Italian Dessert Shopping Tips
There are so many varieties of chocolate on the shelves today it can be overwhelming to pick one – as a general rule of thumb, the fewer the ingredients, the better the chocolate.
Italian Dessert Cooking Tips
Think beyond cakes and pies – fruits like peaches, pineapple, and figs are excellent grilled – brush with melted butter or wine and sprinkle with sugar and spices for a dessert that you can feel good about.
24 Easy Italian Desserts
If you love Italian food, you have to check out these Italian dessert recipes! This collection of easy Italian desserts includes old-fashioned desserts that have been in Italian families for years, as well as new twists on old classics. From Cannoli Poke Cake to tiramisu, and delightful Italian pastries of all kinds, this list gives you 16 mouthwatering treats that everyone will love. Serve them after family dinner or bring them to a potluck!
If you love these recipes, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter to get amazing recipes like these delivered to your inbox every day!
The best thing about Italian desserts are the amazing ingredients used in them. Over the years, Italian bakers have perfected the art of making beautiful, simple cake recipes, amazing pastries, and more! The best thing about these recipes is that they take Italian flavors you already love and transform them into easy desserts you can make in your kitchen!
Table of Contents
Dessert in Italy
Dessert in Italy is different from dessert in other parts of the world. Italian sweets, or dolci, are usually much smaller. Just a few bites of sweetness is the perfect ending to any meal. You’ll never see Italians bombing a banana split after a meal, or even on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Their sweet treats are a small cone or cup of gelato, or a small dessert to complement a meal. And surprisingly, you too will find it’s really all you need.
How’s that for an unexpected dietary surprise? More room for pizza!
And, like all food in Italy, desserts vary significantly from season to season and region to region. There are distinct regional differences in the sweet treats served in one corner of the country versus another. Each region has its own specialties.
No matter your taste, one thing is for certain. You will not leave Italy disappointed. The desserts here are some of the best in the world.
So sit back, relax, and bring your appetite (and your stretchy pants) because we’re about to dig in. Here are 12 of the most traditional, and delicious, treats in Italy:
2. Cannoli – Best Italian Desserts
These Italian pastries originated on the island of Sicily. Today, they’re widely available throughout Italy and around the world. Who doesn’t love a cannoli? They have to be in the top 3 best Italian desserts.
Fried pastry dough tubes are filled with a sweet, creamy filling usually containing ricotta. In the photo below you can see them with red cherries and pistachio (the green stuff).
Photo credit: Stefano Mortellaro (Mod) – Flickr
Holy Cannoli Recipes
Holy cannoli, Batman! Just look at all the things you can make with delicious cannoli filling. These cannoli recipes are perfect for parties and family gatherings, and feature a wide assortment of flavors, too. If you'd love nothing more than to simply eat cannoli filling, then you'll love the cannoli dip recipe included in this section, too. From the traditional dessert to the new twist on the classic favorite, these cannoli recipes will win the crowd over every time.
Il Pandoro Veronese
Pandoro stems from pan d'oro, meaning golden bread. It was a bread reserved for the wealthy, made with eggs, butter, and sugar or honey. Pandoro symbolizes Christmas in a very literal sense. The cake is shaped like a craggy mountain topped with snow-white confectioners sugar. It's difficult to make and therefore most Italians prefer to buy commercially produced Pandoro from their local bakery or supermarket. They are made in a high-sided mold that is tapered so it produces a star-shaped cross-section usually with eight points.
Delicious. I always use small glass bowl . no worry about getting them out of the ramekins and my fruit syrup looks great on top.
Super easy and it turned out great.
Never made a panna cotta before and it worked out perfectly! We don't have half half here so followed another comment and did 3/4 cup full cream 1/4 milk. Super quick and yummy especially with a berry compote
Do you leave these in the fridge or freezer to chill?
Love this recipe. Found this when I was looking for a easy recipe to use up my cream and gelatin. Did not think my child would like this since she does not like pudding like desserts. She loves this as well as the whole family. I have used ramekins to fill the panna cotta but when I have guest over I put them in fancy dessert glasses so that it is faster and easier to serve.
