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
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 caffÃ¨, 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 caffÃ¨ 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 purÃ©e 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
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 wheyâ€”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
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
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.