Top 10 favorite italian dishes to eat in winter

Bagna Caud-iamo!
Bagna cauda

The unusually lower temperatures Italy is experiencing right now is being compared to the kind we normally see in January. If it continues on like this, I may end up with way more than 10 favorites for the cold months. Cheese, potatoes, beans, and cabbage play such a big role in so many great-tasting seasonal recipes that it just isn’t a winter without them. And if by divine miracle the temps go up next month, we’re still going to eat every single one of these dishes for the sake of tradition.

Beginning from the top – garlic & anchovy (left dish) and a vegan-friendly garlic & sunchoke (right) Bagna Cauda. As we experienced for ourselves last month, numerous food festivals in Piemonte are created around la bagna caöda so I think it merits being at the #1 spot. The list proceeds in no particular order and includes the rib-sticking sustenance of northern italian cuisine. Of course a list isn’t complete without something for the sweet tooths, and that’s why panettone (my favorite) and pandoro (MotH’s) are side-by-side at the end.

Fonduta valdostana
La Fonduta – aka fondue. Served valdostana-style like this or in a larger fondue pot with bread cubes and accompanying vegetables.

La trippa
Trippa – a soup/stew of tender strips of tripe, beans, pancetta and a hint of tomato; topped with parmigiano.

Cassoeula – a rich and filling mix of pork sausage, pork skin and ribs, and a lot of cabbage. It tastes even better the next day after flavors have had time to come together, and red wine (Barbera or Bonarda) is a must with this.

Pizzoccheri – there are two faces to pizzoccheri: the above Valchiavenna-style cheese and flour dumplings (also called gnocchetti bianchi) or Valtellina’s buckwheat flour pasta with potatoes, cabbage and cheese as shown below.

Jota – a thick soup of beans, sauerkraut, potatoes and smoked pork. This specialty is popular in Friuli (we first tried this in Gorizia) and was so common in Trieste that old folks used to say “sempre jota, sempre jota, e mai polenta e latte” – always jota, always jota, and never polenta and milk. Pronounced like yoh-tah.

Polenta and beans – separately they are basic dietery items, but put them together with crumbled bits of fried pork rinds and enjoy a dish from Emilia Romagna. It actually has a name – calzagatti – and a story behind it.

bollito misto
Bollito Misto – mixed boiled meats that must include beef tongue and calf’s head – testina – to be authentic. Served with a variety of flavorful sauces, and don’t fret about the head part because you’ll never actually see eyeballs staring up at you.

Panettone and pandoro
Panettone and Pandoro – the first, a specialty from Milan and the second from Verona. No wonder we can’t be bothered with cookies and other holiday desserts. The breads come in sizes meant to serve a large family which is why it takes forever to get through the stash that we receive as gifts. Can you come up with a Top 10 pick of winter meals where you live?


11 thoughts on “Top 10 favorite italian dishes to eat in winter

  1. Pingback: Gran Bollito Cremonese | Rubber Slippers In Italy

  2. Anonymous

    I was only able to come up with seven off the top of my head, but after tasting pizzocheri this year, maybe that dish will be number eight:-) 1 chili with corn bread 2. pot roast cooked with herbs and red wine 3, butternut squash soup with a nice crusty bread 4. jook or congee 5. Hot and sour soup with cloud ear mushrooms 6. pho’ 7. chicken n’ dumplings


      1. Anonymous

        Mmmm, chicken and waffles. Are waffle makers hard to find in northern Italy? I know from our friends there that immersion blenders are not easy to find.


  3. tesorotreasures

    What a great list! My mouth was watering imagining the flavors! I, too, make some of these in winter – mainly my version of Cassuera (simply made with sausage and cabbage)! Many of the foods you mentioned are comfort food for me as my mom made some of these when I was a little girl. She would say it was “il mangiare dei poveri”! Another comfort food, and I would condider a good winter food, is a simple pasta dish with a hearty ragu! We actually ate this last night as we all gathered for a pre-Thanksgiving dinner. Happy Thanksgiving to you – will you be celebrating?


    1. Rowena Post author

      We do celebrate T-day but on a much smaller scale these past few years. The big holiday meals are all on Christmas and New Year’s Eve, and sometimes we don’t even do traditional dishes.



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