Creamy Italian Chestnut Soup is so decadent, rich, and silky. It’s earthy from the chestnuts, savory from the aromatics and herbs, and topped with a Parmesan crema. I love serving this impressive soup in beautiful little crocks as a first course on Thanksgiving.
Chestnuts feel like the holidays to me. I mean, who doesn’t know the song that begins, ‘Chestnuts roasting on an open fire.’ They’re delicious and very versatile. They can be eaten raw, roasted, mashed into potatoes or polenta, made into flour for pastries, or boiled and pureed into the most creamy, velvety soup that you won’t be able to stop eating.
And a dollop of Parmesan Crema to garnish the soup kicks up the flavor to another level. The mascarpone increases the luscious mouthfeel of the soup and the cheese adds another layer of flavor.
WHAT DO I NEED FOR THIS RECIPE?
The secret to this soup is to build layers of flavor as you go, and yet it is a surprisingly simple recipe that always impresses anyone who eats it.
- Start with bacon fat and butter. You could use Pancetta for more of an Italian flavor. Simply saute the pancetta until the fat renders out. Use a slotted spoon to remove the pancetta to a paper-towel-lined plate and use them as a garnish. Then melt the butter into the pancetta fat. But bacon fat works as well and adds a ton of flavor.
- Aromatic veggies – in this case, we’re using onions, carrot, celery, and garlic – sautee them until they start to caramelize and turn golden (another layer of flavor).
- Chicken stock and white wine – use good quality stock and a bottle of wine that you enjoy drinking. I like using chardonnay, but you could use a sweeter variety – like Pinot Grigio to enhance the sweetness of the nuts.
- Herbs for flavor – for this soup we’re using bay leaf, thyme, and fresh sage.
- Cream – heavy cream, also called whipping cream, will both thicken the soup and add richness to it. We’ll also use a bit more to thin the mascarpone cheese for the Parmesan Crema
- Chestnuts – I cheated and used two jars of chestnuts that were already roasted. If you want to roast your own, you’ll need 2 ½ pounds. Not sure how? Here is a great video to walk you through the process.
- Nutmeg – if you can find it, buy the whole nutmeg and grate it yourself. The nutmeg enhances the flavor of the chestnuts. A little goes a long way, so using the whole nutmeg and grating as needed means you can keep the nutmeg in your spice cabinet longer without it going stale and losing its flavor.
- Mascarpone cheese – this is a creamy, soft Italian cheese, similar to cream cheese but with more milk fat and no tartness. This will be used in the crema to garnish the soup. You can find mascarpone in a tub in the dairy section of your grocery store. If you can’t find it, use cream cheese.
- Parmesan cheese – grate your own and buy the highest quality that you can find/afford. You’ll want as much flavor from the cheese as you can get!
Looking for more Thanksgiving sides? Here are a few to try:
- Sweet Tzimmes
- Yankee Herbed Bread Stuffing
- Homemade Cranberry Sauce
- Marmalade Rum Glazed Carrots
- Savory Butternut Squash Casserole
Creamy Italian Chestnut Soup with a Parmesan Crema is a luxurious, decadent start to your holiday meal. Easier to make than you think, this soup will be a hit with your family and friends.
For the soup:
- 2 tablespoons bacon fat
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 large sweet onion, chopped
- 1 medium carrot, chopped
- 1 stalk celery, chopped
- 2 large garlic cloves
- 3 ½ cups chicken stock
- 1 cup dry white wine
- Two (15-ounce) jars whole roasted chestnuts, drained or 2 ½ pounds fresh chestnuts, roasted and peeled
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 sprig fresh thyme
- 1 large or 2 medium fresh sage leaves
- ½ cup heavy cream
- ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
For the parmesan crema:
- 1 cup mascarpone cheese
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
In a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, melt the bacon fat and butter together.
Add the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic. Cook, stirring constantly until the onion becomes golden and the vegetables are soft – about 10 – 15 minutes.
Add the stock, wine, chestnuts, bay leaf, thyme, and sage leaves.
Bring to a boil.
Reduce the heat to medium and cook, covered about halfway, until the chestnuts are very tender and beginning to fall apart – about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the Parmesan Crema.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the mascarpone cheese, heavy cream, and parmesan until smooth. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
When the chestnuts are tender, remove the pot from the heat.
Discard the bay leaf, sage, and thyme stem.
Use an immersion blender to puree the soup until smooth.
Stir in the cream, nutmeg, salt, and pepper.
Return to the stove over medium-low heat.
Cook until the soup is hot, stirring constantly, until thick and hot – about 5-7 minutes longer.
Taste and adjust for salt and pepper.
Serve warm with a dollop of parmesan crema and a sprinkle of fresh thyme, if desired.
- Prep Time: 25 minutes
- Cook Time: 1 hour
- Category: Starters - Soups
- Method: Simmer
- Cuisine: Italian
Keywords: creamy Italian chestnut soup, holiday sides, Thanksgiving starters, Thanksgiving side dishes, soup recipes, Italian food, Italian comfort food, chestnuts, parmesan crema