Canederli in Brodo: Bread Dumplings in Broth

canederli square bowl Normally by mid-January I am completely over winter. I’ve had it with scarves and gloves and heavy coats, with raw winds and dry brown landscapes.

This year, most uncharacteristically, I find myself enjoying, if not reveling in, the season, even as temps have dipped into the teens (that’s cold for Virginia). There have been brisk afternoon walks with the dog ~ as brisk as you can get with a cavalier king charles spaniel ~ and bracing Sunday morning trips to the farmers’ market.

There have been rich stews and hearty pastas and pots of soup. (It’s always easier to appreciate winter from the warmth of your own kitchen, isn’t it.) Last week, I dipped back into my first book for a recipe I hadn’t made in awhile: canederli in brodo, or bread dumplings in broth.

Canederli are a specialty of Trentino-Alto Adige, a mountainous region in the northeastern corner of Italy that was once part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It is now one of five autonomous regions, a special status granted after World War II to prevent secession from Italy. Both German and Italian are spoken, and the food reflects its Germanic heritage.

canederli on plate The dumplings are known as knödel in German, and you will also find versions in Austria, Croatia, the Czech Republic and Slovenia, among other places. They are typically made with bread, potatoes or semolina and poached in broth or salted water. You can serve them in the broth, or as a side dish for a roast or stew. They are also good dressed with herbed butter.

In Alto Adige, canederli usually contain speck, smoked prosciutto produced in the region. I sometimes use mortadella and salami. You can make them vegetarian by using chopped spinach in place of the meat.

Canederli are not difficult to make, but they can be tricky. Pack them too loosely and they will fall apart in the broth; make them too sturdy and you’ll end up with little boulders. Some things to keep in mind:

* Use good-quality sturdy bread and trim the crusts.
* Let the bread soak in milk long enough to adequately absorb the liquid. Then gently but firmly squeeze out any excess.
* Cut the speck or ham into very small dice so that they can be fully incorporated into the mixture.
* Moisten your hands lightly when shaping the dumplings to keep the mixture from sticking to them.
* Use homemade broth to give the dumplings their due. Canederli poached in canned broth will taste like…canned broth.
* Gently poach the canederli in barely simmering broth to keep them from being jostled about in the pot.

Buon Appetito!
Guten Appetit!

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Speaking of soup, Craftsy, the online educational website that hosts my class on Italian soups, is having a flash sale. All classes, everything from knitting to photography, plus a growing number of cooking classes, is up to 50 percent off through the weekend. Click here to check out the selection. Cheers friends, stay warm.

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Makes 8 first-course or 4 main-course servings

Canederli in Brodo

There is something undeniably alluring about these oversized dumplings. In spite of their hefty appearance they are surprisingly light and fluffy. They are a specialty of Trentino-Alto Adige, an alpine region in the far northeastern part of Italy. Be sure to use homemade broth to give these dumplings their proper due. (Adapted from The Glorious Soups and Stews of Italy.


  • 8 lightly packed cups cubed day-old Italian bread, crust removed
  • 2 cups milk, heated to lukewarm
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 small yellow, finely chopped
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 ounces imported speck or mortadella, cut into very small dice
  • 1 1/2 ounces Genoa salami, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for coating
  • 8 to 10 cups Brodo di Carne
  • Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano for serving


1. Put the bread in a large bowl, pour the milk over it and stir. Let the mixture sit for 1 hour to allow the bread to absorb the milk.

2. In a small skillet, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until soft and translucent, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.

3. Squeeze the bread to remove excess milk. Return the squeezed bread to the bowl. Add the cooked onion, eggs, parsley, speck or mortadella, salami and salt and mix until thoroughly combined. Sprinkle in the flour and mix again.

4. Divide the mixture into 8 equal portions. Wet your hands lightly with cold water to keep the mixture from sticking to them. Shape each portion into a round dumpling slightly smaller than a tennis ball. Be sure to pack the mixture tightly. Spread some flour on a plate, then, one at a time, roll the dumplings in the flour, coating them lightly but thoroughly. Put the dumplings on a wax paper-lined baking sheet or platter. Let them rest at room temperature for 10 to 20 minutes, or in the refrigerator for up to 2 hours.