I make this frequently for dinner parties and holidays but I infuse the cream overnight with either raspberries or pulverized hazelnuts. Strain out the infusing solids, and then add either white chocolate for raspberries or dark chocolate for hazelnuts when bringing the cream to boil. It’s always one of my most popular desserts.
Wow. I made this alongside a strawberry syrup and it was amazing. I also got lucky since I had no ramekins but this recipe perfectly fits a 12 slot muffin pan
Great recipe. I added some flavoring to a few of them (matcha, orange extract, almond extract) and they turned out well. The matcha one actually ended up being self-saucing, because some of the matcha sank to the bottom and didn't set. Absolutely perfect texture.
I didn’t have any half and half on hand so I used 3/4 cup whole milk and 1/4 cup heavy cream as a substitute, works wonder, turned out soooo rich and creamy. I also used the whole vanilla bean boiled with the cream and sugar instead of vanilla extract. And I just bloomed the gelatin in a small bowl then microwaved it for 30s to melt it, it was such a tiny amount I don’t have any small pot. Topped with strawberry jams and fresh blueberries and it was the best panna cotta I’ve ever had!
Made this for the first time last night. Followed the recipe except for two things: 1: I used a TBS of vanilla extract (as someone else had suggested), and 2: When stirring in the gelatin and vanilla after removing the cream mixture from the heat, I put the pot of cream mixture in an ice bath and whisked until room temperature. It was delicious!! So silky smooth in texture. Saving this recipe for future use.
Excellent recipe. Served it with vanilla raspberries. Note: they did not set as firmly as they should have, probably my fault I may have overheated the gelatine. Also I forgot to dip the ramequins in hot water.
I’m 40 weeks pregnant and panna cotta has been my pregnancy craving, so I’ve made this recipe at least a half dozen times in the last 9-10 months and I love it. It’s so simple, very authentic, and absolutely delicious. I’ve served it to dinner guests and everyone has finished their serving. A few things I’ve adapted: 1) I increase the vanilla to a whole tablespoon 2) I use 1-cup sized glass canning/ball/mason jars with lids and eat/serve them right out of those containers. The lids pop sealed due to the heat so they last longer and stay fresh without absorbing any “fridge flavors” 3) I add fresh rasperries to each serving before pouring the hot mixture into the jar. 4) I use raw/turbino style sugar instead of white sugar. I havent had the need to add any extra toppings. I would like to experiment with coconut or non-dairy milks and to try using greek yogurt in place of some of the dairy, but haven’t teied either yet.
For XIPOVI FROM QUITO, ECUADOR: "half and half" is a light cream/milk product, around 10% milk fat, most often used in coffee. For a recipe like Panna Cotta you could use any combination of dairy you like, although using all heavy cream (33-36% milk fat) might feel oily on the palate!
I’m curious about the coconut substitution. Posted by IMac from York. It Seems like it would be a cup short on the liquids.
Made this today and it was fantastic! Had a half pint of blueberries (all I had for topping), put them in a small sauce pan with tablespoon of sugar (mashed about 1/3 of the berries), 1/4 cup water and cooked till sugar was dissolved. Added teaspoon of cornstarch mixed with a small amount of water to berries and simmered till fairly thickened, delish! Also added half vanilla bean seeds as others recommended. Will definitely make again!
Infinite flavor variations to play with. A recent success: make as written and whisk 6 oz melted white chocolate into warm cream. Top each serving with about 1 T ripe passionfruit pulp (with seeds). If you want to gild the lily, sprinkle a touch of orange zest or torn mint leaves.
Dangerously good. Very rich, smooth, creamy, and most importantly authentic. Mine came out absolutely flawless. Loved it. Made mine with a light raspberry syrup topping, went absolutely perfect. Next time, will add fresh fruit with the light syrup topping. Definitely do make this in single serving sizes if you can. It's much easier when it's ready to serve as-is than when you must transfer to a plate.
