Street food, fancy flavors, desserts: here you have 20 winter Italian dishes to cuddle up with - 20 regional comfort foods for this cold season

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Italy: a country of saints, poets, and navigators, but also of cuisine and good food lovers. That's why traveling in Italy means most of all getting to know culinary tradition, at the table and on the streets, and discovering appetizers, first and second courses, desserts and snacks that each region can offer. Here we will provide you a small overview of them and present 20 winter Italian dishes, which can help you face the cold season with plenty of energy.

Winter Italian dishes to cuddle up with

Winter Italian dishes to cuddle up with

Talking about gluttony and good food, you should know that in Italy every season offers lots of delicacies - of course, winter makes no exception. For as the colder weather arrives, our towns and cities turn into a combination of fragrances and distinctive flavors to be discovered, featuring an abundance of ingredients and elaborate preparations that take advantage of all sorts of cooking methods.

And so: what could be better than getting comfort with tasty steaming dishes and rich and hearty food? 

If you want to find out what we eat in Italy from December to March, come with us on this north-to-south mini-journey and delight yourself with these 20 winter Italian dishes, from street food to more elaborate recipes, from savory to sweet ones: yummy cuddles for every palate and at every altitude.

20. The fondue from Aosta Valley

The fondue, a classic winter Italian dish

A triumph of cheese that turns into a warm cream in which you can dip morsels of meat, potatoes, polenta or toasted bread: here is a brief description of what fondue is, a typical winter recipe from Aosta Valley coming from Swiss and French traditions, an enveloping and invigorating recipe that is perfect to be eaten in front of the fireplace. It is made with slices of fontina DOP, a typical regional cheese, to be slowly melted in milk and butter, directly over the fire and inside the classic container, designed for diving small bites into with special forks.

19. Onion soup from Piedmont

The onion soup, a winter Italian dish from Piedmont

Another comfort food from the Francophone tradition, onion soup has become a classic winter Italian dish in Piedmont over the centuries. It is made with thinly sliced white onions to be wilted, broth and butter and is topped with a generous grating of Gruyere and a hint of black pepper. Most importantly, it is eaten, after a pass through the oven for gratinating, with toasted bread and strictly hot. A real must for people who appreciate intense flavors.

18. Nougat from Lombardy

The nougat: one of the most appreciated winter Italian dishes

A confectionery specialty that is widespread throughout Italy, nougat originates in the heart of Lombardy, in Cremona, and it is an ever-present on the Italian tables at Christmas time; we have already described this extraordinary product in detail here.

Its name comes from the Latin verb torrēre, which means to toast, and it is a crunchy, fragrant and caramelized sweet, rich in dried fruit, honey and often covered in chocolate: a real pleasure that fills your mouth with sweetness.

17. Salama da sugo (and tortellini) from Emilia Romagna

Perhaps not everyone will know it, but this delicacy, consisting of pork meat flavored with red wine and spices - pepper, cinnamon, cloves - is one of the most popular gastronomic specialties in Ferrara and other places in Emilia Romagna.

Its preparation is meticulous and slow, because it involves a very long cooking in boiling water (about 5-6 hours) but the waiting is richly repaid by a melting-in-the-mouth meat. Salama is served very hot, paired with mashed potatoes or polenta.

Do you prefer a first course? We cannot but recommend a dish of tortellini, delicious pasta caskets filled with meat and mortadella, a world-loved regional symbol, perhaps served with a Parmigiano cream or a nice steaming broth.

It wouldn't be a real winter without a broth dish. That's why we want to mention the delicious canederli prepared in the Trentino (and Austrian) tradition.

These are patty balls made of stale bread soaked in milk, speck or Lucan sausage, herbs and eggs that are typically served in steaming meat broth - but numerous variations are prepared in the region. A must-have winter Italian dish that warms and pampers as a comfort food should do.

15. Polenta e musso from Veneto

Polenta and musso, a traditional winter Italian dish and a comfort food from Veneto

Polenta, the quintessential enjoyable preparation for cuddling up during cold months, could certainly not be missing from this list. In this particular version of the Veneto tradition, we pair it with a stew of donkey meat, which is certainly unique but is actually very common in the region.

It is prepared with red wine marinated meat, herbs and broth and a long cooking time (about 4 hours) so that it becomes very tender. An enveloping treat for lovers of strong flavors that is a must among winter Italian dishes.

If we should give a mental image of comfort food, probably many people would think of something with potatoes or cheese. These are actually the two main ingredients (along with onions) of this typical winter dish from Friuli Venezia Giulia: a warm embrace called frico.

Frico is made with boiled potatoes to be compacted in a pan along with sautéed onions and a cascade of previously grated Montasio cheese: an exquisite delicacy with an inebriating aroma that, we are sure, will disappear before it touches the plate.

A Genoese variant of the classic gateau, this vegetarian meatloaf, or polpettone, is a soft and flavorful combination of mashed potatoes, plenty of Parmesan cheese and green beans, recurring protagonists of Ligurian cuisine.

Let the inviting aroma of this delicious main course (or side dish, depending on how hungry you are) drift from your oven to embrace you: a simple but certainly impressive and very very satisfying preparation.

12. Ribollita soup from Tuscany

Ribollita soup: a classic winter Italian dish

We would never, ever stop talking about this delicious vegetable soup that dominates Tuscan cuisine, a triumph of vegetables and legumes that will warm and enchant you with their aromas.

Ribollita is an ancient leftover-made recipe from the peasant tradition, made with beans, kale, savoy cabbage and potatoes to be cooked in plenty of broth and to which sliced stale bread and oil are added. Today, ribollita is a tasty and refined dish that can be ordered in all taverns in the region when you want to warm up with taste.

