In Italy, eating seasonally is a way of life. It's also one of the secrets to Italian cuisine. After all, when you eat seasonally, it means you're eating ingredients when they are fresh and at the height of their flavor!
So what do Italians eat in the winter? While you won't find any fresh tomato bruschetta, you can expect to indulge in many other delicious dishes. Explore our guide below to learn about 11 things Italians eat and drink in the winter!
A staple of northern Italy, polenta is made of ground cornmeal. It can be boiled and served as a hot porridge with cheese, braised beef ragù, or stews. Another method for serving polenta is to let it cool after boiling, then bake it, grill it.
These toothsome bread dumplings are a popular first course in Trentino Alto-Adige, a region found in northeast Italy. They are made by soaking bread in fresh milk, then mixing it together with eggs, local cheese, and sometimes speck, a half-smoked half-cured ham. The mixture is then rolled into ping pong-sized balls and served with melted butter or broth.
A classic dish of Toscana, ribollita is a hearty winter vegetable soup. It's the perfect example of cucina povera – poor cooking – as it's chock-full of winter vegetables like kale, potatoes, and carrots and thickened by leftover day-old bread.
Literally meaning "little knobs," these pillowy potato dumplings are an ideal winter food when potatoes are abundant. The best gnocchi is made from slightly old potatoes, which have less moisture, giving the gnocchi a lighter, more airy texture.
PASTA IN BRODO
Serving pasta in broth is a popular way to enjoy pasta in the wintertime, especially in Italy's central and northern regions where the weather can chilling to the bones. In Emilia-Romagna, tortellini in brodo, tiny pork and cheese-stuffed parcels, are king, while in Piemonte, the veal-stuffed agnolotti del plin are served in a rich Parmigiano broth. Sometimes the broth is made from boiled meats, which are then chopped up and stuffed into the pasta in order to avoid waste.
There's nothing quite like a steaming pot of risotto to warm up your kitchen on a cold winter's day! There are three basic ingredients to risotto: rich broth, short-grain Italian rice (which has a higher starch content then long-grain rice), and a splash of dry wine. The broth is slowly added to the rice and stirred constantly until creamy and al dente. During the cooking process, other flavorings can be added, too, such as porcini mushrooms, saffron, or seafood!
While Italian street food varies from region to region across Italy, one item can be found just about everywhere once the temperatures start to drop. Caldarroste, or roasted chestnuts, are a popular kind of Italian street snack in wintertime. From October to early spring, street vendors set-up little carts with mini-roasting stations and sell their warm, roasted chestnuts in paper cones, for easy snacking on the go.
Vin Brulè is Italy's version of mulled wine. Made by infusing a fruity red wine with spices like anise, cloves, and cinnamon and citrus zest, Vin Brulè is often served at Christmas markets in November and December – although we think it's great all winter long!
Unlike American hot chocolate which usually contains more milk than cocoa, Italian hot chocolate, known as cioccolata calda, has more cocoa than milk giving it a dense, thick consistency. Swoon. It can be enjoyed on its own or topped with whipped cream.