5. Select a pot just large enough to keep the dumplings submerged in broth as they cook. Pour in the broth and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Carefully lower the dumplings, one at a time, into the broth. Reduce the heat to medium-low or low to maintain the gentlest of simmers. Cover partially and cook the dumplings for 18 to 20 minutes. It will be hard to tell when they're done, though they will at some point bob to the surface. (You should be able to poke through them with a cake tester, though I sort of take it on faith that they'll be done after the allotted cooking time.)

6. Scoop out the dumplings with a large slotted spoon and transfer them to a serving tureen or to individual bowls. Pour the hot broth over the dumplings and sprinkle with cheese. Serve hot.

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26 Responses to Canederli in Brodo: Bread Dumplings in Broth

  1. Rosa Jeanne Mayland January 17, 2015 at 2:44 pm #

    Comforting and wonderfully seasonal! I love dumplings.



    • Domenica Marchetti January 18, 2015 at 3:01 pm #

      Thank you, Rosa. I imagine there are versions in Switzerland as well.

  2. Laney (Ortensia Blu) January 17, 2015 at 3:33 pm #

    Canderli are such a great comfort food! And you’re right about how your pack and form them; my first attempt a few years ago resulted in a bread mush…still tasty but not very pretty.

    • Domenica Marchetti January 18, 2015 at 3:02 pm #

      I have definitely served fallen-apart dumplings in broth. I tend to have this issue more with the stuffing dumplings that I make with leftover Thanksgiving stuffing. Still good, but you’re right, not much to look at.

  3. marisa2014 January 17, 2015 at 4:31 pm #

    I’ve never had canderli but I have posted a recipe my mamma made countless times, it is Gnocchi en Brodo. The gnocchi aren’t made with potatoes but more alla Romano with Parmesan cheese, eggs and farina ( cream of wheat — not instant) They are light as a feather and delicious. No one could make them as good as hers although my kids say mine are comparable.I guess no one cooks as good as their mammas. I will try the canderli – Thank you.
    Maria Franca @ Allourway

    • Domenica Marchetti January 18, 2015 at 3:04 pm #

      They sound delicious Maria. There’s a recipe for semolina gnocchi in brodo in my book The Glorious Pasta of Italy. It sounds like it might be similar to your mamma’s. Light and fluffy. I love them. Cheers and thanks for writing.

  4. italyonmymind January 17, 2015 at 4:38 pm #

    What a lovely warming idea for winter. It is so long since I ate canederli. You also find them in Friuli Venezia Giulia and we call them “gnochi de pan” (in our dialect), or bread “gnocchi”. Warming cucina povera for the winter months. Just lovely Domenica!

    • Domenica Marchetti January 18, 2015 at 3:05 pm #

      Thank you Paola. And you’re right; I meant to add that they are also a specialty of Friuli Venezia Giulia, a region I have yet to visit. One day!

  5. ciaochowlinda January 17, 2015 at 5:18 pm #

    Domenica – You bring back many memories of eating canederli while on skiing vacations in the Val Gardena. I made them only once, and you’re so right about how tricky they are to get the proper consistency. But once mastered, they are delicious and a comfort in a bowl of homemade brodo, as you suggest. Like Marissa above, I love making the gnocchi alla romana and shaping them into quenelles, then dropping into a bowl of brodo. It almost makes you wish that winter would last longer ……. almost.

    • Domenica Marchetti January 18, 2015 at 7:14 pm #

      Linda, skiing in the Alps is on my bucket list. And now both you and Maria Franca have got me craving gnocchi alla romana. Also, your polenta pasticciata that you posted about looks out of this world. Another winter favorite. Thanks for writing.

