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