Why It Works
- Whipping the ricotta keeps the dessert smooth and creamy.
- Topping each bowl with cinnamon and shaved chocolate, rather than stirring those ingredients in, makes for a more aesthetically appealing presentation.
Italian desserts don't get much simpler than cuccia, a rice pudding–like mixture of chewy, nutty wheatberries suspended in creamy sweetened ricotta. The Sicilian specialty is traditionally eaten just once a year, for the Feast of Santa Lucia—a celebration of the fourth-century martyr credited with ending a famine in Sicily by delivering a ship full of wheat to the city of Syracuse. I like it best served the way my mother made it, beneath a dusting of cinnamon and curls of shaved chocolate or chocolate chips. Here's how to re-create the classic at home.
- 1 cup (6.5 ounces; 185g) dried wheatberries (see note)
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 1/2 cups (13 ounces; 370g) fresh whole-milk ricotta (see note)
- 2 tablespoons (25g) granulated sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Ground cinnamon, for garnish
- Dark chocolate, either miniature chips or shaved with a vegetable peeler or Microplane, for garnish
Place wheatberries in a medium saucepan, cover with water by 2 to 3 inches, and season with kosher salt. Bring to a boil over high heat and then reduce to a simmer, cooking uncovered until wheatberries are tender, about 50 to 60 minutes. Using a fine-mesh strainer, drain berries and run under cool water until chilled. Place strainer of berries over a large bowl and let drain for at least 15 minutes.
While wheatberries cook, combine ricotta, sugar, and vanilla in a mixing bowl. Using a whisk or immersion blender, whip until creamy and smooth.
Fold cooled wheatberries into ricotta mixture. Cuccia may be served immediately or stored in the fridge in a tightly sealed container for up to 1 week. To serve, spoon into individual bowls, dust with a pinch of cinnamon, and top with shaved chocolate or chocolate chips to taste.
I prefer to use hard white wheatberries, which I find slightly less bitter than their hard red counterparts, but either variety will work for this recipe. We recommend making our five-minute fresh ricotta or purchasing a high-quality ricotta with no gums or stabilizers that lists only milk, salt, and either an acid or a starter culture on the label. Our favorite nationally available store brand is Calabro.