My mom was a pastry chef and I grew up eating wonderful foods. This was her "base" panna cotta recipe and from that stemmed many other recipes. This is still my most favorite of them all. Once you get used to making this you can experiment with different flavors and spices and also sauces. I still like this with a simple fruit sauce. "Easy, Excellent, and Elegant" as my mom was quoted as saying
A visual feast for the eyes and a ticket to satiety! Have made this on 5 different occasions. Always accolades and guests are stunned when they first see it placed before them. So pleasing that each 5 oz serving is devoured in a compelling rush. Have adapted to 1 & 1/2 tsp each of Vanilla, Almond & Anise extract. Drizzle with Grenadine. Generous sprinkles of Cardamom and Anise powder. Topped with a couple fresh Rasberries and several Blueberries as well as Pistachios or pieces. A dollop of Blackberry Conserve. Final touch: a sprinkling of Pink Peppercorns. Colors, tastes and textures evoke a frenzied gallop to devour, even when utilizing miniature serving spoons. This fairly simple and direct recipe empowers the home chef in producing extraordinary desserts one could only dream of preparing and serving at home. My gratitude for your making this possible.
I like to make this with 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract and the seeds scraped from half a vanilla bean. I think the seeds add a richer vanilla flavor and people comment favorably on seeing the seeds used.
I'll try this recipe cuz it's much easier than Chex Panisse Cookbook's version. Have made it using nonfat yogurt with good results too for friends who are watching fat intake.
I've made this several times and loved it. I've added some lime juice but otherwise just as written.
6. Zuppa Inglese (Central Italy)
How is it that one of the most traditional Italian homely desserts – widespread in all the central regions of the country (yet hard to find on restaurant menus these days) – is named after England? Nobody knows for sure as its origins are uncertain, even though it’s mentioned in the famous cookbook by Pellegrino Artusi, Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well, published in 1891. Was it an attempt to recreate an English trifle after a request by the Dukes of Este, the family ruling Ferrara? Perhaps. The recipe, however, is well-known: several layers of sponge cake or savoiardi are dipped in a bowl filled with Alchermes (a red-pinkish herbal liqueur), crema pasticciera (a thick, lemon-scented egg custard) and sometimes chocolate cream or a fruit compote. It is usually served in a transparent bowl to display the colourful layers and sometimes comes topped with crunchy almonds, chocolate chips or small meringues.
W hat makes a cake authentically "Italian"?
We generally use one or several of these ingredients:
T iramisu is the most popular Italian desserts known. And I mention this cake by itself, first and upfront. Why? Because it's the first thing you think of when you hear Italian cakes right? And here's what I don't get, people fall all over themselves to order a slice at a restaurant - and MOST of the time it's awful. Not always. (But usually) I can name several popular restaraunts that serve trash tiramisu. I want YOU to KNOW you can do better YOURSELF! Seriously. I guarantee, even on your first try you can outdo Olive Garden's tiramisu!
H ow do I know? I've done it! I was chicken of trying to make it FOREVER. Then one year, I decided, break out the recipe books, see why this *seems* so hard. Wanna know what? I realized it was more about the procedure (along with fresh ingredients) - and just following THAT traditional procedure - I made a KILLER tiramisu for my husband's 49th birthday. It was stellar! (And in my opinion this is the best tiramisu recipe. The Best Tiramisu Recipe.) This tiramisu recipe follows the traditional procedure I'm talking about and it uses the traditional ingredients. Nothing spectacular or outrageous. Nothing that will require you to drive miles to a supermarket for a super secret ingredient. Just normal fresh stuff.
Y ou do know Italians make other cakes, right? We don't make tiramisu all year long! It would be like saying Americans eat white wedding cake only, and they eat it all year long. Italian cakes come in varieties use *normal* ingredients. And the key to our flavor is - we use real dairy for the most part , fresh fruits if called for and pretty much fresh everything. It's just knowing how to combine certain ingredients together. And I walk you through that on each recipe. The nice thing is you probably have most of these ingredients sitting in your kitchen right now! If not they are just around the corner.
R emember we don't do crazy here. We use real ingredients that can be found in most supermarkets (and liquor stores). It's just a matter of knowing what to put with what - and really just following the recipe. Not too hard, right?
