Recipe for La Cuccia – A Santa Lucia Dessert


Cuccìa is a dish made in some regions for Santa Lucia in Italy, especially in Sicily.  The word itself is Sicilian. 

Cuccìa is typically made with wheat berries, ricotta and sugar. On Santa Lucia people eat a variety of dishes made with wheat berries. 

It’s said that there was a famine in Sicily several centuries ago (the exact year seems to vary), when a ship arrived in Palermo bearing wheat on Santa Lucia’s Day, December 13th.  So on this day cuccia is the only wheat eaten… no bread. 

This tradition is especially important in the Sicilian city of Palermo, and also in Syracuse where Santa Lucia was born.

I made cuccia this week and boy was it yummy!  You can vary the recipe as Sicilians do.  Everyone tweaks it to their own taste.  Here’s how I made it…

Recipe for La Cuccia


2 cups Wheat Berries*
2 pounds Ricotta
1/2 cup Sugar
1/2 t. Vanilla Extract
1/2 cup Milk (optional)
Dark Chocolate (optional)
Candied Fruit (optional)

*Measured after they’ve soaked

1.  Soak the wheat berries in water for 2 days, making sure to change the water twice a day and rinse the wheat berries.  I covered the bowl with a towel while the berries were sitting.


2.  After they’ve finished soaking, rinse the wheat berries and put them in a pot covered with lightly salted water.   Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer and cook for about 3 hours. 


They’re done when they split open and taste tender but chewy.  Let them cool a little.


3.  Meanwhile, put the ricotta, sugar and vanilla in a bowl.  Beat with a hand blender until smooth and creamy.  If you’d like a thinner consistency you can add the milk (which I did).  Some people like it soupy some people like it thick –adjust it to your taste.  The same with the sugar and vanilla – feel free to use more or less to suit your family.


4.  Put the ricotta mixture through a sieve. You can press it through with a large spoon right into the bowl of cooked wheat berries.


5.  Cut up the chocolate into little pieces and the candied cherries if you’re using them.  They are traditional to put in… we made one batch with candied cherries and one without.  Most of us preferred it without the cherries, but with a lot of chocolate! 


6.  Mix together the ricotta mixture, the wheat berries and the chocolate.


7.  Finally, add in the candied fruit if you’re using it…


8.  You can eat it right away, but if you want it cold and thick, let it chill over night.


Buon appetito!

Mama Lisa

This article was posted on Wednesday, December 21st, 2011 at 11:45 pm and is filed under Countries & Cultures, Desserts, Holiday Recipes, Holidays Around the World, Italy, La Cuccia, Languages, Recipes of the World, Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia Recipes, Sicilian, Sicily, St. Lucia's Day. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

13 Responses to “Recipe for La Cuccia – A Santa Lucia Dessert”

  1. ayako Says:

    Hi, Lisa. is this one today’s new post ?
    It really looks yummy.

  2. joe sorrentino Says:

    my mom used to make this my family cpmes from Agregento Sicily. thanks now all i need is th wheat berries

  3. Lisa Says:

    Hi Joe – I think you can find wheat berries in the Bob’s Mills brand in many stores. Enjoy! -Mama Lisa

  4. Roy Palise Says:

    As a child I remember going to my grandmother’s house and she would keep the Cuccia in a large jar under the cupboard. She would feed it to us by the spoonful. As I think back it was only at a certain time of the year that she would make it. I remember lining up with my cousins for a taste.

    It was in a sweet syrup with wheat berries and garbanzo beans. I think it was reduced homemade wine and honey, but not sure. It was sweet and chewy. I would love to find a recipe as all of my family is gone now and my cousin and I do not have a recipe.

    Thank you,
    Roy Palise

  5. Monique Says:

    It depends on what it looked like. I couldn’t find any good one in English but Google translator can help!
    Recipe 1,
    Recipe 2,
    Recipe 3, all of them in Italian.

  6. Saint of the Day and Daily Meditation | WRXJ 105.5 Says:

    […] one of the recipes for this feast to prepare. Here is a recipe for cuccia, an Italian dish. This is […]

  7. Cuccìa for St. Lucia’s Day in Sicily | Eating The World Says:

    […] savory  Cuccìas, but feel free to improvise your own. Here are some versions from Slow Food,  Mama Lisa and Serious Eats (pictured below). Don’t forget the accent on the I when you are searching […]

  8. Frank Says:

    Every year we make Cuccia! With extra chocolate!!


  9. Lisa Says:


  10. Rosie Says:

    I am so glad I found you. My mother Rose Collura Buggica, and my Nana Rose would make Cuccia everyyear for St. Lucia Day, December 13. They both have passed away, and I have been doing it. I make containers to give to my Aunts and cousins. They look forward to it every year.
    I have a question for you, there was an Italian Nursery Rhyme, Mone ma noo sa, I know the spelling is incorrect, but, if you know it, please send the words to me.

    Thank you and God Bless,

    Rosie Buggica Zummo

  11. Diane Says:

    Spelling is way off. I never said Patty Cake to my sons. This is what they were taught & recited in Italian
    Mane manutsa vene papa, boite gozi (or portle cozi) sini va. Elimenti, nella gradilia va, (insert Name) a celi va pelia

    Mane manutsa vene papa, boite gozi (or portle cozi) sini va. Elimenti, nella gradilia va, Mateo, a celi va pelia

  12. Fran Says:

    I just found “Mani manutsa vene papa, boite gozi sini va, Elimenti, nella
    gradilla va (name) a celi va peli.”
    My mother was sicillan but is gone now. I can make out all the words
    except “Elimenti, nella gradilla va a celi va pelia.
    Can you please translate the last sentence if you can? I really would
    appreciate it. Thanks

  13. Carmela Says:

    I have been eating Cuccia on St. Lucie Day my whole life. My Mom had it as a child in Palermo. Now I make it in America.
    Only difference is, we make it with chocolate only. No fruit or ricotta.
    Its the Best!!
    Thank u for explaining how this tradition originated!

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