  6. Adri Barr Crocetti January 17, 2015 at 6:18 pm #

    Talk about classic winter food – this is one of those dishes. What is it about heavenly bodies set afloat in brodo? I find dishes like this one so satisfying, and yours sounds divinely inspired. Here in Southern California we do not have much of a winter. However, I am blessed with a fertile imagination, and so I am on this one straightaway.

    • Domenica Marchetti January 18, 2015 at 7:16 pm #

      I do like the changing seasons, but there is definitely something to be said for a winter that includes sunshine and palm trees…My folks used to have a place down in the Florida Keys. We would take the kids down when they were babies. It was such a welcome trip in the middle of winter.

  7. Marilena Leavitt January 18, 2015 at 12:40 pm #

    Perfect for a day like today!

    • Domenica Marchetti January 18, 2015 at 7:17 pm #

      Yes, I agree Marilena. I think I’d rather see a good snowfall than rain rain and more rain.

  8. Karen January 18, 2015 at 4:22 pm #

    My son would love this. He would drink broth all day long, I think, if I just left a pot on the stove with a ladle in it, like a punch bowl. I haven’t made canederli before. I like the idea that they’re like meatless-meatballs, with that small amount of salami or ham for seasoning and savor. I’m predicting this soup would go over very well in our house!

    • Domenica Marchetti January 18, 2015 at 7:18 pm #

      My daughter is the soup and broth lover in our house. And I was the same when I was little. I would heat up broth and drink it in a mug. So good, especially homemade.

  9. bettyannquirino @Mango_Queen January 18, 2015 at 8:08 pm #

    Oh my gosh, I can’t keep my eyes off these burly bread dumplings. I would love those in my soup tonight. I may give these a try. Thanks for sharing, Domenica!

  10. prouditaliancook January 18, 2015 at 10:43 pm #

    The minute I saw this I wanted to make it, and I’m going to. Never made it or tasted it, isn’t that sad? On my list and I will follow your directions to the tee!

  11. Chiara January 19, 2015 at 2:30 am #

    confermo quanto scritto da Paola, qui a Trieste li chiamiamo “gnochi de pan ” ma li mangiamo asciutti con la salsa di pomodoro,avevo postato la ricetta tempo fa….Buona settimana

    • Frank Fariello January 19, 2015 at 9:19 am #

      E a Vienna i “knödel” si mangiano con un sughetto di funghi finferli. Una vera e propria prelibatezza!

  12. Frank Fariello January 19, 2015 at 9:15 am #

    Such a warming dish! I got to know them while I was living in Vienna (pre-Rome) and loved them. But the very best version I ever ate was in Bolzano. I still make them. In fact, I was thinking about making them today, as I have some bread that’s done stale. I think you may have inspired me!

    By the way, seeing as winter only begins on December 21, being over it by mid-January, roughly three weeks later, suggests that it might not be your favorite season…? 😉

  13. elisa January 19, 2015 at 2:57 pm #

    I love canederli, and I make them often in all different ways! I don’t know which one I like best. Only last week I made them and cooked in Trader Joe’s mushroom soup and…from the same soup container I added half container of cream and 1 container of vegetable broth and… a tsp of cognac…OMG!…Evviva canederli!!!

  14. eastofedencook January 19, 2015 at 5:04 pm #

    My mom learned to make knödel when we lived in Austria. It became a regular in our house, especially toward the end of the month before we could grocery shop again. Her version always had very finely minced celery and onion, but no meat. I can’t wait to try your version of this classic!

  15. sippitysup January 20, 2015 at 7:44 pm #

    Kinda like Matzo Ball Soup! You know without the matzo. GREG

  16. Jamie January 24, 2015 at 1:15 pm #

    Oh my gosh, this is winter eating at its finest, most rustic, most cosy and comforting. As Greg said, like Matzo Ball soup! But with salami? Mmmmm. I love Italian winter recipes. We usually find ourselves eating tortellini in brodo but I think I may just like this better.

  17. amelia from ztastylife March 3, 2015 at 10:28 am #

    Buonissimi! I have yet to make these. With all the home baked bread I have been making lately, I really should try them!!! Baci

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