Words by Michelle Fabio - Photos courtesy of ENIT

Throughout October (5-26), the town of Castel del Rio in the province of Bologna in Emilia Romagna celebrates the chestnut in its Sagra del Marrone. Chestnuts have been an important part of northern and central Italian cuisine for centuries, particularly in poor families and especially in times when access to other food products was compromised.

Not only can chestnuts be eaten fresh, they can also be incorporated into a variety of recipes and even ground into flour; in fact, chestnut flour is becoming increasingly popular outside of Italy with those who live with Celiac Disease as chestnut flour is gluten-free.

At the Sagra del Marrone, which has been around since 1946, you will find many traditional products like castagnaccio (chestnut cake), polenta made with chestnut flour, roasted chestnuts, and chestnut fritters. For your sweet tooth, there’s chestnut ice cream, marmalade, and other desserts, and you can wash it all down with some chestnut liqueur.

There are also new product demonstrations as well as information on the history and cultural significance of the chestnut as it pertains to Italian cuisine.

Here’s just a small taste of what you’ll find at Castel del Rio’s Chestnut Festival:

Now excuse me while I go gather some chestnuts and start up a fire for roasting.