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Top 20 Italian Desserts (+ Easy Recipes)

by insanelygood

I think what I love the most about Italian desserts is their focus on natural flavors. You won’t see any thick frostings or fillings, but rather fresh flavors and just enough sweetness to curb your cravings. 

Of course, they do have a love for certain delicious dairy products, like ricotta and mascarpone, adding such a lovely tang to their creamy dishes. 

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Tiramisu with Chocolate and Mint

We’ve all drooled over a slice of tiramisu and eaten one too many cannoli (right??), but Italian desserts go way beyond that.

From airy sugar cookies and zesty lemon cakes to crunchy biscotti and dreamy gelato, these Italian desserts will transport you straight to Italy!

Traditional Italian Desserts

1. Italian Butter Cookies

You’ll likely recognize these cookies as the kind that pop up all over during the holidays. A cross between shortbread and sugar cookies, they’re perfect for any occasion.

The flavor is in the name: butter cookies. These are so rich, and I highly recommend not adding a glaze or frosting to let that buttery goodness shine.

Since the dough is enriched with eggs, it has a lovely color, and to get the fantastic swirl, you’ll need to pipe the dough onto your baking sheet.

2. Canestrelli (Italian Egg Yolk Cookies)

These are much more of an Italian sugar cookie. They have a delightfully mild lemony flavor and tasty crunch while still being melt-in-your-mouth tender.

So, what makes these so different? Well, the recipe calls for a boiled egg yolk!

You’ll need to make hard-boiled egg yolks and grate them before mixing them into the dough. Not only will this prevent too much gluten from developing (which can make it tough), it also keeps from weighing the dough down, making it super light.

3. Traditional Italian Breakfast Cookies

If it’s good enough for Nonna, it’s good enough for me! I’m going to be having cookies for breakfast for the foreseeable future, thank you very much!

When you make these, you’ll notice that they come out much like a traditional Lady Finger cookie. There’s a distinct crispness to the shell, but the middle is lovely and tender.

The key to getting that airy texture is to beat the eggs with the sugar until light and frothy.

4. Easy Panettone Recipe

Panettone is a Christmas favorite that you’ve probably seen standing tall in all the stores. It can be plain, chocolate, or loaded with dried fruits. 

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Unfortunately, it can also be time-consuming to make at home. As a cross between sweet bread and a cake, it usually needs lots of time to rise, and it’s typically a multi-day process. Not to mention it is usually hung upside down to cool.

For this simplified version, you only need to rest the dough twice, and you can bake it right in a lined baking dish. Just remember to add enough parchment to account for the growth – this baby is tall!

5. Lemon Ricotta Cake with Almonds

Lemon and ricotta are a match made in cake heaven: zesty, creamy, tangy, and perfect with some toasted almonds. 

Ricotta provides the same fantastic moisture to this cake as you would expect from sour cream – full fat only, please! – along with giving a bit of extra sweetness. 

Sour cream gives a tang to cakes, which I usually love. But since this cake is full of zesty lemon flavor, using ricotta really helps to balance that out. 

6. Tiramisu – Authentic Recipe!

I think tiramisu might just be the best dessert ever made. Think about it: tender sponge, rich coffee, creamy sweet filling, and plenty of chocolate! Oh, and I like to add booze to mine, too!

Not only are the flavors damn near perfect, but it’s so easy to make!

Using Lady Fingers is quick and creates the perfect base for all that mascarpone goodness. I like to add some Tia Maria to my coffee to boost the flavor and make it more grown-up 🙂

Full disclosure, authentic tiramisu uses raw eggs in the cream filling. It adds lightness and stability to the mix but might not be the best if you have a sensitive stomach or are expecting. 

If the eggs are a no-go for you, try this egg-free version instead. 

7. Easy Classic Pizzelle Recipe (Italian Waffle Cookies)

Though these light, waffle-like cookies are super tasty, you will need a Pizzelle Iron to get that gorgeous shape and pattern.

I think it’s more than worth it, and when you start making these, you won’t be able to stop!

They’re so light and crisp, and I adore the simple vanilla flavor. Of course, you can also make these with anise, almond, lemon, and chocolate flavor too.

To ensure you get as light a cookie as possible, be sure to thoroughly whisk your sugar and eggs and only fold the flour until it’s just incorporate to avoid overmixing.

8. Chocolate Vanilla Berry Panna Cotta Tart

Panna cotta is a silky smooth, creamy dessert made from sweetened cream and gelatin. Alone, it’s elegant and simple. 

In this tart, it’s sweet, dreamy, and full of rich flavors. 

I love the chocolate-flavored pie dough used in this recipe. It adds terrific color contrast and makes such a nice change to the regular tart shells we typically see. 

9. Almond Biscotti Recipe with Cranberries

Biscotti are twice-baked cookies that are allowed to dry out during the second round in the oven. 

Now, I know that a dry cookie might not seem appealing, but in this case, it works. I say dry, but really, they’re crisp and crunchy and loaded with flavor. 

