IF YOU are fortunate enough to travel around Italy, you will soon realise that it is a country with plenty of variety. In the north you will find mountains, down to the greenery and the lakes, before finally arriving in the south where the hot, sandy beaches are.

Whether you are after a city full of ancient tourist attractions, the incredible canals of Venice, a scenic stay at the side of a lake or just a good old fashion summer holiday in the sun, Italy has a lot to offer.

Just like its different locations, Italy also has a lot of different foods on offer – most of which you will find are specific to each region.

Italian dishes always have incredible origin stories, fascinating tales from the past, often based in religion, mythology or history of some sort.

What you can almost always find with each dish is that you can pinpoint the origin to a specific region of Italy, if not a city, town or even a village.

This means that, even to this day, you will find that certain foods are very common in certain areas. Sometimes, the dishes are what the areas are most known for.

Sicily, for example, is famous for cannoli – deep-fried pastry tubes filled with sweet ricotta cheese. Cannoli are famous all over the globe, but most of us know that Sicily is where they came from.

Moving over into Calabria, you will find that ‘Nduja, a particularly spicy, spreadable pork salumi, is their speciality. Orecchiette (from orecchia, meaning ‘ear’, and -etta, meaning ‘small’) are a pasta typical of Apulia.

Wherever you go, you will learn about the different dishes that each region boast boasts as its own.

As you travel into the north of Italy, things get more interesting, with many Italian dishes that you might not have encountered before. One of these dishes is Canederli.

Canederli are bread dumplings usually only found in the north-east of Italy. They can be served as either a starter or a main course, dry or in a broth.

Different versions of this dish are common in all south-eastern Europe, where they are often served accompaniment to meat stews or roasts. The name ‘canederli’ derives from the German and Austrian word ‘knödel’, which means dumplings.

Canederli are considered cucina povera (food of the poor) because they are relatively inexpensive to prepare and can be a good way to use up old ingredients, like stale bread.

However, these days the dish often includes more expensive ingredients, like cheese and meat, to give them a little something extra, and make them more substantial.

Wherever you travel in the north of Italy, you will find that this dish is cooked in different ways, with different ingredients, depending on where you are. You might even find sweet versions of canederli, full of fruit or cream and served as a dessert.

If you want to make your own savoury canederli, try out the traditional recipe below.


200g white bread

125ml milk

40g butter

1 onion, very finely chopped

100g pancetta, diced

2 eggs, lightly beaten

4 thyme sprigs

25g flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

Salt and pepper

Chicken stock or water, for poaching

Plain flour

To serve

Melted butter or chicken stock

Parmesan shavings


1. Break the bread up into chunks of various sizes – small chunks and crumbs are what you are aiming for. Avoid using a food processor, as this will make breadcrumbs that are too fine to work with. Cover the bread chunks with the milk and mix together with your hands before leaving to stand for 15 minutes.

2. Melt the butter in a frying pan. Add the finely chopped onion and the diced pancetta and sauté until the onion is soft.

3. After the bread mixture has rested, add the thyme, two lightly beaten eggs and the finely chopped parsley. When the contents of the pan are ready, add to the bread mixture. Gently combine all of the ingredients with your hands, ensuring that each ingredient is evenly distributed. Season well with salt and pepper, but be careful not to overwork the mixture.

3. Bring a large pan of chicken stock or water to the boil. While it is boiling, wet your hands and shape the bread mixture into dumpling shaped balls, roughly the size of walnuts. Roll the balls very lightly in flour before shaking off any excess. Cook your canederli in two batches. Drop half of them into the pan and cook gently for 7-10 minutes. Do not allow the stock/water to boil, as this will cause them to break apart. When they are ready the will rise to the top. Remove carefully with a slotted spoon before draining and leaving to dry on some kitchen roll. Repeat the process with the second batch of canederli.

4. To serve your canederli, you can either enjoy them dry, as dumplings, or serve them in melted butter or chicken stock. If serving in butter, melt the butter with herbs such as rosemary or sage to give it flavour. If you would prefer hot chicken stock, serve in bowls before placing the canederli inside. Finish off with shavings of parmesan cheese and enjoy hot.