Santa Lucia was born in Italy in the year AD 283 and suffered the death of a martyr in 304 AD.
The Feast of Santa Lucia is celebrated on December 13th , the day of her death. Lucia, meaning
light, Santa Lucia is the patron saint of the blind. In her paintings or her statues she is often
depicted holding her eyes on a golden plate. I was always told that when she was martyred, her
eyes were gouged out. However I have never been able to confirm that. But she is the patron
Saint of Eyes.
In Italy there are special devotions to Santa Lucia (St. Lucy) and it is because of this devotion
and tradition that her Feast Day continues to be celebrated.
In northern Italy, Santa Lucia arrives in the company of a donkey and sometimes brings gifts to
good children in the night between December 12th and 13th. (No donkey or gifts ever arrived at
my house in New York City! However there was Cuccia)
In Tuscany where my Little Nonna was raised, they ate boiled wheat on this feast day. Some
areas called this Cuccia.
My Little Nonna’s Mother’s name was Lucia (Vigliarri) and so when I made my Confirmation at
the age of 6, I was asked by my Father to take that name as I was confirmed. I can remember a
few years when I was little, my Little Nonna would make me Cuccia, sweetened and I think only
with sugar, on that Feast Day. Our youngest daughter, Claudia, embraced that name at her
Confirmation, but I am remiss as I have not made Cuccia for her. Cuccia is actually a Sicilian
name and I remember, as a child, this dish only being called Cucci!
2 Cups Wheat Berries – after soaking
2 Lbs Ricotta – drained of excess liquid
½ Cup Sugar – or more to your taste
½ Tsp Vanilla
¼ Tsp Nutmeg
½ Tsp Cinnamon – optional
½ cup Milk – optional
Soak the wheat berries for two days making sure you change the water often. When ready to
cook, rinse the berries and put in a covered pot, in slightly salted water, bring to a boil and then
lower heat and simmer for about 3 hours. At this point they should be tender but a little
Put the Ricotta, Sugar, Vanilla, Nutmeg and Cinnamon (if using) in a bowl and beat with a hand
mixer until smooth. If you like it thin add some milk. Taste and adjust for sugar. I remember it
being thick so I don’t think my Little Nonna added milk. Add the Ricotta mixture to the wheat
berries and stir in until all incorporated. This can be eaten warm or cooled. I remember eating
it at lunch time and it was warm. Such a good memory. Think I’ll whip up a batch this year and
share with Claudia.