To get that great texture, you’ll first bake your dough in one form – kind of a flag log. Once it’s baked and will hold the shape, you’ll need to carefully slice your biscotti and bake again to dry them out.

You can use any kind of dried fruit or nuts here. To make them extra special, try dipping on end in some dark chocolate.

10. Italian-Style Candied Chestnuts

I can’t believe I’d never tried candied chestnuts before! Sure, I’ve had them roasted, but this is something totally different.

For this recipe, you’ll be peeling and boiling your chestnuts before gently removing the skins. Once they’re naked, they get another bath – this time in a sugar and vanilla syrup. 

When they’re cooked, the chestnuts will have a similar texture to a dried apricot. They’ll be soft, moist, and beautifully chewy.

11. 5-Ingredient Cannolis

Cannolis represent everything I love in a dessert. Their shells are crisp, and the filling is sweet, creamy, and almost cheesecake-like. 

But if you’ve ever tried to make them at home, you’ll know that it doesn’t always go to plan. Frying those shells is a real pain without the proper equipment!

Want to know my secret? I buy them ready-made. You can usually find them in Italian bakeries, and they’ll sell you a whole bunch, ready to go. 

When it comes to the filling, the key is to keep it simple. You need ricotta cheese, confectioners’ sugar, mini chocolate chips, and vanilla extract. Just don’t forget to drain the cheese!

12. Thick Italian Hot Chocolate

Having spent a couple of winters in France and Italy, I’ve been ruined forever when it comes to hot chocolate. 

I just can’t look at a pack of Swiss Miss the same!

What makes it so good? Well, they use real chocolate, for one thing! And lots of it. 


Essentially, they make a thin chocolate ganache. Talk about drool-worthy!

13. Easy Tiramisu Cake

You can use any vanilla cake you want to make this, including a boxed mix. In fact, I recommended it to save time.

Don’t be shy with the coffee syrup, making sure it soaks in all over the surface of the cake. If you have espresso powder, all the better! But you can honestly make this just as good with instant coffee.

I’ve been making a modified version of this for years using coffee and rum cake, with a Bailey’s infused whipped cream and mascarpone frosting. To die for!

14. Italian Christmas Cookies

These little cookies are like little cake clouds covered in a sweet glaze. When you keep them in balls, the edges will turn cookie-like, but the middle will be nice and fluffy.

Of course, you can make these into any shape you prefer and they’ll be just as tasty.

I know anise can be a bit much for some people, so feel free to skip it. Or, you can always substitute it with cinnamon and/or nutmeg for a touch of warmth.

15. Italian Pear Almond Cake

Along with the lovely flavor of the pear, this recipe calls for brown butter. If you’ve never made or used brown butter before, you’re in for a real treat. 

To make brown butter, you just need to gently heat regular butter until it turns (you guessed it) brown and fragrant. Be patient and keep an eye on it! 

Once you have it, you won’t want to use anything else. It’s especially amazing in chocolate chip cookies!

16. Chocolate Gelato

Gelato and ice cream are pretty similar, though ice cream does tend to be lighter on the tongue. Gelato, on the other hand, is usually incredibly smooth and bursting with flavor.

The only way to tell the difference is to try both and compare – it’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it!

Where ice creams are made using a cream and egg custard base, gelato is made using milk and sugar, giving it a lower overall fat content. 

To get the best flavor profile, this recipe uses real chocolate and cocoa.

17. Zeppole

These Italian donut holes are light, fluffy, and melt-in-your mouth good. After frying, these donuts are coated in powdered sugar for the perfect bite-sized treat.

It’s a classic that never gets old. But if you want to change things up, you can use cinnamon sugar for a tasty twist.

Best of all, this recipe is ready in just 30 minutes. But watch out – they disappear just as fast!

18. Affogato

Everyone knows that dessert is best served with coffee! So why not serve an Italian coffee-based dessert?

Although it looks fancy, this recipe is made with just 2 ingredients – vannila ice cream and coffee!

Or – if you want the authentic Italian experience, use vanilla gelato, espresso, and a shot of liqueur.

You really can’t go wrong with this classic combo!

For an extra decadent treat, you can top it off with caramel sauce, chocolate shavings, or a bit of cocoa powder.

19. Torta Barozzi

The original recipe for this classic Italian dessert has been kept secret since it was first created in 1886.

However, many famous chefs have tried to recreate it and this recipe is one interpretation. And one I think you’ll
find hard to resist.

It’s made of almonds, peanuts, coffee, and dark chocolate. Both decadent and delightful.

20. Strawberry Gelato

No ice cream machine needed for this strawberry gelato! With this easy recipe, you can make your very own gelato at home.

Have you ever wondered what the difference is between gelato and ice cream?

Well, wonder no more!

Both are made with eggs, sugar, milk, and cream. But traditional ice cream has more cream than milk, while
gelato has more milk than cream.

It’s also churned at a much slower rate than ice cream, which incorporates less air. Creating that creamy, dreamy result that we all know and love.
Mystery solved.

Give this recipe a try and you may never buy ice cream again.

Top 20 Italian Desserts (+ Easy Recipes)

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Italian Desserts

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