Recipe of the Week – Pieno Natale

(Lunigiana Christmas Cake)

Recipe from The Chestnut by Karen Virag, November/December 2009.

An old recipe from Benedictine nuns.

  • 1½ lbs cooked chestnuts
  • 2¼ lbs apples
  • 2 lbs bread (about two large loaves) dipped in milk and squeezed dry (Use the life-saver shaped loaf or similar from the Italian Centre Bakery as you need a bread that won’t become a paste when soaked.)
  • ¾ lbs dried figs
  • ½ lbs pitted prunes
  • ½ lbs walnut meats
  • 1 c sugar
  • ¼ lbs shelled hazelnuts
  • ¼ lbs raisins
  • ½ c unsalted butter
  • generous pinch of anise seeds
  • zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange.
  • warm spices to taste (cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg)
  • salt to taste

Preheat oven to 300ºF

Simmer apples, figs and prunes separately in small amounts of water until they begin to fall apart. Mince the nutmeats and put them in a large bowl, then carefully mix in the remaining ingredients. Transfer the mixture to an 8×8 baking tin and cook until the water is evaporated and it reaches the consistency of a firm polenta, about 45 minutes. If the cake starts to brown cover with foil. Serve warm or cold with a glass of Vin Santo.