Rice with Chestnuts

Discovery. Isn’t that what the world-wide web is all about? Spurred on by curiosity, we follow threads of information only to find new threads and thereby broaden our knowledge of almost any subject, and then perhaps begin another thread.

This often is the case for me when I read a comment left by another food writer on a blog that I follow and am then led to that blogger’s website. Indeed, this is how I found the recipe for today’s post. I read a comment about Marcella Hazan by Stefano Arturi on Diane Darrow’s blog Another Year in Recipes, which brought me to his own blog, Italian Home Cooking.

The recipe was for a Sicilian dish, rice with chestnuts, or risu chi castagni. Because I’ve enjoyed chestnuts since I was a boy, I was intrigued by the recipe and had to make it, even though I wasn’t quite sure how it would turn out. I had some reservations about how textures of the two main ingredients would come together.

I’m happy to report that they came together wonderfully as did their flavors, especially when enhanced by the pecorino, fresh herbs, and lemon zest. Below is my adaptation of Arturi’s recipe, which had it source in Giovanni Coria’s book Sapori di Sicilia.

I think that today’s post is a fine example of how the joy of discovery can be as exhilarating as the joy of cooking.

Rice with Chestnuts



7 ounces store-bought peeled and cooked chestnuts. Usually vacuum-packed or bottled.
1 cup short-grained Italian rice, arborio, carnaroli, etc.
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup grated pecorino cheese
2 to 3 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
Zest of 1 lemon


1. In a skillet, over low flame, simmer the chestnuts in about a cup of salted water for approximately 20 minutes or until they can be mashed easily with a fork. With a slotted spoon, remove them from the pan and reserve the water.

Simmering chestnuts

2. With a fork, coarsely mash the chestnuts and set aside. Be careful not to turn into a paste.

Mashed chestnuts

3. Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil, add 1 tablespoon of salt, and then the rice. Stir and then cover. Cook at a moderate but steady boil, until al dente, stirring occasionally. Approximately 15 to 20 minutes. Taste the rice now and then to avoid overcooking.

4. While the rice is cooking, heat the olive oil in a skillet and then add the mashed chestnuts, allowing them to absorb some of the oil.

Adding chestnuts to the oil

5. Gradually add the pecorino, stirring with a fork, making sure the cheese doesn’t clump together. If too dry, add some of the reserved chestnut water.

Adding pecorino
Chestnuts and cheese moistened with chestnut water

6. When the rice is done, drain it, reserving some of the cooking water.

7. Add the drained rice to the chestnuts. With a fork, mix to combine, adding the chopped dill, parsley, and lemon zest. If too dry, add some of the cooking water to loosen.

Adding herbs and lemon zest
The finished dish

Serve immediately, with additional grated pecorino at the table.

Serves 2.

Wine Pairing: Grillo, Garganega, Chardonnay

4 thoughts on “Rice with Chestnuts

  1. Oh, what fun it is to follow those threads. I love reading a blog (like yours) and coming across something that takes me on a journey.
    Marcella Hazan “Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking” is likely my Italian cooking bible and Stefano is a favorite food blogger of mine. Alas, we can’t do chestnuts but I did so enjoy cooking the dish vicariously with you in your post. Thanks for sharing.

  2. ciao Ronald and apologies for the late comment: glad u liked it. it is a sweet little number this simple rice dish, isn’t it? I would not say it is phenomenal, but it is the kind of unassuming, quiet home cooking dish that I really love… homely, unpretentious, good and simple to assemble. I would like to try it with real finocchietto, to see what it brings to the recipe, but I have never seen it in Italy – ciao and speak u soon. stef

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