Santa Lucia’s celebrations in Sicily: The making of Cuccía

From the 13th to the 20th of December my hometown, Siracusa, has been celebrating its patron saint Santa Lucia (Saint Lucy). While I see no difference between believing in Santa Claus and believing in saints protecting cities, I still appreciate traditions – especially culinary traditions.

A young Christian martyr from Siracusa, Lucia was tortured after she refused to honour the marriage her mother had arranged for her. Legend has it that after Lucia’s death a famine hit the city.

On the morning of the 13th of December some ships landed at Siracusa’s port, unloaded bags of wheat and mysteriously disappeared. People thought this miracle had something to do with the young martyr, and Lucia was immediately made Siracusa’s patron saint.

Sicilians pay homage to that legend by cooking a traditional wheat-based dessert called Cuccía. It looks like, for some strange reason, this traditional dessert is more popular in Palermo than in Siracusa itself. And even though I’m from Siracusa I’d never eaten or even seen this dessert until the other day, when I was allowed into the back of a pastry shop just around the corner from where I live. Of course I had my camera with me.

The ingredients of this traditional dessert: wheat kernels, chocolate chips, candied orange dices, and ricotta
Pastry chef Andrea at work making cuccía
Finishing up... voilá, cuccía is ready!
The bowl of cuccía I was offered - yummy stuff, I assure you