Traditional Italian cooking, Calabrese style

December, 2017

Ever been lucky enough to be invited to some traditional cooking Calabrese style in the surrounds of a cosy kitchen in Italy?

There’s always a first for everything…

Where is the cooking experience?

Arcavacata, Calabria, ItalyAround eleven kilometres from Cosenza sits the small hilly hamlet of Arcavacata, which is close to the university town of Rende.

With its name dating back to the Middle Ages, I must return to explore further so I can write more on Arcavacata. I’m sure there’s a lot of history to discover, but today is not the day.

But for today, it’s another kind invitation to join our friends for a traditional Cosentini (Cosenza folk) cook-up.

Today is the public holiday of La Festa dell’Immacolata, which is traditionally a family day spent together and cooking.

Growing up in Australia with a European heritage, saw us children experiencing a lot of cooking with my mum, grandmothers, aunts, and sisters. I love this part of Italian tradition, although I’ve never made the traditional Cuddrurieddri.

La Festa dell’Immacolata

Locally known as La Festa dell’Immacolata and falls on the 8th of December, this date is a public holiday throughout Italy, which celebrates the Feast of the Immaculate Conception with processions, celebrations, and of course, food. This day was first declared a holiday in 1854 by the Vatican and celebrated ever since on this day.

The Cuddrurieddri is traditionally made over the L’Immaculata on the 7th, but also for other festive days such as Easter, Christmas Eve, and many other Italian festivals.

Origins of the Cuddrurieddri

Regardless of the country you’re in, when discussing the origin of anything, especially food, then there always seems to be much discourse on whatever food that’s being discussed. And, the origins of the humble Cuddrurieddri is no different.

You may know by now that when I write about a place, food, event, or anything, I need to have experienced what I’m writing about and can’t just make words up on the fly.

I also like to give you a little background and context, so apart from nothing concrete to give you on why the Cuddrurieddri is synonymous with La Festa dell’Immacolata and with varying opinions, today, we’ll go with this reason…

Cuddrurieddri, food, Calabria, Italy
The humble but satisfying Cuddrurieddri

Typically, the Cuddrurieddri is made on Eve days (a day that precedes a religious ceremony) when people do not eat a lot, going without meat, and only use basic (‘poor’) ingredients when cooking meals.

The Cuddrurieddri is an excellent example as it is made with flour and potatoes. And, as potatoes are grown close by in the Sila, this is an inexpensive ingredient as it’s a local product.

Depending on where in Italy you are, with many variations and spelling of the name – Cuddrurieddri, Cuddruriaddri, Cullurielli, Cuddureddi, or even Cullurelli – this morsel is similar to a potato donut, but much larger and when made fresh, is wonderful! A meal in itself.

Traditional sweets

Traditional sweets made on this day include Scaliddre (dough-like cake piece powdered with icing sugar) and Turdiddri (dough-like sweet with honey and figs), both of which are moreish. Of course, there are also variations on the spelling of these two names depending on your town, city, or village.

As these are prepared in advanced by my host and chef, I don’t know how to make these or can give you a rundown either.

Scaliddri, Espresso, Turdiddri, food, Calabria, Italy
Of course there’s always sweets and Espresso before starting the cooking session!
Scaliddre, food, Calabria, Italy
Scrummy Scaliddre
Turdiddri, food, Calabria, Italy

Cuddrurieddri recipe and method

To make this very filling but delicious potato donut and as there are many to feed, today we use a lot of potatoes.

Two kilograms of potatoes (boiled whole, skin peeled, and pushed through a sieve), lots of flour, 1.5 cubes of fresh yeast, warm water, and some salt.

Cuddrurieddri, food, Calabria, Italy
Grinding potatoes through sieve (Photo credit: Neil Lintern)
Cuddrurieddri, food, Calabria, Italy
Some muscles behind the grinding now (Photo credit: Neil Lintern)

Mix all the ingredients together and work the dough until everything is mixed well but still slightly sticky.

Cuddrurieddri, food, Calabria, Italy
The Master at her craft – mixing the dough

Flour your hands, grab a handful of the dough, and roll into a ball. Flatten slightly with the palm of your hand before placing on a floured board.

Cuddrurieddri, food, Calabria, Italy
The Master’s helpers – forming the Cuddrurieddri (Photo credit: Neil Lintern)

Once all the mixture is rolled into flattened balls, cover with a cloth and blanket, especially if it’s winter, to keep the rolls warm. Let the Cuddrurieddri rest for about two hours, for the yeast to prove, and the rolls to double in size.

Cuddrurieddri, food, Calabria, Italy
Putting the Cuddrurieddri to rest

When ready, oil your hands, and work a hole in the middle of a roll – think donut shape -spreading slightly, then fry in vegetable oil until golden brown.

