Friday, May 21, 2010

Canederli, i.e. never throw away bread!

To Love Bread is to Love Life

I never throw away bread, I use it to make a variety of dishes, and in particular canederli, big bread dumplings typical of the North East of Italy. My mum used to make them often in winter for us, and serve them with broth. There is no fixed recipe, it depends on the kind of bread you have, and the other ingredients are always optional. I like to use a mixture of wholemeal and white bread, which gives best results, but any bread will do. Here I had some old white bread only, the resulting canederli tend to be a little pale, but the taste is good anyway.

Break the bread and soak it with milk for a few hours. Add the milk little by little, or you may risk to add too much. When the bread is soft, mush with a fork and add some finely chopped parsley, some salt and pepper, and other spices, if you like. I like to add smoked paprika and smoked salt, and small cubes of leftover cheese gone hard.

My mum used to add small pieces of speck, the smoked North Italian ham, for flavour. As a veggie I don't, but I did find these vegetarian slices which are very suited. Just cut a slice or two into small pieces and add to your mixture.

Non vegetarians often ask me what is the point of making vegetarian mock meat like 'mortadella' (in this case). I rarely eat this food, exactly as a meat eater should rarely eat the real meaty mortadella (certainly not every day!). But just like some non-vegetarians consider normal transforming an animal (in this case a pig) into a complex sausage like mortadella, some vegetarians see no problem in transforming some tofu or gluten into something similar to a sausage. Creating complex food is what man does in the search of different flavours, and to have more variety, and for versatility. These slices came handy when I had to make panini for mountain excursions, but I think that I will keep them as a 'once-in-a-while' treat :-)

In any case, this passage is not necessary for making canederli, instead of adding mock or real mortadella or speck, you can add cooked spinach, fennel seeds, grated carrots, peas, leftovers.... anything you like.

Next you have to add some flour and mix until you get a sticky dough. Keep a bowl of water on the side, wet your hands, and shape the canederli into balls.

The canederli are cooked in vegetable stock, but now be very careful: if the stock is boiling, when you add the canederli (which are quite soft) they will break into pieces. Make sure that you bring the stock down to a very light simmering (or turn off the heat for a few minutes). Add the canederli one by one and gently stir with a wooden spoon just to make sure that they are not breaking or sticking to the bottom of the pot. Simmer for 20 minutes (depending on the size of your canederli) and then serve hot, with some stock.

To eat just break in the plate, add some grated cheese if you like, and dig in! Real filling comfort food!

Photos and recipes by Alessandra Zecchini©


  1. Adoro i canederli!Mia mamma ne faceva di buonissimi.Magari proverò in versione vegetarina!

  2. belli e buoni e mi è molto piaciuto il discorso sulla mortadella.
    ma dimmi il sapore è simile?

  3. Fra tutti i vari 'prosciutti provati quella di questa marca bio e' quella col sapore piu' simile all'originale....forse perche' e' piu' facile imitare proprio la mortadella, che e' il salume che probabilmente sa meno da porcello.

    Comunque, ad essere onesta Enza, sono piu' di ventitre anni che non mangio la mortadella....e' probabile che mi sia scordata che sapore abbia!!!!

  4. Fantastic! is getting cold here, just what I need!

  5. Fascinating! I've never heard of these before. They *look* a lot like matzoh balls. Have you had those? If so, are they similar in taste/texture? Also, I love your very cogent explanation of why a vegetarian might eat fake meat.

  6. I just realized that the other word for matzoh ball is knedyle, which sounds suspiciously like canederli :). Though of course they are made with matzoh meal, not bread.

  7. Wow these looks fantastic (just followed on from your slow food post)! Don't even need eggs :) Do you think almond milk would work for this?

  8. Zo, I never used almond or soy milk or other non-dairy for these, but I am sure that they would work. In fact you could even soak the bread in water or stock if you didn't have milk, I use milk simply because I learned from my mother, this is the way she makes them :-).


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