Although enjoyable throughout the entire year, some Italian delicacies are best served in particular seasons; especially when it comes to certain seasonal fruits and veggies. Here we’ll go over some of the Italian top seasonal ingredients as well as some key dishes you can expect to enjoy at any given time of year.
Ideal Summer Italian Foods
As the heat starts to bring on the sweat, Italians tend to eat lighter. They mostly consume fresh fruit and veggies (figs and cherries tend to be big), seafood, salads and lighter/oily pastas:
- Panzanella: one of the most popular Italian summer dishes, panzanella is a chopped salad that includes: stale bread that is soaked in water and then squeezed dry, onion, tomatoes, lettuce, olives, salt, pepper, vinegar, and other veggies. Its exact recipe varies depending on who makes it.
- Eggplant Parmesan: a classic Italian entree, eggplant parmesan is sliced eggplant that’s breaded and fried. It’s then served in tomato sauce on top of pasta.
- Summer Farro Salad: farro is a grain similar to rice. Italians love to use it in a variety of dishes from entrees to salads to soups. A summer farro salad is quick and easy to make, it’s filling and it’s healthy. After all, the main ingredients are farro, cucumber, tomato, basil and vinegar. Add in a few key spices and you’ve got a delicious lunch!
- Bruschetta: yet another staple appetizer in Italian cuisine, summertime is the best time to order bruschetta — fresh basil and tomatoes are at their peak!
- Gelato: And lastly but certainly not least, we have gelato. Whether as a post-dinner dessert or as a midday delicacy, an ice cold gelato (s type of Italian ice cream) will refresh you on any hot summer day.
Hearty Winter Italian Foods
During chilly beginnings each year, you can expect to find comfort food — something hot, hearty and filling that’ll keep a little fat on the bones to keep warm. Soups and meaty sauces with pasta tend to dominate the winter months — here are a few of the top choices:
- Pasta: served with a hearty Bolognese sauce and homemade meatballs
- Gnocchi alla Romana: this dish differs from classic gnocchi dumplings because the dough is cut into thicker, larger discs, topped with cheese and creamy sauce and baked in the oven. If that doesn’t do it for you, serve it with meatballs — that’ll really get your mouth watering!
- Panettone: this sweet bread originates in Milan and is traditionally served at Christmastime.
- Farro and bean soup (Zuppe di Farro): hearty, thick soups filled with ground pork, beef, beans and vegetables are very commonplace in winter Italian cuisine. This soup in particular will warm the cockles of your heart and fill your stomach with lots of bean variations and veggies.
Spring Italian Foods
Springtime is one of the most positive times of year in Italy. It’s not too hot, not too cold, flowers start to bloom, and of course, a lot of great foods are in-season. Italian spring brings with it harvests of artichokes, asparagus, fennel, peas and many many others. Seafood starts to become commonplace as the weather starts to warm. You’ll find that food becomes less hearty and heavy than those thick winter sauces and soups.
- Vignarola: this is an Italian spring vegetable stew that’s perfect for the transition out of cold weather and into the warmth. Although recipes can vary, the key ingredients include fava beans, peas and artichokes, since they’re at their ripest at this time of year.
- Abbacchio: this meaty delicacy has its origins in Rome. It’s a type of roast lamb often served, with potatoes, around Easter.
- Risotto: this is another classic Italian dish. It’s rice that’s cooked in broth with a creamy consistency, often including chopped vegetables and cheese.
- Anything with asparagus in it. Seriously. Italians love asparagus and springtime is when it becomes available.
Italian Delicacies of Fall
As the leaves start to turn and it becomes chilly outdoors, Italians turn toward vegetables that may not surprise you. Pumpkin, butternut squash, mushrooms, chestnuts, truffles, fennel, porcini, and thick soups become very commonplace.
- Risotto: yes, risotto was already on this list. But the fact that it’s on here again speaks to the multi-faceted ways Italians create it. Pumpkin risotto is especially delicious during the fall.
- Chicken Cacciatore: “cacciatore” translates to “hunter” in Italian. So when a food has “cacciatore” in it, it describes that dish as being prepared and served in a “hunter style”, meaning it’s served with onions, herbs, tomatoes, bell peppers and garlic.
- Hearty soups: as the weather turns cold and the sun sets faster, Italians take comfort in increasingly heartier soups. They’re often made with the veggies described above as well as some sort of meat: chicken, veal, beef or pork.