Ever been lucky enough to be invited to some traditional cooking in the surrounds of a cosy kitchen in Italy, Calabrese style?
There’s always a first for everything…
Today is the public holiday of La Festa dell’Immacolata, which is traditionally a family day spent together, 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 traditions. Although I have never cooked the traditional Cuddrurieddri.
Around eleven kilometres from Cosenza, is 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 will have to return here 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.
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. 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 on which I’m writing. 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…
Typically, the Cuddrurieddri is made on Eve days (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 is kind of like a potato donut, but much larger and when made fresh, is wonderful! A meal in itself.
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 were prepared in advanced, I don’t know how to make these or can give you a rundown.
Cuddrurieddri recipe and method
To make this very filling but delicious potato donut and as there are many to feed, today we used 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.
Mix all the ingredients together and work the dough until everything is mixed well but still slightly sticky.
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.
Once all the mixture is rolled into flattened balls, cover with a cloth and blanket (if it’s winter) to keep warm. Let the Cuddrurieddri rest for about two hours, for the yeast to prove, and the rolls to double in size.
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.
Remove and place on absorbent paper to drain. That’s it, simple? Enjoy!
As with everything Italian, there are also other variations to a basic recipe. An anchovy version of a Cuddureddi, known as the Vecchiareddre exists. The inly difference is that you push a little anchovy (pre-rinsed) 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 mother, aunts, grandparents, and even 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.
Of course, there is never just one dish on a Calabrese table, but a steady procession of a variety of dishes with amazing delicacies follow hour-after-hour, 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 turned out that I ate my body weight in Cuddrurieddri!
This traditional donut is moreish but just like any doughy bread-like food, it’s effect creeps up on you quite quickly, as it is quite filling…without all the added trimmings served up on the table.
The most important thing about today is not learning how to cook Cuddrurieddri, but it’s about learning traditions of my heritage and sharing experiences with wonderful friends, whilst enjoying delicious food!