Plan on most of these taking around 60 minutes from prep to bake. But there are a few that are slightly longer - like your pound cakes, bundt shaped cakes, and our super traditional cassata cake (the green one pictured at the top of the page), those ones do take a bit more time.
Thanks for stopping by. I really do hope you try your hand at some of these Italian cakes - I guarantee you will be surprised at what can come out of your kitchen by just following the simple procedures and using simple fresh ingredients -
Italian Dessert Recipes
Clara's Italian Sugar Cookie Recipe
(Source: Great Depression Cooking Video)
Be sure to watch the short YouTube video below as 93-year-old Clara Cannuccdiari makes her traditional Italian sugar cookies for breakfast while sharing memories of her life during the Great Depression in the 1930s.
Wasn't Clara wonderful? Below is a list of the ingredients and some simple directions for making the sugar cookies if you got caught up watching Clara and didn't manage to get her sugar cookie recipe written down.
Italian Sugar Cookies
3/4 cup sugar
3 cups flour (add more if needed)
Beat eggs and sugar together, add flour and salt, and mix until it forms cookie dough. Shape cookies on ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 350°F until a golden color.
Allow to cool before serving with coffee. Remember, Clara said they are great for dunking!
Clara's Other Recipes
Get your copy of Clara's Kitchen, a cookbook featuring wisdom, warm memories, and simple Italian recipes from the Great Depression.
Also get the Great Depression Cooking with Clara DVD for more of Clara's wisdom, memories, and great Italian recipes. Believe me, you'll love it.
About the Easy Italian Dessert Recipes
3D Anaglyph Image of Harbor in Portofino in Liguria, Italy
Have you ever dreamed of sampling homemade biscotti in the garden of some wayside inn hidden in the Apennines, with the sound of a mountain torrent far below caressing your ears?
Or imagine tasting traditional zabaglione in the portico of a quiet cafe on the sun-baked piazza of an ancient town clinging to a rocky hillside that overlooks the bay of Portofino as seen above in the 3D photo. Well, now you can.
The proven Italian desserts found on this page and its linked pages can offer you the next best thing to being there — the authentic taste of Old Italy.
When you first read the easy Italian dessert recipes, some may seem elaborate, but in using them you'll find they are easily prepared as you simply follow the steps. The tasty results are well worth the extra time spent.
Words cannot simply describe the delicious homemade taste you will experience thanks to the traditional Italian recipes that follow. As your Italian Grandma would say.
Dolce: Italian Dessert Recipes
The meal isn’t over in Italy until something sweet, or dolce, hits the tongue. Go simple with fresh fruit and biscotti, or step it up with a rich Italian indulgence.
Photo By: Tara Donne ©Tara Donne
Photo By: Renee Comet ©Renee Comet
Flaky, golden-brown layers of dough melt away to reveal a creamy ricotta filling. Even though a pastry this beautiful looks difficult to make, the prep actually takes less than 30 minutes — waiting for the dough to rest overnight is the longest part of the recipe.
Lemon Ricotta Cookies with Lemon Glaze
Giada's cookies are light and zesty. Creamy ricotta keeps them moist and fresh, while tangy lemon zest balances out the sweet glaze.
Espresso Chocolate Mousse with Orange Mascarpone Whipped Cream
A little bit of espresso powder in the chocolate mousse and orange zest in the whipped cream is all you need to make a fresh and satisfying spin on a dessert favorite.
Chocolate Sformato with Amaretto Whip Cream
Amaretto Tiramisu for Two
Amaretto liqueur and amaretti cookies are the key ingredients for this easy take on tiramisu, portioned perfectly for two.
Chocolate Hazelnut Zeppole
Instead of eating an entire jar of chocolate-hazelnut spread by the spoonful, pipe it into homemade zeppole — aka Italian doughnuts.
Castagnaccio: Chestnut Flour Cake
Souffle al Cioccolato
Carla's Torta di Ricotta
Biscotti Di Prato
These biscotti, with raw almonds, orange zest and a light sugar glaze, are crunchy, sweet and absolutely perfect for dipping into a traditional glass of Vin Santo at the end of your meal.