Canederli with butter and sage

Try as I might, I've found that its unfortunately impossible to bring any vacation I take home with me. The sunshine and beaches of Sardinia, for example, were not able to be packed up in my suitcase and flown to Rome with me on my Ryanair flight; I wasn't able to stuff the vivacity and energy of New Orleans, the order and convenience of Denmark, or the quaintness and charm of Siena in to my carry on, nor was I able to stow away Madrid's Palacio Real, The Tower of London, or the Diego Rivera murals I saw in Mexico City. That being said, perhaps its for the best that I can't bring my favorite elements of wherever I've visited back to Rome; after all, if you could bring a vacation home with you, the experience would no longer be special and unique and worth traveling for, right?

One little loophole here, though -- the food. Now that I can bring home.

Remember that trip to Bolzano a couple of weeks ago? While I couldn't transport the Christmas-y spirit of the city or the mountains to Rome -- darn! -- I decided that I could most certainly try and cook some of the marvelous dishes I tried there, thus bringing a little bit of my magical northern vacation here to the south of Italy. Enter these canederli (also known as kn√∂del) or rather dumplings made from stale bread mixed with a little milk and eggs, a dish typical of the South Tyrol region. It is a simple dish, one that, along with ribollita and polenta, falls into the category of cucina povera, or rather good food made during hard times, dishes that made use of the basic ingredients available. Having said this though, the canederli you'll find on menus in Bolzano are usually richer and more luxurious, dressed up with cheese, herbs, spinach, and meat. They are the perfect antidote to cold weather, and made what was meant to be a lunch-on-the-go in the Christmas market downright spectacular.

As much as I loved the canederli I tried in Bolzano I wasn't sure how well they'd do in my kitchen here in Rome -- they were more German than Italian, a cuisine that I'm not at all familiar with. I was convinced that they'd fall apart once they hit the water (this was bread, not pasta we were boiling). If they did in the end stay together after boiling, I worried they'd be too heavy, a shadow of the feather-light ones we'd enjoyed in Bolzano. To make matters worse, I had decided to take a risk and make these for a dinner party -- emboldened by this tart here -- and so though I followed the canederli recipe as carefully as possible, I mentally prepared myself to order pizzas for my guests, should they not work out (the pizzeria across from my house was thankfully open on a Sunday).

So, the verdict? Christmas miracle of Christmas miracles, the canederli bobbed along merrily in the broth they were cooking in, remaining perfectly intact (phew!!) And that's not all -- compactness aside, the dumplings were light and fluffy and cloudlike (!!!) in texture,  jam-packed with gooey melt-y cheese, salty rich speck, and sunny bright parsley, divine when served with a spoonful or two or three of toasty sage brown butter. They were cozy and warming, the food equivalent of a big hug, and thus a nice dish to eat as we close out 2016 (a year that I think we can all agree has called for more than a little comfort food).

In my haste to recount my adventures-in-canederli-making to you I forgot to mention that this recipe is also part of the fourth round of Cucina Conversations! Our theme this month is Italian Christmas recipes, either dishes you would eat for your Christmas meal in Italy (like these canederli!) or edible Italian Christmas gifts. Here's the recipe round-up from my six fellow bloggers who will be posting their recipes throughout the week:

Croccante (Italy's version of almond brittle) made by Rosemarie aka Turin Mamma;

Ricciarelli, a Tuscan almond cookie, baked by Daniela over at La Dani Gourmet;

Ciciarata -- a dessert made with chickpeas -- from Marialuisa at Marmellata di Cipolle

Baci di dama -- hazelnut cookies -- shared by Lisa on her blog Italian Kiwi;

Pizzelle -- a delicate, elegant cookie -- from Flavia of Flavia's Flavors;

Cicerata, -- a dessert made with honey of little bits of fried dough -- courtesy of Carmen over at The Heirloom Chronicles.

