Vegetarian Canederli (Italian Boiled Dumplings) with Aged Cheese

Instead of going to the seaside, we celebrated our Ferragosto on the mountain this year.  Marco and I spent a week in Maranza, stayed at this bed&breakfast where his dad usually spends his holidays every year. The place has been around for possibly over forty years, run by grandma Rita who is now eighty-five. She still cooks and cleans, feeds her chicken and prepares a full blown meal for her guests every morning and night.  

And of course, we tried many kinds of mountain food, both sweet and savory, while we were there.  One of my most favorites has to be canederli aka Italian boiled dumplings.  The original recipe that was served by Rita used speck(a type of prosciutto) as an ingredient.  I tried a few other vegetarian versions made with some aged mountain cheese at a few other restaurants. I knew I had to replicate this dish because it's such a brilliant recipe to use up our leftover vegetables and stale bread. 

So here is my vegetarian version of canederli and I hope you would give it a go if you have time because the taste is impeccable.  Don’t let its looks fool you. 

Vegetarian Canederli with Aged Cheese

Vegetarian Canederli with Aged Cheese

 

Serves: 2 persons

Prep time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Cooking time: 15 minutes

Ingredients: 

100-120g stale white bread, cut into small cubes (easy to absorb milk and get soften)

1 egg

250ml milk

1/2 white onion, thinly sliced

1 zucchini, grated

1 medium size carrot, cut into small tiny cubes

1 cup cooked sweet corns

1 stalk spring onion, finely chopped

1 cup formaggio grigio (may substitute with other aged cheese)

1/2 cup grated parmesan

3-4 tbsp chickpea flour*

500ml vegetable soup broth

extra-virgin olive oil

*reduce amount if the dough is not so wet.  

Instructions: 

  1. In a large mixing bowl, mix together bread, milk, egg, and season. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes to wait for the bread mixture soften up then use your hands to bind everything together.  
  2. Preheat a frying pan with a tablespoon of olive oil on medium heat, cook onion for a minute or two before adding carrots, corn, and zucchini.  Reduce heat if needed to avoid burning the vegetables. Cook the vegetables for about 10-15 minutes until moist is gone.  Turn off the fire and set the vegetables aside to cool off.
  3. Mix together the vegetables, bread mixture, chopped shallots, formaggio grigio, and 1/4 cup grated parmesan.  Compact the mixture into one large ball.  Let it rest for about 50-60 minutes with a towel covering the bowl.
  4. Add chickpea flour to the dough and mix again with your hands.  
  5. Form about 6 fist-sized dumplings by rolling each with the palm of your hands.  Make sure your hands are wet when you do that.
  6. Cook these dumplings in a big pot of boiling water for about 15 minutes. Remove the dumplings from the boiling water and transfer to a serving plate. On the other stove, heat up a pot of vegetable stock for serving later.
  7. Serve the dumplings with a ladle of vegetable stock and garnish with some grated parmesan, spring onion, and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.  

This is Rita's bed&breakfast overlooking different sizes of hills under the vast clear blue sky.

These are the real free range chickens living outside of Rita's b&b.  And they make some real GOOD eggs.  

First day: we went on an easier trail leading us from the alpine pastures to the mountain tops

We challenged ourselves with a steeper slope the following day and this was the rewarding view after 30 minutes of physical agony. Ugh.

On even days of the month, people could gather mushrooms between 7am to 7pm.  We couldn't get up early enough to hunt mushrooms but they are mostly found in places like this. I was told that they usually grow next to trees where humidity is fairly high with warm temperature.   

These were the mushrooms gathered by some of the other guests of Rita.

Gazpacho with Ligurian Pesto

Summer in Italy reminds me so much of Alice in Wonderland. It is wonderland because everything is so new to me and I enjoy my wander by mostly guessing with minimal knowledge of Italian. What’s fascinating is how vibrant this country gets under the sun and how everyone would talk solely and so enthusiastically about vacanza besides food. And of course, adapting to such culture can be a little too easy.  

A few weekends back, our colleagues invited me and Marco to visit this amazing little village called Cervo on the Italian Riviera coast of Liguria. One word- WOW. The place is more beautiful than the word itself. I was breathtaken by the magnificent seaview and full blown masses of bougainvilleas. Having heard so much about the famous Ligurian pesto, I just gotta whip up something to remember this special place by.  ;)

Gazpacho with pesto

Serves: 2 persons

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 20-25 minutes

Ingredients: 

2-3 buffalo tomatoes, cut into about 1/2 inch thick slices

1 bowl cherry tomatoes, halved and leave a few for garnishing 

2 celery stalks, cut into small bits

1/2 white onion, thinly sliced

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1/2 tsp chili flakes 

1 handful fresh basil

extra-virgin olive oil

For pesto: 

1 bunch fresh basil leaves

1 handful roasted pine nuts 

2 tbsp grated parmesan or Pecorino

1 small garlic clove

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

— Blend together basil, pine nuts, garlic, grated cheese, and olive oil in a food processor and season.  

Instructions: 

1. Preheat oven to 180ºC.  On a baking tray, drizzle 2-3 tbsp of olive oil with buffalo tomatoes and cherry tomatoes.  Season.  Roast for about 20-25 minutes.  Remove from the oven.  Set aside and let it cool.  

2. While roasting the tomatoes, preheat a frying pan on medium heat. Cook garlic, onion, and chili flakes until onions are translucent. Season. Turn off the heat and set aside.  

3. Combine the cooked vegetables and fresh basil leaves in a food processor and blend for a minute or two according to the consistency that you like.  Season if needed.  

4. Transfer the soup to a big bowl and chill it for at least 1-2 hour in the fridge.  

5. Garnish with some chopped celery, tomatoes, and add a dollop of fresh pesto with a drizzle of olive oil before serving.  

Gazpacho with Ligurian Pesto

Cervo is only a couple hours away of driving from Milan.  

This little town is full of bougainvilleas.  How beautiful!

There is a reason why Cervo is officially classed as one of the "most beautiful villages in Italy."

Cervo is truly an amazing medieval coastal town.  

Don't forget to swing by this cute shop to enjoy a glass of cold-pressed juice.

How could we leave without grabbing some fine oil and pesto?!