Cooking to Warm the Heart from Giovanna Eusebi of Eusebi Deli in Glasgow

Italy is breathtakingly beautiful in winter. Wherever you go, from north to south, mountains form a backdrop to every town. From the lakes of Como to Mount Etna in Sicily and Vesuvius in Naples, the whole landscape turns into a beautiful winter scene. The Apennine mountain range particularly comes to life in the colder months. Despite the harsh conditions, people still live in the mountains. The highest village settlement is found at around 4,500 feet above sea level, at the upper limit of cultivated land.

No space is wasted in Italy; fruit orchards adorn the high slopes, as do wild herbs and herds of animals. In fact, mountain food is rich, simple and pure. Think of unpolluted mountain air and the warming, comforting and nutritious dishes that people would need to survive in the winter months, high up in the mountains before the days of supermarkets. Cured meats, cheeses and pasta were all commonly found in a mountain diet, as they were ingredients that would keep for times when fresh food wasn’t in plentiful supply. Cured meat would last much longer than fresh meat and so it was a way of preserving food, as well as being delicious!

My grandparents lived in southern Italy. Although their home was near the sea, they used the backdrop of the mountains to source their ingredients. I have fond memories of searching for wild asparagus in the thorny undergrowth and foraging for mushrooms and wild herbs. Winter pears and stone fruits would be preserved in alcohol and syrups and saved as gifts or treats. I fondly remember asking my paternal Grandmother, Nonna Giovanna, when she got married. She recounted the tale of her as a 16-year-old girl being taken to the mountain church in a cart pulled by a donkey. The poor animal was struggling and slipping on the snow-dusted cobbled track. “It was just after the chestnut festival,” she said.

To my calculation, this would have been early November. It was such a beautifully simple way of measuring time; not by the clock, but by the seasons. Their whole life revolved around the landscape around them and the food that was available to them as the seasons changed. They lived a happy, uncomplicated life, making the most of the nutritious and delicious food that grew around them. From harvesting fresh fruit and vegetables in the summer to enjoying roasted chestnuts from the forests in the winter, it was about using what they had. Nothing was ever taken for granted and there was never anything wasted, it simply wasn’t an option.

My favourite winter Italian dishes are inspired by the seasons and by the fruits of the natural landscape and the rhythm of another time. Traditional dishes speak to my heart and fill me with warmth. Knowing that these dishes have been enjoyed by previous generations and brought happiness to my extended family and friends over the years makes the recipes even more special. There is nothing better than having your loved ones around a table, all sharing something that you have taken time and effort to prepare. It doesn’t have to be difficult or be full of lavish ingredients; it just needs to be made with love.

Bagna Cauda

Italian winter food is rich and moreish. The sharing starter of Bagna Cauda is the ultimate alpine cool dish, inspired from the Piedmont region of Italy. This fondue style dish is easy to prepare and served warm. It’s traditionally used as a dip for vegetables and fresh bread. This is the perfect meal to enjoy in January after a walk in the crisp winter air with friends and family. Make a big pot and have it in the middle of the table so that everyone can get involved.

Serves 4


200ml extra virgin olive oil

12 brown anchovy fillets

300ml full-fat milk

6 garlic cloves, finely diced

To serve:

Crudités, for dipping (such as carrots, celery and fresh bread)


1. In a pan, add the anchovies, garlic and milk and slowly bring the mixture to the boil.

2. Once it comes up to temperature, take the pan off the heat and blitz the mixture until it is smooth.

3. Continue to blitz the mixture and slowly add in the oil.

4. Serve the dip warm either in a fondue pot overs burner or in a dish. It’s best enjoyed with crudités such as carrot sticks, celery, sliced radishes, fennel and fresh bread.