Marrons Glacés: Learning From the Master

Emily recently traveled to Genova to learn how to glacée candied fruits and chestnuts with the Romanengo family. 

Pietro Romanengo fu StefanoI carefully fished the candied chestnut out of the pot of hot sugar syrup, watching its outer layer become glossy with white icing. Marcello leaned in to inspect my work.

“Bella,” he said. “Bella.”

I appreciated the encouragement. Marcello, who works for the Genovese confectioner Pietro Romanengo fu Stefano, has been making marrons glacés for 30 years. I had been in Italy learning this craft for just over a day—not even a blip when you consider that Romanengo has been in business for 230 years!

“Tutti a mano,” Marcello says, describing Romanengo’s work, and it’s true—everything is made, sometimes painstakingly, by hand, using methods that have changed little over the company’s history. Fresh fruits such as figs and whole clementines are left to soak in sugar syrup for up to two weeks until they are naturally candied. Flavorful pine nuts and almonds are heated in large spinning drums and periodically coated with syrup until they develop a hard yet incredibly delicate candy shell—a process that can take up to ten days. Employees spend years perfecting their skills in one particular part of the operation, becoming true artisan confectioners.

Romanengo’s chestnuts, which come from Piedmont, are candied in large vats of sugar syrup and then given a final coat of icing before they are sold. This holiday season, for the first time, I am icing the chestnuts at our store and selling them fresh from our candy case—another way for us to share Romanengo’s treasures with you.

Emily Shartin is a baker, lead domestic cheese buyer and the classes and events coordinator at Formaggio Kitchen Cambridge.