Canederli Tirolesi (Tyrolean Ham-Dumpling Soup)

I sent a picture of this to my friend, and she said, "What is that?" 

I suppose without context, dumpling soup doesn't look all that interesting. But, people, let me tell you that it is not only interesting but quite good and even, wait for it, frugal. Which might be exactly what we need as we start the new year.

So let me set some context because I promise you, this little soup is worth a spin through your kitchen.

Canederli Tirolesi is an Italian speck and chive dumpling soup. But wait a minute, you may be gasping--dumpling soup? That seems more Bavarian than Italian, you say. And you'd be pretty close to right.

You see, this soup originates in Alto-Adige region of Italy. (Think: Ruffle at the top of the boot.) It's merely a whisper away from Austria and Germany, and in fact was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until 1915. And most of the inhabitants speak German, Italian, and their own Alto-Adigian dialect. And these dumplings, known as Knödel or more specifically Tiroler Speckknödel, are a perfect Italian, Austrian, German way to spend a winter evening.

A few things to celebrate and note with this recipe:
  • I am a fan of juniper-forward speck--that German cold-smoked pork belly--but you can use ham, prosciutto, pancetta, or bacon, as long as you dice it into a quarter-inch cubes rather than slice it. (Also, if you would like a primer on the difference between bacon, prosciutto, and pancetta, see here.)
  • This is a painless and frugal way to use leftover bread. The husband and I love bread, but we never finish a loaf before it goes a little stale and flat. This recipe requires at least day-old bread. It worked just fine with three-day old bread for us.
  • Watch the amount of flour you use at the end to bind the dumplings. Too much flour makes these a bit heavy. You're going for light (but hearty).
  • You can make the dumplings ahead of time. Yay. Super easy supper.
  • Use the best beef or veal broth you can. We, of course, over-salted it a little (I love salt) and it was the perfect accompaniment to the knödel on a cold winter evening.
So, hopefully this was enough context to make you want to use up your three-day old bread, make a candederlo or knödel or dumpling. Or two. Or five.  

With context, it makes you want to snap these right up, right?


Canederli Tirolesi (Tyrolean Ham-Dumpling Soup)

Adapted from The Country Cooking of Italy

4-6 Servings

4-6 large slices day-old, country-style bread (about ½ lb), crusts rimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes 
¼ lbs speck or prosciutto (not sliced), finely chopped
6-8 chives, minced
3-4 sprigs Italian (flat-leaf) parsley, minced
1 pinch freshly grated nutmeg
salt and pepper
2 eggs lightly beaten
1 cup whole milk
4-6 Tbsp flour, plus more for dusting
6 cups veal or beef broth

1. In a large bowl, combine the bread cubes, speck, chives, parsley, nutmeg, a big pinch of salt, and some pepper. Stir in the eggs and then the milk. Set aside for 20 minutes.

2.  Dust a work surface with flour, turn out the dough onto it, and dust the dough lightly with flour. Using your hands, work the mixture into a damp dough. Sprinkle in enough flour to absorb most of the moisture, then form the dough into dumplings, about the size of walnuts, shaping them between two spoons or your hands. Set each aside on the floured surface.

3.  Pour the broth into a pot, season to taste with salt, and bring to a boil over high heat. reduce the hat to medium, then carefully add the dumplings and cook until they are done, about 15 minutes. The dumplings will float when they are cooked through.

4.  Divide the dumplings evenly between 4 warmed soup bowls, then ladle in the broth, dividing it evenly.


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