home followed an Italian tradition of ending dinner meals with roasted chestnuts and a glass of wine. My Dad would actually not roast the chestnuts but carve a big X on each chestnut and cook them on the stove in his big cast iron skillet. Sometimes we enjoyed them with clementines, tangerines or a cheese. On holidays if we were fortunate enough to have a bottle of Vin Santo made and shared by a relative in Montefollonico where my Dad was born, that was savored and sipped in little glasses.
- 4 slices bacon or pancetta – chopped
- 1 large shallot – roughly chopped
- 1 small carrot – roughly chopped
- 3 tbs butter – unsalted
- 1 small leek – roughly chopped
- 1 celery stalk – roughly chopped
- 3 garlic cloves – peeled and sliced
- 6-8 cups chicken stock
- 2 ¾ cups whole roasted chestnuts – peeled and chopped
- ½ tsp nutmeg – or to taste
- salt and freshly ground black pepper – to taste
- 1 sprig thyme
- pinch of cinnamon
- ½ cup heavy cream
Using a large saucepan, cook bacon or pancetta, over medium heat until slightly crisp. Transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel and set aside to cool and crumble for garnish.
Pour off a little of the fat and in the same saucepan add the butter, vegetables and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally for about 6-7 minutes until the vegetables are soft but not crisp.
Add the stock, chestnuts, pinch of cinnamon and thyme and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook, partially covered until the chestnuts are very tender – 30-45 minutes. Remove from heat, discard thyme sprig and let cool slightly.
Working in batches, puree soup in a blender until smooth. It is best to put a towel over the blender when pureeing hot liquids as hot liquids sometimes cause the blender to pop the lid and spray the liquid.
Return the soup to the saucepan and warm over medium heat while stirring in the cream, nutmeg, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Continue cooking until the soup has gotten slightly thick – about 5 minutes. If too thick just add more broth. Pour into warmed soup bowls and garnish with the crumbled bacon or pancetta.