For Italians, roasting chestnuts is a tradition that may have started as far back as Ancient Roman times.

by John Bagnasco

As a young boy, I remember it being an integral part of every Christmas season.

Chestnuts paired with wine have are a traditional food combination associated with the harvest period. Chestnuts are a popular staple during the holidays all over Italy, especially in Tuscany and Central Italy, where you’ll find vendors selling roasting chestnuts in the middle of piazzas.

When shopping for nuts, the key is to examine and lightly squeeze each chestnut. They should have a shiny brown exterior without any blemishes or mold, and they should feel firm with a slight give.

Using a sharp paring knife, carefully cut a small X on the rounded side. You must also make sure that the incision cuts through the inner skin of the chestnuts. The incision will allow the steam to escape from the nut as it is being heated. If the chestnuts are not properly scored, they will explode in the oven.
Preheat oven to 425°: A very hot oven is key for the chestnut to separate from its woodsy skin. Make sure the oven rack is placed in the middle. Place them on a single layer (flat side down) on a baking tray covered with aluminum foil, and gather up the edges to form a parcel slightly open on top. Bake them for 20 minutes up to 25 minutes.

There are many different ways to roast chestnuts.