A couple of notes on this recipe: If your bread is not stale, you can place it in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10 or so minutes, stirring it around a bit, until it dries out. Otherwise, if you have some time, you can lay it out on a baking tray for 24 hours, covered with a tea towel, and let it dry out that way. Can't find speck in your supermarket? Feel free to substitute prosciutto, or if you want these to be meat free, leave out the pork all together. If you'd like, you can leave out the sage butter and serve these instead in broth. If you prefer this option, boil more vegetable broth (about 1 cup per person) and serve the canederli like this (make sure you don't use the same broth you boiled the canederli in, as it will be cloudy from the flour). Place one or two canederli into each bowl, then pour the broth on them, and sprinkle the freshly grated Parmesan on top. 

Looking for other cozy recipes? Allow me to suggest this Lasagne alla bolognese, this Risotto with Peas or this Risotto with Butternut Squash, this Chickpea, Kale, and Sausage Soup, this Pasta e Fagioli, this Roasted Tomato Basil Soup, this Polpettone, these Meatballs in Tomato Sauce, this Pici with sausage ragu', this Mozzarella in carrozza, or this Polenta with Mushrooms. Looking for a recipe in general? Check out the blog's new Recipe Index, which makes it easier and quicker to find exactly what you want to cook or bake.


Ingredients for the dumplings:
10 ounces (300 grams) stale bread, diced 
1 cup (225 ml or 240 grams) milk
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup (60 grams) flour
3 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, chopped
3 ounces (84 grams) speck, chopped
7 ounces (200 grams) Fontina, Raclette, Swiss, or Gouda cheese (I used Swiss!)
3 tablespoons (45 grams) unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil 
1 onion, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
12 cups (3 liters) vegetable broth 

To serve with butter and sage:
1 stick (8 tablespoons, 112 grams) unsalted butter
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving
A few sage leaves

Put the stale bread into a large mixing bowl. Add the milk, the eggs, the salt, the pepper, and the nutmeg. Mix everything together and leave the bowl, covered with aluminum foil, in the fridge for two hours. Stir the mixture every so often so that the bread can fully absorb the milk and eggs. When the two hours are up, remove the bowl from the fridge and add the flour. 
Finely chop the onion and fry it in oil and butter for ten minutes at medium heat, stirring occasionally. Let the onion cool. When the onion is cool, add it to the bread mixture along with the cheese, the speck, and the parsley. Mix everything together well then cover the bread mixture again and place it back in the fridge for half an hour. 
Time to form your canederli! Using your hands, make the canederli by pressing together enough of the bread mixture to make balls the size of a small orange (60 to 80 grams). You should end up with 14-16 canederli. After making each caenderli, roll it in flour to seal the outside. When all the canederli are ready, re-roll them into flour and compress them a second time.
Bring the vegetable stock to a boil on the stove. Place the canederli gently in to the broth and let them boil for 12-15 minutes (I found I had to boil mine 15 minutes) Remove them from the broth with a slotted spoon. While the canederli are boiling, prepare the sage butter by placing the butter, a pinch of salt and the sage leaves in a small pan over medium heat. Let the butter melt and bubble and cook until it turns light brown. This will happen quite quickly so use a light colored skillet (this will make observing the cooking process easier) and keep an eye on the butter. 
Pour the sage brown butter over the  canederli with some extra Parmesan and serve immediately. Makes 14-16 canederli, with a portion being 2-3 canederli.

Canederli recipe very slightly adapted from


  1. These look delicious Francesca. My mother makes them and now I know their origins. When we lived in the north of Italy, my father worked in Germany and in Switzerland. I guess he too would have sampled this there and my mother would have recreated it.

  2. Ah, brings me back to my holiday in Trentino-Alto Adige (I visited Merano, Trento and the Val di Non) a few years ago. I just loved the region and these dumplings but never thought of trying to make them myself. I should though, as they are a great way to use leftover bread and I love recipes that call for this ingredient! Anyway, buone feste e un abbraccio forte!

  3. I'm so impressed that you made them the first time for a dinner party! LOL! I LOVED Canaderli when I visited the Dolomites a few years ago, but had the same misgivings as you about making them, so I haven't had the courage to try yet. Now, maybe I will!