A fish-flavored comfort food for the Umbria region: here is the Trasimeno's tegamaccio. This is a specialty based on some species of fish from the well-known lake, such as pike, eel and tench, which are cooked together, precisely, inside an earthenware pan for about 3 hours. It is served hot straight from the pan (the tegamaccio) with the addition of stale bread toasted over embers.

In Latium and particularly in Rome, street food specialties are countless. In the capital's pizzerias and rotisseries, you will find delicious rice supplì, stuffed squash blossoms, artichokes and, of course, fried codfish. This is a fish morsel that is typically eaten during the Christmas season but can be also easily found during the rest of the year, and it is prepared with a simple flour and sparkling water batter in which the fish is dipped, which is then passed in boiling oil. We recommend it to be consumed very hot.

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Let's go back to the pastries and turn to the Marche region for the cavalluccio, an exquisite flavorful cookie whose recipe has been handed down from generation to generation, especially between the Ancona and Macerata areas.

It is a mix of chopped walnuts and almonds, candied fruit, chocolate, coffee, white wine, rum and a special mixture of sapa, or concentrated and cooked grape juice, finally coated with alrchermes and sugar and sprinkles: a long and detailed preparation involving many small pockets resembling a seahorse. Just try one and you won't be able to stop.

Among the most popular desserts of Abruzzi cuisine, parrozzo is a dome-shaped cake featuring a semolina flour and almond dough and covered with dark chocolate; a marvel with a deep yellow interior, the aroma of Amaretto that will melt in your mouth.

It is a winter Italian dish that is typically eaten during the Christmas season, an evolution of an ancient peasant tradition and that even seduced the supreme poet Gabriele D'annunzio.

If you are exploring Naples, a wonderful city even during the winter, just make a quick stop in typical inns to taste a not-to-be-missed delicacy of this period: pasta, patate e provola, namely pasta with potatoes and provola cheese. This is a simple but richly flavored one-pot dish that will warm your heart, made with potatoes, risotto-like cooked pasta (usually short or mixed), lots of grated stringy provola cheese and Parmesan cheese - whose crust, perhaps the star ingredient - is contested in most families. A heavenly dish that, by the way, will only make you mess up just one pot.

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6. Pettole from Apulia

Apulian pettole among the most loved winter Italian dishes

If you are walking through the streets of Taranto, you will discover many varieties of street food: let yourself be captured by the smell and sizzle of oil and try the pettole. These Apulian specialties are a very versatile winter Italian dish that can be found either sweet, with a cascade of sugar, or savory, with strong ricotta or anchovies. These small zeppole made of flour, water and yeast dough are prepared in kiosks on St. Cecilia's Day, December 22, and are a perfect comfort food as an appetizer for Christmas binges.

Pancotto from Molise can be described as a sort of "cousin" of the Tuscan ribollita, since it is likewise a recovery soup from the peasant tradition, its ingredients allowing the use of leftover vegetables in the fridge. It is prepared by combining potatoes, beans and chard, cooking them together in vegetable broth and slices of stale bread and topping it all off with a generous amount of olive oil: a warm embrace that will comfort you when the weather is harsh and will give you a burst of energy.

Cuccìa is a typical dish from the village of Castelmezzano, near Potenza, which has very ancient origins and is prepared for the feast of Saint Lucy. It is also in this case a "poor" recipe, also known as "grain of the dead," which has wheat, broad beans, chickpeas and chickling peas as its basic ingredients, with a sprinkling of crusco peppers: a hearty and energetic dish, a comfort food that pays homage to the legumes.

3. Dried figs with chocolate from Calabria

Dried figs with chocolate, an authentic winter Italian dish

There is a typical Central and Southern Italian tradition that ideally connects two seasons: summer and winter. We are talking about the one from which the dried figs with chocolate originate. At the end of the summer season, actually, figs are spread out in the sun on trays, covered with thin veils and left to dry. When they are ready, they are covered with melted dark chocolate and served. Here we present typical Calabrian chocolate dried figs, a winter Italian dish that recalls the holiday season but can be eaten all year round.

2. Crispelle ca 'nciova, fried bites with anchoves, from Sicily

Crispelle are a popular Sicilian street food, a specialty of the Catania area that can be found in various little kiosks (i crispellari) scattered almost everywhere in the cold season. Very similar to Apulian pettole and zeppole in general, crispelle are morsels of leavened dough filled with ricotta or anchovies, elongated or round in shape, respectively. Watching the dough ripple in the boiling oil (hence the name) is truly a mesmerizing sight that we recommend you try before enjoying this mouthwatering traditional winter Italian dish.

As the name indicates, this winter Italian dish is typical of the Gallura area and it is much more like a flan or lasagna. Also known as suppa cuata (hidden soup), it is a rich and hearty recipe made with layers of stale bread, broth and two types of Sardinian cheese, casizolu and pecorino, to be baked and gratinated in the oven and flavored with herbs. This comfort food with the intense aroma of cheese will make your mouth water and warm you up when the weather is inclement, but most of all it will be the ideal choice to share at the table.

Winter Italian dishes from each region

Winter Italian dishes: fried specialties

From the north to the south, from street food to desserts, as you may have noticed, the typical comfort foods of our Italian regions fully satisfy your need to warm up and feel cozy when sweaters and blankets are not enough. In this excursus through our 20 favorite winter Italian dishes, you have been able to catch so many inspirations, from meat to fish passing through vegetarian dishes: what will be your next mouth-watering, anti-cold recipe?

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