Canederli allo Speck

Aside from the spectacular Dolomites, the gastronomy of Sudtirol (South Tyrol) pulls me like a magnet.   One of my favorite South Tyrolean dishes is this delicious canerdeli (knodel).  It's available everywhere in South Tyrol.  You can buy the ready-to-cook bread dumplings in the supermarkets or order them in the restaurants and the mountain shelters.  They can be eaten in two ways.  With hot vegetable broth or with melted butter, sprinkled with grated parmigiano reggiano on top. 

There are different types of South Tyrolean canederli.  The red ones are made with beetroot, the green ones with spinach, then there are light yellow ones done with cheese.  I like the ones done with speck the most.  Speck is the smoked ham that is produced in that area.  Being at the border of Austria, South Tyrol's gastronomy is greatly influenced by German cuisine, thus, the knodel.  Nowhere in Italy can you find these bread dumplings except in this area. 

When we went there last summer, I took home some speck.  When I saw that I had only one pack left, I decided to make some canederli.  We are in the middle of autumn and it is already cold.  A bowl of canederli with hot broth was very tempting.  I studied a lot of recipes and I finally settled on the recipe given by the official site of Sudtirol itself.  I based my recipe from this one.From the first bite, I knew I got the perfect recipe.  If I was not facing my kitchen wall, I would have thought that I was in the Dolomites for a moment there.

1.  canederlo alla barbabietola (beetroot), canederlo agli spinaci (spinach) & canederlo al formaggio (cheese) al burro fuso (melted butter) ordered at Ristorante Lago di Landro in the Dolomites.    2. 3.  canederli allo speck bought at a supermarket in the Dolomites that I cooked with vegetable broth. 

I met a problem with the first batch I cooked.  To make the balls, I rolled them on my wet palms and squeezed hard to make them compact, like how it is written in the recipe.  Apparently, that was not enough.  When I dropped them in the boiling broth, some of the diced bread that comprised the balls popped open.  I realized I had to make them more compact.  I put them inside a plastic wrap one by one, enclosed them inside, twisted the wrap and tightened as much as I could.  After doing this procedure, they cooked perfectly after.  They were compact like how they should be.

1.   the trail in between Rifugio Faloria (2,123 m.) and Rifugio Capanna Tondi (2,340 m.) in the Dolomites.   2.  the simple daily menu of Rifugio Capanna Tondi.    3.   the terrace of Rifugio Capanna Tondi.
While gathering old pictures of the canederli and our annual summer trip to the Dolomites, I saw our dog's pictures too.  It's impossible to miss them because he and the kids are the protagonists in all our photos, him the most because he has been with our family for nine years.  He is a mountain dog, so exuberant and splendid when he is in the Alps.  In all our trips to the Alps, whether it is Switzerland, France, Austria or Italy, he took part in all our family trips.   A trip to the Dolomites is not complete without his happy smile.  He did his last trip with us last June.

A trip to the mountains will never be complete again without you, Gober.
With all our love, your family. 

Canederli allo Speck

Serves 4, makes 12 canederli
  • 220 g. stale bread, diced, about 1 cm. 
  • 2 eggs
  • 150 ml. milk
  • 40 g. butter
  • 1 medium onion, chopped finely
  • 40 g. flour + extra for dusting
  • dash of grated nutmeg
  • salt & pepper
  • 3 tablespoons parsley, chopped finely
  • 120 g. speck, chopped finely
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • parmigiano reggiano, grated (optional)
If serving with broth:
  • 750 ml. vegetable broth
If serving with butter & sage:
  • butter
  • fresh sage leaves 
  1. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs, salt, pepper & milk.  Pour the mixture in a big bowl with the diced stale bread.  Mix well.  Cover the bowl with a dish cloth.  Let it rest for at least 2 hours.  The bread should become moist and soft, not sticking together.  Refer to the picture in the lower lefthand corner.
  2. Sautè the onion & speck in a saucepan with extra virgin olive oil and butter.  Let it cool.
  3. Incorporate the sautèed onion & speck to the bread mixture.  Add the flour, parsley & grated nutmeg.  Mix well.  Let it rest for half an hour.
  4. After half an hour, shape them into balls of about 8 - 10 cm. in diameter (slightly larger than a pingpong ball).  Spoon some mixture in the middle of a plastic wrap and twist to tighten around the mixture. Unwrap the canderli.  
  5. Roll the canederli on the flour, make sure they are equally covered then shake off the excess. Set aside.  Keep them refrigerated when you are not cooking them yet.  You can also do them a day before serving. 
  6. If you are serving them with vegetable broth, boil the vegetable broth in a cooking pot.  Put the canederli in the broth and simmer for 15 minutes on low fire.  Serve with chopped parsley & grated parmigiano reggiano if you wish.
  7. If you are serving them with butter & sage, boil some water in a cooking pot.  Put the canderli in the water and simmer for 15 minutes on low fire.  Meanwhile, melt some butter in a small saucepan and toast sage leaves in it for about 3 minutes.  Pour on the canederli and serve immediately.