Sicilian Christmas Cookies – The Cuccidati Story

Cuccidati ready to eat

Cuccidati are Sicilian Christmas cookies. Every year for as long as I can remember, my grandmother made these delicious biscotti.

On Christmas Eve, my two brothers and sister and I would get to open one present. It was a pair of new pajamas. (It was always a pair of new pajamas). Then my grandmother would give us her gift. It was wrapped in Reynolds aluminum foil and tied with red curly ribbon she bought at Woolworth (the local five and dime store).

We knew what was in it and with smiles on our faces we each opened our own precious package of colorful cuccidati.

I have very vivid memories of my grandmother’s kitchen where I watched her make this Sicilian specialty. She used a hand grinder. It took all day to make the filling and a week or more for it to mellow. Preparing the cookie dough and the actual making of the cuccidati took several days … days I loved because I got to help.
(I loved to cook and bake). But, especially, because we had to taste one from each batch to make sure they were perfect!

It wasn’t until I was in my late twenties that I learned how to make this special treat myself. Jack and I had been married for a couple of years when we took my mother (a pretty good cook but not much of a baker) and her mother to our cabin in the Sierra’s.

My grandmother didn’t use recipes. She just added a pinch of this and a handful of that. I watched closely and took meticulous notes of the laborious task taking place in my kitchen in the mountains that day.

As the years went by our packages of cookies got smaller … and then disappeared altogether. For many years there were no aluminum foil wrapped gifts under the tree.

In June of 1994, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and not expected to make it to Christmas. In early December, with no appetite and existing on protein shakes, I asked her what I could possibly make that she would eat. With a hint of childlike happiness in her voice, she softly said, “I would really enjoy some of my mother’s Italian fig cookies.” When I went home that evening, I turned my house upside down and inside out, looking for that recipe.

Cuccidati package

By Christmas time my mother had her cuccidati. She didn’t eat much, but the smile on her face and the love in those big beautiful brown eyes of her’s spoke volumes and for a short while I witnessed a glimmer of that familiar Sicilian fiestiness and a renewed sense of energy and spirit. She passed away a few days later.

And so, the tradition of the aluminum foil wrapped packages continues. They are made with more love than you know and are to be shared with family and good friends!

May you and your family feel the same joy and happiness this holiday season as you share your cuccidati.

Buon Natale!


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7 Responses to “Sicilian Christmas Cookies – The Cuccidati Story”

  1. April 20, 2012 at 11:23 pm #

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful recipe and the lovely story as well. I just watch a Lidia Bastianich TV segment and KNEW that recipe was not authentic. I went online to search for one that was more like the one i tasted a few years ago. When i saw all the silly, non Sicilian ingredients in thoses recipes i knew they were just Americanized versions by some big name chef that were not rooted in the true tradition. I read your recipe, saw that it was made in a food grinder, that it needed to rest, that it had Marasla(from Sicily) and NOT grappa(from the north), etc, I knew i had found the right thing. i am going to give these a try, and I will honor your Grandmother and your mother by making them the traditional way, no shortcuts. My family is not from Sicily so we have no similar recipe, but i have Neopolitan and Apuglian ones if you need a source.

    Thank you.

    • Catherine
      April 23, 2012 at 3:33 pm #

      Thank you so much for your kind and thoughtful words, they validate the very reason I write this blog. Are you from Naples or Apuglia by chance? I have fond memories of both places and orecchiette is my son’s most requested meal on his birthday.

  2. Susan Cicero
    November 4, 2012 at 8:16 pm #

    We grew up eating cuccidati every Christmas, made from figs in my grandmothers garden. Well into adulthood and after the family members had dispersed to different parts of the country the occasional packages of these cookies would arrive and delight. Memories of a childhood surrounded by my large Sicilian family and eating the delicious food my grandmother made are precious and will be forever treasured. Thank you for the picture of the cuccidati which brought an immediate rush of warmth and joy to my heart. I guess I better make some!

    • Catherine
      November 14, 2012 at 7:35 am #

      I have the same visceral reaction to images of this beautiful cookie myself, the only thing better is eating one … or several!


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