When it comes to Italian desserts, most people know those things that they serve at the Olive Garden – tiramisu, cannolis, and chocolate lasagna.
These Italian Christmas desserts are something else entirely.
For the most part, the Olive Garden desserts are somewhat Americanized.
Authentic Italian desserts – and Italian Christmas desserts – look somewhat different.
You’ll see a few recognizable items on this list, of course.
After all, it just isn’t a list of Italian desserts without tiramisu, but many of the others might be unknown to you.
I highly recommend you give them a try, anyway.
There’s not a single one on this list that doesn’t get my 100% seal of approval, and I think you’ll love them all, too.
1. Italian Panettone
Italian panettone is halfway between a delicious cake and an oversized loaf of sweet, yeast bread.
The icing sugar, vanilla, and rum extracts give it plenty of sugary sweetness.
However, the orange and lemon zests, raisins, and candied lemon and orange peels add a tangy tartness that’s hard to resist.
There’s not a lot of moisture to panettone; it has a drier texture, but not in an unpleasant way.
The dryness is accompanied by a lightness that makes the dessert almost melt on your tongue like cotton candy. It’s terrific.
2. Mini Chocolate Panettone
These adorable panettones are just perfect for one person to enjoy. They have the same great taste and texture, only on a miniature scale.
These also feature plenty of yummy chocolate chips for extra sweetness.
3. Authentic Italian Tiramisu
This six-ingredient tiramisu is tiramisu as it was always meant to be eaten.
All you’ll need to make it are eggs, powdered sugar, mascarpone, ladyfingers, espresso, and cocoa powder.
It has a rich chocolate and coffee flavor, and the creaminess of the dessert against the crunchiness of the ladyfingers is simply divine.
It takes only 20 minutes to prepare and requires no cooking, but you’ll want to let it chill for at least 8 hours before serving it.
4. Italian Chocolate Toto Cookies
These may look like simple chocolate cookies with sprinkles, but there’s a rich complexity in their flavor that’ll give you notes of orange, vanilla, cloves, cinnamon, nuts, and even pepper!
They might be small, but they pack a mighty punch as far as taste is concerned.
5. Tiramisu Semifreddo
This frozen dessert is tiramisu with a twist. Basically, it’s tiramisu with ice cream and a fourth cup of brandy added in for good measure.
If you like the traditional Italian dessert, then you’ll love this one, as it’s just as tasty and even more decadent.
6. Pizzelle Della Nonna
These crispy, wafer-thin cookies look like elaborately decorated waffles and taste like whatever you use to flavor them.
You can choose vanilla extract, anise, chocolate, almond extract, or something else.
That’s entirely up to you. Either way, they’re exceptionally crunchy and a real hit around the holidays.
7. 5-Ingredient Cannolis
Five-ingredient cannolis have delightfully crunchy shells and sweet and tangy fillings made from ricotta, confectioner’s sugar, chocolate chips, and vanilla extract.
If you want a bright, zestier flavor, add a bit of orange zest, as well.
8. Pandoro Christmas Tree Cake
This Christmas tree-shaped cake is very similar to panettone in taste, but it’s softer, fluffier, and has a more intricate shape.
You can make your own homemade pandoro cake.
However, it tastes just as good and works just as well if you purchase a pre-made one from the store and slice it up to make this delightful dessert.
Plus, if you use a store-bought cake, it only takes 15 minutes to make the whole thing.
9. Italian Cookies
Biting into one of these super-soft cookies is like biting into a cloud – a sweet, nutty, sugar- and sprinkle-filled cloud.
The glaze is creamy and delectable, and you can swap out the color of the sprinkles to better match whichever holiday you’re celebrating.
10. Authentic Italian Struffoli Recipe
These golden-brown balls are a pure crunchy honey delight.
Each one is a sticky, deep-fried ball of heaven, topped with honey, candied sprinkles, and anything else with which you want to top them.
The dish takes only 35 minutes to make, and you’ll shape it in a fun and exciting way so that it’s as pretty as it is tasty.
It’s a true centerpiece of most Italian Christmas dessert tables.
11. Panna Cotta
To be so simply made, panna cotta is a gorgeous, elegant dessert that’s ideal for Christmas, wedding receptions, and even the most formal of dinners.
You’ll make it with unflavored gelatin, heavy cream, sugar, vanilla extract, and milk (or cold water).
It takes a few hours to settle into the creamy, Jell-O-like consistency for which it’s famous.
Once it does, you can take it out and garnish it with granola, your favorite berries, whipped cream, chocolate shavings, berry sauce, or something else.
If you want to stick to Christmas-themed colors, use strawberries and slices of kiwi fruit.
12. Panettone Bombe (Christmas Ice Cream Cake)
This striking dome-shaped cake takes only 15 minutes to prepare but another 8 hours to chill, so don’t try to whip it up at the last minute.
It puts a lovely Italian twist on the classic ice cream cake. I like to top mine in dark chocolate (as the recipe recommends), but any chocolate will suffice.
You can also get a lot more decorative than simple sprinkles.
Check out Amazon or your local baking or hobby store; look for edible glitter and fun, Christmas-shaped sprinkles.
13. Homemade Torrone Italian Nut Nougat
This nougat bar is soft, sweet, and chewy, but the added nuts give it some saltiness and crunch, as well.
Just remember, a little bit goes a long way when it comes to this one. It’s exceptionally sweet, so don’t overdo it.
You might even want to pair it with a hot mug of coffee or a cup of tea.
14. Mostaccioli Di Mamma
These chocolatey cookies are nutty, slightly spiced, and have a delicious honey and chocolate flavor that’s out of this world.
The trick to these is not to bake them for too long. The texture should be soft and have just a little give, making them feel fantastic when you eat them.
If you over-bake them, they’ll become hard and crispy. The taste is still good, but that’s not exactly the consistency you’re going for with these.
15. Ricciarelli (Italian Almond Cookies)
If you’ve ever had Italian wedding cookies, then you already have an idea of what these taste like. They feature many of the same ingredients.
Both cookies use almonds, vanilla extract, and powdered sugar. Ricciarelli, however, is soft and chewy, whereas Italian wedding cookies are crunchier.
These also contain a few more ingredients, including lemon juice and orange zest, adding brightness to these cookies that Italian wedding cookies don’t have.
16. Homemade Italian Cream Cake
If you’re looking for a homemade cake that’s fluffy and moist, give this Italian cream cake a try.
Thanks to the secret ingredient (buttermilk), these are the lightest, moistest cakes imaginable, even with the crunchy chopped pecans that you’ll add to the batter.
The four-ingredient frosting is rich, decadent, and wonderfully creamy. You’ll make it with butter, cream cheese, vanilla extract, and powdered sugar.
Add sweetened coconut and crunchy pecans to the top for extra flavor and aesthetics.
17. Zeppole, Italian Ricotta Doughnuts
You can whip up over a dozen of these deep-fried balls of deliciousness in less than an hour.
They have crisp, sweet outsides and a sweet and tangy ricotta cheese filling.
The dusting of powdered sugar over the top of each one makes them even tastier, and they’re a light, airy treat that everyone will love.
Think of them like donut holes but crunchier.
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