Cuddrurieddri, food, Calabria, Italy
The fry up

Remove and place on absorbent paper to drain. That’s it, simple? Enjoy!

Cuddrurieddri, food, Calabria, Italy
Delightful puffy morsels…

As with everything Italian, there is also other variations to this basic recipe and an anchovy version of a Cuddureddi known as the Vecchiareddre exists. The only difference is that you push a little pre-rinsed anchovy into the roll before frying. There isn’t a hole in this version and remains as a roll, almost like an oval bread roll.

If there is one thing I’ve learnt about Italian cooking is that nothing seems to be measured and everything is done by feel during each step. I remember this style of cooking when I was growing up from my relatives, even my father. Nothing was ever measured but everything tasted so amazing! Perhaps this is where I acquired my deep love of food, which is definitely a passion for Italians.

The feast

Of course, there is never just one dish on a Calabrese table. Expect a steady procession of a various dishes with amazing delicacies that follow hour-after-hour – accompanied with of course homemade wine, espresso, and more pastries.

I should have known that today would not only be about learning how to make traditional Cuddrurieddri and not about a ‘light’ easy session, but also about eating my body weight in Cuddrurieddri!

This traditional donut is moreish but just like any doughy bread-like food, its effect creeps up on you quite quickly as it is quite filling, without all the added trimmings that’s served up on the table.

The most important aspect about today is not only learning how to cook Cuddrurieddri, but it’s about learning traditions of my heritage and sharing experiences with wonderful friends, whilst enjoying delicious food!

Visit Nilla’s Photography for more images. More posts on Italy at Image Earth Travel.


42 thoughts on “Traditional Italian cooking, Calabrese style

Add yours

    1. Hi Vince, I’ve gone back to my friend to get the exact quantities as when we were making these, it didn’t seem to me as an exact measurement.
      This is the response:
      “Mamma does it without exact measurements, she does it just touching the mixture
      We say: “farina ad occhio quanto basta”
      The right amount of flour depends on the kind of potatoes. Some potatoes contain more water than others…for this it needs more flour. The dough should be soft *touching the mixture.”

      I know this isn’t entirely helpful, but this is how the Calabrese women cook, I’ve tried to get exact quantities in the past but it’s nigh impossible. Online conversion of 2kg of potatoes=4.4lbs. The rest is up to the lap of the Gods! 😉

      Many thanks for leaving me a comment and hope you have a great Christmas! Nilla


  1. These almost look like the taralli’s my Nonna’s made. Hers had anise seed in them and she baked them till golden. They were hard. Our local bakery makes them and sells them hard and soft. I keep looking for a recipe but none are my Nonna’s. She came from Isca Calabria on the Ionian Sea. My mother and 3 of her sisters were born there and came to this country in 1936. Any help you can give me to find this recipe would be greatly appreciated. Terri Hornberger

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Terri, You mean the Turdiddri look similar to your nonna’s Tarralli?
      I’ve asked my friend for her mother’s recipe and will get back to you on here, so keep an eye out… 😉

      I haven’t been to Isca – there are so many gorgeous places to visit in Calabria but my problem is that I use public transport, which isn’t great here in Cosenza.


    2. Hi Terri,

      Asked my cousin but she doesn’t make these although her cousin in Piane Crati does on a Saint’s day and this is her response:
      “The taralli for S. Barbera is made with flour, salt, water, and “lievito madre”. After they have risen, they are thrown in boiling water and then baked in the oven.”
      I’ve attached the recipe my cousin also passed on and hope this helps – let me know how you go with the recipe and hope you have a wonderful festive season! Nilla 🙂


  2. Yummy! we have in Peru a similar recipe to the Cuddrurieddri called buñuelos or picarones, Italian bring their food as well and it blended with our several cousines. And noticing that the potato (that is of Peruvian origin) is in that recipe it seems there is something of us there. Wonderful gastronomic chronicle. 😋

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Francis beat you to it and also mentioned the other one is buñuelo. 😉
      I have to say, I didn’t try either of these when I was in Peru, back in 2011.
      Just tried to follow your blog site but it’s marked as private and sent you a request.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Thanks for trying to follow. For some reason, it keeps clicking back to an of blog I haven’t added to in a while so have made private. I currently post at Cooking en mi cocina 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Ahhhhh it’s 7am and I already have a tummy ache from eating too much this weekend since we try and leave during the holidays. So dinner every night with friends, that part I love but eating so much at night, not so much. So now reading your wonderful post got me full all over again hahahhaa. Though I have my own religion I truly love the traditions of living in a Catholic country and the warmth of the Italian people. We must get down to see you one of these days.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I have a tummy ache just thinking about all the food!
      The people have been so hospitable here and it’s not just my relatives and friends in the North and South of Italy, but complete strangers…it’s very humbling. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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