6 Must-Try Italian Winter Dishes: Ribollita, Eggplant Parmigiana & More

May 20, 2024

We love Italian food. But there are some foods of Italy we especially love on a winter day, when the frigid temperatures (and in-season produce) make for the perfect stick-to-your-ribs pastas, soups, and other dishes. And luckily, there are plenty of Italian winter dishes to sample – no matter which region you travel to!

Coming to Italy in winter? Visit museums and churches without fighting the crowds, then warm up over a steaming plate of some of Italy’s most traditional, and delicious, comfort foods.

Polenta, a specialty of the Valle d'Aosta

Polenta is stick-to-your-ribs winter staple in northern Italian.

Italian winter vegetable dishes


What better way to warm up and keep winter sniffles away than with a bowl of hearty soup? Ribollitais a Tuscan soup made with cannellini beans, vegetables, and leftover bread. This “cucina povera” recipe was meant to use up all the veggies and stale bread in the house and, literally meaning “reboiled,”  it’s said to be even better as a leftover. Sometimes the simplest things are just what the heart needs. Want to make it yourself? Get the recipe for ribollita here!

You can add any vegetable you have in the house to this Tuscan bread soup – and it's even better heated up the next day! Photo credit: Amelia Crook (via flickr)

You can add any vegetable you have in the house to this Tuscan bread soup – and it’s even better heated up the next day! Photo by Amelia Crook (Flickr)

Melanzane alla parmigiana

Layered with fried or grilled eggplant slices, tomato sauce and Parmesan cheese, and then baked, this gooey, melty dish is a crowd-pleaser and can be ordered as an appetizer or an entree! This classic Italian dish is claimed by both Parma in the north and Campania and Sicily in the south of Italy ,with slight variations between the different versions. So almost wherever you are you can enjoy this delicious vegetable dish. Make eggplant parmesan at home here!

Winter dishes in Italy

Nothing  is better than a warm, cheesy plate of eggplant parmesan – easily one of our favorite Italian winter dishes. Photo by Gina Mussio

Polenta Taragna

This starch, similar to porridge, is a classic across northern Italy. Polenta is a very simple dish that can be made in dozens of ways, but polenta taragna kicks it up a notch by adding cheese, milk and butter to create a rich, creamy dish.

Polenta taragna comes from the Bergamo Alps and can be found in nearly all the little towns in this mountain range. Escape the cold with a warm, cheesy plate of polenta taragna and enjoy breathtaking, snow-covered mountain views. Polenta taragna‘s darker color comes from the buckwheat used instead of cornmeal. Get the recipe for polenta taragna here.

Best foods of Italy

While we love eating polenta all year long, it’s one of the most famous Italian winter dishes. Photo by Corrado Forino (Flickr)

Winter pasta dishes

Gnocchi with wild boar sauce (or anything else)

Order a plate of these warm marbles of potatoes covered in a classic Tuscan meat sauce, with just a pinch of Parmesan cheese on top, for the embodiment of “comfort food.” Or try some with a butter sauce and sage, or butternut squash gnocchi with a cream sauce. We’re sure you’ll enjoy each bite! (Here’s how to make gnocchi at home!).

Italian food of winter

Gnocchi with a warm butter sauce in Rome is sure to warm you up! Photo by Gina Mussio

Italian winter dishes with meat and fish


Cassoeula, named after the casserole dish it is cooked in, is made with cabbage, tomato purée, onion, celery, chopped carrots, pepper and a variety of pork (the ribs, sausage and tail). It’s tradition to eat this high-calorie dish after the first frost of the season so that the cabbage used will be ready and tasty. Follow suit and order the hot casserole dish; the strong flavors and rich combination are sure to warm you. (Or make it at home. Here’s where to find the recipe for cassoeula!).

A food of Italy for winter

Cassoeula often was eaten by the Milanese nobles in Lombardy. Today, it can fill anyone up, royal or not!

Baccalà (Codfish)

Baccalà, dried salted cod fish, is a favorite Christmas Eve meal, when Italians traditionally avoid meat. Served fried with potatoes, braised with onions and anchovies or fried in a classic tomato sauce, you can find baccalà throughout all of Italy in one of its many recipes and you’re sure to add this seafood to your list of comfort foods.

(Try the recipe for baccalà alla Vesuviana here!).

Food of Italy

Baccalà in a flavorful tomato sauce. Photo by Italy Chronicles Photos (Flickr)

Italian winter desserts

Pane dolce and panettone

The most famous of Italy’s versions of Christmas breads (read about all of  them here!), this is the Italian’s version of a Christmas cake. Though actually a type of sweet bread, panettone is considered a staple for Christmas and New Years celebrations. Eggs, raisins, candied fruits, butter and sugar are folded into already prepared dough and cooked to make this delicious yuletide dessert! And even after the holidays have passed, the deliciousness of this simple dessert can still be enjoyed all winter!

Bread of Italy

Pan dolce is the perfect present during the Christmas season – even for yourself! Photo by Gina Mussio

by Gina Mussio

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