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10 Italian Winter Dishes

By February 16, 2023March 13th, 2023No Comments

Chilly temps are here and with it come cravings for comfort food. There is no shortage of winter dishes to warm you up like the top 10 Italian dishes that you cooked with Casa Mia.

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The list of winter dishes seems to be a never-ending with specialities to savor in every region and in every season. Eating what is in season is a way of life. Francesco regales me with tales of Nonna Giovanna saying roast pig and Ragù Napoletano can only be eaten in winter. Every season supplies our bodies with the nutrition that it needs through the crops that flourish.

Despite living in Italy for 16 years, I continue to discover new recipes and dishes. I know I’ll never manage to taste them all, but I’ll try. So let’s get started with a bucket list of Italian winter dishes to savor on your next winter trip to Italy. Bring your second stomach.

1. Pasta al Forno


While lasagna may be the most famous baked pasta, pasta al forno (baked pasta) includes various pasta shapes. From sheets of lasagne to tagliatelle or anelletti (small ring shaped pasta), partially cooked pasta finishes cooking in the oven layered or mixed with other ingredients. The most decadent to the eye and the stomach are dishes made with short pasta shapes encased inside a pastry crust or fried eggplant mixed with delicacies, from meatballs in a dense sauce to truffles.

2. Polenta

polenta is a winter dish

A comfort food of a high order in Northern Italy, polenta is simple to cook and inexpensive. Originally the name polenta described porridge or grains boiled to mush and seasoned with cheese and whatever was available. Today polenta is made from ground cornmeal. Instant polenta cooks up in 5 to 10 minutes and is nowhere as scrumptious as regular polenta that is stirred continuously for about an hour. My favorite version is cooked for 15 minutes and then baked in the oven for 45 minutes layered with meat sauce, like a baked pasta. It is a staple at any ski lodge, a perfect plate to recharge energy shortages after a long day.

3. Ribollita

ribollita winter dish

An iconic cucina povera dish, this Tuscan soup may have originated as a way to use up left-over stewed beans that were enjoyed on Friday which was a lean day. The soup is packed with winter vegetables like kale, carrots, and potatoes and thickened with day-old bread. A drizzle of peppery local olive oil exalts the dish.

4. Cassoeula

This stick-to-your-ribs savoy cabbage and pork stew appears on restaurant menus in Milan in wintertime. Loved by locals, it’s tradition to indulge in cassoeula sometimes with polenta and almost always with a glass of Nebbiolo after the first frost of the season, when cabbage becomes softer and tastier.

5. Tortellini in brodo (tortellini in broth)

tortellini in brodo winter dishes

Serving tortellini or any pasta shape in broth is a popular way to eat pasta in the wintertime. The steamy satisfying dish is a favorite in central and northern Italy where the temperatures can be quite chilly. In Emilia-Romagnatortellini in brodo, pork and cheese-filled rings rule. The broth is rich, sometimes made from boiled meats. In my home in Rome, we use bone broth, simple chicken broth or vegetable broth depending on what ingredients we have on hand.

6. Coda alla vaccinara (oxtail stew)

coda alla vaccinara

This Roman cucina povera staple is served year round. I look forward to digging into the rich aromatic stew in winter at a trattoria or making it at home. Enjoy it with a glass of Cesanese and a hunk of Lariano bread.

7. Peposo (pepper beef stew)

Peposo, a specialty of Trattoria Sergio Gozzi in Florence

Peposo is made with cheap cuts of beef and sometimes pork. It is cooked super slowly with a variety of ingredients; the most important being red wine and crushed black peppercorns that give this humble Tuscan stew a punch and entrancing aroma.

8. Ossobuco

ossobuco is a winter dish

Ossobuco alla Milanese is made from the leg of veal cut through the bone into slices. Braised with butter, white wine, and herbs, this Italian winter dish is topped with a gremolata of chopped parsley, garlic and lemon peel. This is one of the few second courses that finds itself sharing a plate with risotto alla Milanese, a simple risotto flavored with saffron: a match made in heaven.

9. Canederli

canederli are a winter dish

These bread dumplings are a beloved first course in Trentino Alto-Adige. A poor man’s dish, they are made with milk-soaked bread mixed with eggs, cheese and sometimes a local cured meat like speck for a hint of smokiness. The mixture is rolled into balls and served in broth or with melted butter. 

10. Risotto

autumn is risotto season

I admit I eat risotto year round. It’s a perfect base for seasonal ingredients BUT a steaming pot of risotto warms up my kitchen and gives my arm a workout on a cold winter’s day. I always keep arborio rice in the cupboard, broth in the freezer and wine on the shelf: the three basic ingredients for creamy risotto. I shared 10 risotto flavor combinations that I love on the Casa Mia blog. Risotto with roast pumpkin tops my list.

I would love to know what your favorite Italian winter dishes are. Please share!

italian winter dishes

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