5 Common Italian Desserts Ingredients

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If you want to make something sweet for a special occasion or a weeknight meal, try these Italian dessert recipes, which include everything from tiramisu and cannoli to affogato and gelato.


5 Common Ingredients in Italian Desserts

When making Italian desserts, you will need a few ingredients. Among the traditional ingredients in classic Italian pastries and cookies are the following:

1. Candied fruit: Canditores in Italy transform dried fruit into confections. Panforte is traditionally made with bright green candied citron, candied melon, and candied orange peel.

2. Flour: Italians typically use type 0 flour, which contains 11-12 percent protein.

3. Nuts and drupes: Desserts can include a variety of nuts and drupes, such as unpeeled whole almonds, walnuts, and ground hazelnuts.

4. Spices: Nutmeg, cinnamon, red or black pepper, coriander, cloves, star anise, ginger, allspice, and chili powder are all used in desserts.

5. Sweeteners and flavorings: Common sweeteners include honey, vanilla, sugar, and caramel.


Italian Dessert Recipes

Many classic Italian desserts and Italian pastries can be made at home using simple recipes and grocery store ingredients. Choose from the following traditional and easy Italian desserts, such as a creamy tiramisu recipe or a crunchy biscotti cookie, to make as a post-dinner treat or for special occasions such as Valentine's Day.

1. Affogato: Affogato al caffè, or simply affogato, is an Italian dessert made up of a shot of espresso poured over a scoop of vanilla ice cream or gelato. The term "affogato" means "drowned" in Italian, which is an apt name because when hot espresso hits ice cream, it melts and forms a latte-like mixture of espresso and cream. You can easily make affogato al caffè if you have an espresso machine.

2. Biscotti: These cookies are typically baked twice and served with espresso drinks. You can make your own biscotti recipes at home or experiment with different flavors such as almond biscotti or hazelnut biscotti.

3. Cannoli: A biscotti is a crispy, tubular shell stuffed with a creamy filling, typically ricotta, mascarpone cheese, or both, from Sicily. There are several types of cannoli, including shells dipped in pistachios and chocolate chips. Cannoli shell molds can be found at a specialty shop, but the necessary ingredients can be found at the grocery store. If you make the dessert ahead of time, keep the filling in the fridge and the fried sheels in an airtight container at room temperature.

4. Gelato: Combine milk, cream, and sugar to make this frozen dessert with a thick, creamy consistency and rich flavor. Gelato is available all over the world and usually has the same base ingredients, but regional differences can result in different recipes. Gelato with more cream and egg yolks, for example, is found in northern Italy and the United States to thicken the final product and prevent ice crystals from forming. Cornstarch is used as a thickening agent in southern Italy.

5. Granita: Granita, which originated in Sicily, is a simple Italian dessert made of sweetened fruit purée that is frozen and shaved into an icy, crystalized treat. While the same ingredients are used to make granita, the texture of these frozen treats differs slightly. Sorbet has a smooth, creamy texture similar to gelato or ice cream, whereas granita has a flaky texture similar to a snow cone. This dairy-free and gluten-free dessert only requires a few ingredients, including fruit, sugar, and water.

6. Italian Christmas cookies: This dessert is made with pantry ingredients such as flour, a leavening agent, sugar, butter, and vanilla or anise flavoring. The soft, cake-like texture of Italian Christmas cookies causes them to crumble in your mouth.

7. Italian meringue: To make this meringue, whip egg whites to stiff peaks before slowly whisking in hot sugar syrup to make a dense meringue with a satiny texture similar to a mousse that can be used as-is to top cakes and pies or as a base for buttercream frosting. Discover how to make Italian meringue.

8. Lemon ricotta cake: Ricotta cake is an airy, Italian-inspired dessert similar to cheesecake that gets its rich flavor and moist, tender texture from the addition of creamy ricotta cheese, a soft, white cheese made from cow's milk and leftover whey—the watery part of milk separated from the curds during cheesemaking. This classic lemon ricotta cake recipe incorporates the bright, acidic flavor of lemon for a simple, not-too-sweet dessert suitable for breakfast or brunch. Serve slices of this buttery lemon cake with homemade whipped cream and fresh berries for a summery dessert that your dinner party guests will enjoy.

9. Panforte: A Christmas holiday treat made with nuts, spices, and candied fruit, panforte is a fruitcake made with nuts, spices, and candied fruit. The word "panforte" means "strong bread," which is an apt name for this dense cake that goes well with tea or coffee.

10. Panettone: Panettone is an Italian sweet bread loaf that originated in Milan and is traditionally produced during the Christmas and New Year's holidays. A panettone, or "big bread loaf," is a large, dome-shaped sweet bread that is leavened with yeast. It has a light, airy texture and a rich, buttery flavor.

11. Panna cotta: Panna cotta, which translates as "cooked cream," is a dessert made with lightly sweetened milk and cream that is chilled and set with gelatin in small bowls or ramekins. The creamy dessert has the texture of a light custard or pudding. Invert the panna cotta onto a small plate before serving, though it can also be eaten straight from the ramekin with a spoon. The cream base of panna cotta can be flavored with a variety of other ingredients. Toppings for panna cotta can range from fresh fruit coulis to a drizzle or coating of caramel sauce, similar to flan or crème caramel.

12. Tiramisu: Tiramisu is an Italian dessert that does not require baking. Traditional tiramisu is made with alternating layers of ladyfinger (savoiardi) sponge cake biscuits dipped in espresso and a thick, creamy mixture of nutty mascarpone cheese, egg yolks, sugar, whipped cream, and, on occasion, liquor (like a coffee liqueur or marsala wine). The final layer should be dusted with bittersweet cocoa powder or fine chocolate shavings.

13. Zuppa Inglese: Zuppa Inglese is a decadent trifle dessert made of layers of velvety vanilla and chocolate pastry cream (crema pasticcera) and airy ladyfinger cookies soaked in alchermes, a specialty Italian liqueur. This tiramisu cousin is also similar to a traditional English trifle. (After all, the name translates to "English soup.") The color and flavor of this trifle are derived from alchermes, a potent, sweet, and spicy aromatic herb liqueur distinguished by its bright red hue. Learn how to make English zuppa.

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