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This vegan pasta with chestnuts is a dish that will make you fall in love with this delicious nut. We are sure. In Italy, chestnuts are eaten in a million different ways. Here, we created a dish with 3 iconic Italian ingredients: la castagna (chestnut), la nocciola (hazelnut), and bronze cut spaghetti. It's one of the best pastas we have ever had. It's cozy, creamy, cheesy, and earthy. What do you think?
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Vegan pasta with creamy chestnut pesto
For the chestnuts & hazelnuts pesto
- 1 cup chestnuts
- 2 tablespoons hazelnuts
- 2 tablespoons bread crumbs
- 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- ¾ cup unsweetened soy milk
- ½ teaspoon salt
For the pasta dish
- 11.5 oz bronze cut spaghetti (320 grams)
- ¾ gallon water to cook the pasta (3 litres)
- 1 tablespoon coarse salt to salt the pasta water
- 8 oz brown mushrooms (250 grams)
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 handful flat-leaf parsley
- ⅓ teaspoon salt
Make the pesto (it can be made in advance)
- Wash 1 cup of chestnuts, then in a large pot, put them to boil with plenty of water.
- Boil for 50 minutes, then drain, and peel them with a paring knife. Remove the outer shell and the thin brown skin under the outer shell. Don't worry if they break, we'll blend them in a second.
- Blend all the ingredients together until you have a smooth cream. You can make the cream more or less smooth based on your preference. We like it smooth but with a grainy texture. Set aside.
For the pasta dish
- Wash the parsley and the mushrooms, then cut the mushrooms into small slices and finely chop the parsley. Set aside.
- In a large pot, bring the water to boil, then salt it with coarse sea salt and add the spaghetti. Give it a stir. Cook as instructed on the package, minus 1 minute. Before draining it, save one cup of pasta water. This important. Do not forget.
- While the pasta boils, add the oil to a non stick pan. When the oil is warm, add clove of garlic and the mushrooms. Cook the mushrooms on medium heat until the pasta is ready. Season with a pinch of salt.
- When ready, add the spaghetti to the pan with the mushrooms, add 4 to 5 spoonfuls of chestnut pesto and ½ cup of pasta water. Stir well, and finish cooking the pasta until creamy and al dente. If the sauce is too thick, add more pasta water.
- Potion into serving plates, sprinkle with some finely chopped parsley, serve and eat immediately.
🥬 Ingredients & substitutions
For the chestnut pesto
Chestnuts: we recommend getting raw, fresh chestnut in your local supermarket for best results. They are available in most places during autumn and winter in the northern hemisphere.
Hazelnuts: are the perfect flavour match to the chestnuts. Get unsalted roasted and peeled hazelnuts for best result. If you want to splurge, get imported hazelnut from Piemonte, Italy.
Bread crumbs: 1 to 2 days old bread would work here. If you don't have it, just get some fresh bread, and add the crumb in the blender to turn it into bread crumbs.
Nutritional Yeast: to add umami and saltiness to the pesto. It goes incredibly well together with the chestnuts.
Soy milk: it's important to get unsweetened and unflavoured soy milk. Look at the ingredient list on the box, it should only contain soy beans, water and a little salt.
Salt: we need just a pinch or two of good fine sea salt, if you have it.
For the pasta with chestnuts
Spaghetti: best if bronze cut. You can find them next to the regular spaghetti at your supermarket. They look dusty and rugged compared to the regular type. We prefer them as they hold the sauce better. They'll make the best pasta with chestnuts.
Also, when you buy pasta, make sure it is made from only two ingredients: hard wheat semolina and water.
Brown mushrooms: they really elevate the flavour of the chestnuts so we recommend them. The recipe would work also without them, but the are easy to find, so try to add them in.
Flat-leaf parsley: a nice touch of freshness and colour to sprinkle on top of the pasta.
Salt: try to pick sea salt, it's healthier and tastes better. We use coarse sea salt to season the pasta water, and fine sea salt to season the mushrooms and the pesto.
Garlic: to flavour the mushrooms.
👨🏻🍳 Top tips
Use good quality spaghetti
The most important thing when eating pasta is to use a good quality dry pasta. When you purchase pasta make sure that is only made of two ingredients: water and hard wheat semolina flour. Your best bet is to get a brand that is made in Italy. Also, try to get your hands on some bronze cut pasta. The rugged and dusty surface will hold the sauce much better than regular steel cut pasta. Look for "trafilata al bronzo" on pasta packages that are imported from Italy.
Salt the pasta water
We will never get tired of writing this. Season the pasta water with a generous amount of coarse sea salt. The pasta will taste so much better.
Cook the pasta al dente
To make sure your pasta stays al dente, drain it 1 or 2 minutes before the official cooking time that is recommended on the package. Then finish cooking the pasta in a pan with the sauce, in this case the chestnut pesto, adding some pasta cooking water.
Save the pasta cooking water
When draining the pasta, have the habit of saving at least 1 cup of pasta water. Why? Pasta cooking water is rich of starch. If added to the sauce it will make the dish creamier. When you jump the pasta in the pan with the sauce before serving it, always add a ladle or two of pasta water. It's a chef's tip that will make your pasta next level.
📖 Questions & answers
Chestnuts have a sweet flavour, with earthy notes of nuts. They are super creamy and will satisfy your sweet and savoury cravings. They are an autumn and winter nut, and make for great cosy pestos, creams, and snacks.
Chestnuts are super healthy! They are rich in good carbs and low in fat, filling you with sustained energy and warmth during the cold winter days. They are also rich in antioxidants and vitamin C to help you prevent runny nose and winter colds.
While chestnuts are produced in several European countries, Italy is the largest producer, and they are very popular allover the country during the colder months of the year. If you wander the streets of Italy around Christmas you'll smell the inebriating fragrance of freshly roasted chestnuts that are being cooked on open fire and sold on many street corners.
For a simpler version of this pasta with chestnuts, you can remove the mushrooms, and just boil some pasta and coat it with the chestnut pesto. It will still be delicious, but we do recommend using adding the mushrooms as they complement the flavour of the chestnuts perfectly.
Chestnuts pesto with gnocchi
Another great way to eat this delicious chestnut pesto is with gnocchi. Replace the spaghetti for some delicious Italian gnocchi. They are super easy to make vegan at home. Here's our recipe. If you get store bought, make sure they are vegan, as some recipes add egg to the potato dough.
Chestnut spread on a toast
The chestnut pesto almost taste like a chocolate free version of nutella. If you want to spice things up, add a couple of teaspoons of dark cacao powder to the blender when you are preparing the pesto. The result is a guilt-free hazelnut-chestnut-chocolate spread that will be out of this world on some bread. Eat it for breakfast or as a mid-afternoon snack. Due to the low glycemic index of chestnuts you'll get a boost of steady energy, without spikes in blood sugar.
This pasta with chestnuts doesn't store well. Max 12 hours in an airtight container in the fridge. Reheat it in a pan on the stove with some water. The chestnut pesto can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
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If you have any tips or questions let us know in the comments below!