Hanukkah Cooking Traditions: The Origin of Latkes

December 15, 2020  |  By Liz SanFilippo Hall
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Cooking up a batch of hot, freshly made latkes.One of Hanukkah’s most popular treats are latkes, yet these fried pancakes have a surprising origin: Italy! The first version of a latke, as the story goes, was a ricotta pancake, the recipe of which you can learn during a variety of our Italy cooking classes.

So how did the Italian ricotta pancake turn into a Hanukkah tradition? Since many Jews lived in a variety of places around the world, they created recipes based off the ingredients at hand, often with a focus on fried and dairy foods. Back in the 14th century on the island of Sicily, Rabbi Kalonymus ben Kalonymus suggested the Italian ricotta pancake be included on the menu at a Purim feast, and he mentioned them in a Hanukkah poem.

Enjoying hot, freshly made latkes.When the Spanish ran the Jews out of Sicily in the late 15th century, the Jews brought their new holiday dish with them to northern Italy, where the tradition of pancakes at Hanukkah continued to spread. In the mid-1800s, Poland, Ukraine, and Russia didn’t have many ingredients to choose from other than potatoes to make their pancakes, and the latke as we know it today was born.

Read about enjoying a Passover seder in Rome.

What are your favorite way to make latkes? Do you use potatoes, as tradition would dictate, or have you tried other ingredients such as ricotta?

Check out more interesting facts about our favorite foods:

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By Liz SanFilippo Hall

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Originally published December 14, 2012.

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