Ever dreamed of enjoying a sweet dessert under the Tuscan sun? The good news is, you don’t have to go far to satisfy your craving for authentic Italian desserts.
Read on to discover some of the best recipes and classes that will teach you how to make Italian desserts in the comfort of your own kitchen. Most of them are quick and easy, too!
Easy and Delicious Italian Desserts
Tiramisu translates to “pick me up,” and the dessert certainly lives up to its name—this light and creamy treat never fails to lift the spirits. Sweet ladyfinger biscuits are dipped in espresso and layered between a mixture of mascarpone cheese, eggs, and sugar. Best of all? You can learn how to make authentic Italian tiramisu straight from an Italian kitchen with this recipe and video instructions.
2. Panna Cotta
Italian sweet cream is thickened with gelatin and topped with fruit, jam, chocolate, or caramel—what’s not to love? Panna Cotta is incredibly simple to put together and makes the perfect refreshing post-meal snack. It’s traditionally made in a mold and flipped onto a plate, but eating it straight out of the cup is perfectly acceptable, too!
This wouldn’t be a roundup of Italian dessert recipes if it didn’t include gelato. The frozen dessert is a slightly healthier alternative to ice cream and can be made in dozens of flavors. If you’ve got an ice cream maker, you can make gelato easily at home and experiment with all kinds of flavor combinations.
Pizzelles combine the best of waffles and cookies—these thin biscuits are crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside and are usually lightly flavored with anise. Most pizzelles are made with a special waffle iron with engraved plates, but you can also use a waffle cone maker.
Biting into these classic Italian pastries is a divine experience—first, you sink into a crispy deep-fried pastry shell, and then you get a taste of a sweet and creamy ricotta cheese filling. Cannolis are often topped with chocolate chips, chopped pistachios, or other nuts. Making cannolis at home isn’t difficult—you can even skip buying the metal tubes and wrap your pastry shells around aluminum foil.
Semifreddo is an ice cream cake you can make without an ice cream machine. It’s made with a cream and custard mixture, so it never fully freezes and stays soft and sliceable (hence the name “half-frozen”). The possibilities for flavors, add-ons, and toppings are endless!
Biscotti are a staple in Italian cuisine—they’re perfect to dip in your morning coffee or tea. Like many Italian pastry names, the meaning of “Biscotti” is quite literal—it translates to “twice-cooked.” Biscotti are baked twice, first as a log of dough, and then as slices of it. This is what gives Biscotti their extra crisp and crunchy texture.
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Bake Your Own Biscotti: Choose Your Favorite Mix-ins and Toppings
8. Pastiera Napoletana
When it comes to Italian Easter desserts, Pastiera Napoletana is the most popular choice. It’s traditionally made a few days before Easter so that the flavors have time to meld and settle. The pie combines a shortcrust pastry with a filling made from cooked wheat, ricotta cheese, eggs, and candied orange peels.
Panforte is one of the many traditional Italian Christmas desserts. It’s a chewy fruit cake made with whole nuts, candied fruit, honey, and spices. The best part is that you can choose your favorite nuts and fruit and play around with different combinations.
If you’re looking for easy Italian desserts, try making Pignoli cookies. This is a simple mixture of almond paste, egg whites, and sugar, blended together and rolled in pine nuts. You can use store-bought or homemade almond paste, or omit it altogether and use almond flour. Whatever you use, these cookies are crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside, and full of nutty flavor.
If you’re a fan of jelly donuts, then you’ll love Bomboloni. These Italian donuts are filled with cream, custard, fruit preserve, or Nutella. They’re also made with yeast, so they’re much lighter in texture than their American counterparts.
Genoise is an Italian sponge cake that’s incredibly light in texture, thanks to the whipped eggs. Whether you make it with vanilla or chocolate, it absorbs lots of syrup for added sweetness, flavor, and moisture. Layer it with cream and garnish it with fresh fruit for a simple but delicious cake that’s perfect for any occasion.
Is there a better combination than ice cream and coffee? Affogato, which means “drowned,” looks and tastes quite impressive but couldn’t be easier to make. Simply start with vanilla ice cream and “drown” it with espresso. The hot coffee will melt some of the ice cream, creating a delicious creamy foam. Try it once, and you’ll never want to have a scoop of vanilla on its own ever again.
Panettone is another Italian dessert typically prepared for Christmas. It’s a sweet bread loaded with raisins and candied fruit. It’s baked in a cylindrical mold, which gives it that distinctive Panettone shape. Its preparation is a bit time-consuming, since the dough needs time to rise, but the end result is definitely worth it!
Struffoli is yet another Christmas favorite, though it can be enjoyed year-round, especially if you’re looking for easy Italian desserts for potluck dinners. These small balls of dough are deep-fried, coated in honey, and assembled into a cone or wreath. Once the honey solidifies, it helps keep the Struffoli in shape. Serve them on the same day for optimal texture and flavor.
Common Italian Pastries
Looking for even more Italian cuisine desserts? Pastries are some of the most popular types of desserts in Italy. Check out these crowd favorites and get inspired to bake something of your own!
- Torrone: An Italian nougat confection made with toasted nuts, egg whites, and sugar or honey.
- Bocconotti: Translating to “small bites,” these mini tartlets are filled with chocolate, nuts, and/or jam.
- Pasticciotto: A short-crust pastry filled with vanilla pastry cream, custard, or ricotta cheese.
- Castagnole: Deep fried balls of sweet dough, rolled in sugar and typically served during Carnival season.
- Amaretti: A soft and chewy macaroon-like cookie made with almond flour.
- Baci di dama: Two hazelnut cookies sandwiched together with a chocolate filling.
- Chiacchiere: Thin deep-fried pieces of sweet dough, another pastry popular during Carnival season.
- Sfogliatelle: A shell-shaped pastry made with semolina flour and filled with custard and candied peels.
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