Top 10 The Best Traditional Italian Sweets You Must Try

Tags: #Panettone ,   #Cannoli ,   #PannaCotta ,   #Sfogliatella

Alex O'Brien

Alex O'Brien

Last updated:  2021-03-08 15:33:34

Italians are well known for their ice cream called gelato. Ice cold, refreshing, truly unique, and delightful, Italian gelato is loved worldwide. However, they also know their sweets, as they have many great dessert options. Sweets vary from region to region, with every city making the same dessert specific for that part of Italy. They owe it all to their Nona's (grandmother), who were great cooks. So let's see what's cooking on Nona's stove! Here they are, the most delicious Italian sweets! You might know some of them, while others will surprise you.

10. Struffoli

Struffoli, a sweet and sticky marble-sized pastry, is simply irresistible

Struffoli or Honey Balls are made from sweet dough and deep-fried with oil, flavored with honey. They originated from Napoli, although some ancient sources mention them as Sicilian sweets. They have different names depending on the region, so we have scalilli in Calabria and cicerchiata in Abruzzo. 

The small marble size balls are crunchy outside and fluffy inside, but also sticky and sweet from the honey dressing. The same dough is used for chiacchiere since the only difference is that it's shaped into ribbons and seasoned with powder sugar.

9. Panettone

Panettone is a traditional Italian Christmas cake

Although the panettone originates from Milan, there have been some arguments that its creation dates back to the Roman Empire. Nevertheless, panettone is now usually linked to Christmas and New Year. This is an Italian type of sweet bread, usually made in cupola shape with a cylindrical base. 

It has a characteristic fluffy texture, gained by preparing the dough and leaving it to rest for at least 20 hours before baking. Panettone has many variations, created by adding chocolate, dried raisins, or some other candied fruit. However, the original includes candied orange, raisins, citron, and lemon zest.

8. Biscotti

The crunchy, dry texture of biscotti makes them perfect for dipping into coffee, tea, or wine

Biscotti are traditional Italian pastries. Also known as cantucci, they are twice-baked crunchy, dry cookies. Moreover, the dough's double baking ensured the longer-lasting cookie. Hence, back in the days, it was a vastly popular and practical dessert.

The preparation of biscotti is easy. Firstly, make dough from flour, eggs, sugar, and nuts. Second, shape it in a small loaf, bake it for 20 minutes or so, let it cool a bit, slice it, then bake it again. This way, biscotti stays crisp on the edges and dry, making them perfect for serving along with drinks.

7. Pizzelle

Pizzelle are snowflake-shaped cookies, similar to waffles

Pizzelle were created in the Abruzzo region centuries ago, as they are still common in Lazio and Molise neighboring areas. They are also called ferratelle or cancelle, depending on where you are in Italy. These small round cookies are flat and crispy. They are made from flour, sugar, eggs, butter, or oil and baked in pizzelle iron (similar to the waffle iron). 

The baked dough gets the snowflake stamp from the iron. Pizzelle can be served with creamy toppings, or two cookies could be glued with the different types of fillings. Hence, they can be adapted to anyone's liking.

6. Cannoli 

Cannoli is a crispy delight with a creamy filling

Cannoli's origin is Sicily, as these tube-shaped shells of pastry filled with cream are older than a thousand years. They have stuck for so long because they are a crispy delight. The recipes are a bit complicated if you aren't into baking. Firstly, you need to make a dough for the shells, then shape it, fry it, and let it cool a bit. 

The basic filling is made from ricotta cheese, sugar, and chocolate chips with variations. The last step is stuffing the tubes with the creamy filling, and voila, it's done! As we mentioned, it's a bit complicated to do it at home, but you always the option to go to the nearest Italian restaurant!

5. Panna Cotta

Panna Cotta is delicious and easy to make

Translated from Italian as "Cooked cream," Panna Cotta is a refreshing end to every meal. Originated in the northern part of Italy, Piedmont, it was first mentioned in the 1960s. Essential ingredients include milk, cream, vanilla, sugar, and gelatin, as the variation consists of melted caramel, chocolate, fruits, etc.  

Preparation is effortless since you just need to heat the cream, add vanilla and sugar, melt the gelatin, mix it, stir it, and pour it into the cups. Refrigerate it for a few hours, and it's ready to serve. You can add some of your own dressings to make it unique, if you wish, or just stick with one of the numerous recipes. 

4. Zuppa Inglese

You'll love the simple, yet delightful dessert Zuppa Inglese

Zuppa Inglese is an old dessert from part of Italy called Emilia-Romagna. There's a belief that it's a variation of English Truffle. Nevertheless, this is a very popular and delicious Italian dessert, and even more, it's easy to prepare.

All you need is a sponge cake biscuit and a thick egg custard divided into two parts, as you add chocolate to one of them. The next thing to do is fill the cups with the sponge cake layers dipped into alchermes liqueur, yellow custard, and dark custard layer. Finally, fill the bowl and sprinkle it with cocoa powder. 

3. Sfogliatella

Lobster tail delight creamy pastry called sfogliatella

The first sfogliatella was made in the 17th century in Santa Rosa's monastery in the Salerno region. At the beginning of the 19th-century, the pastry chef from Naples got the recipe and started to sell it. Basically, it's a shell-shaped pastry with leaves like ridges filled with delicious cream. The fillings can vary, from simply wiped cream to almond paste or a unique custard combination with candied peels. 

Moreover, the sfogliatella has three popular versions. First is a sfogliatella riccia shell-shaped crusty dough that's recommended to be eaten warm. Sfogliatella frolla is made from much more simplified pastry dough but the same creamy fillings. The last is probably the one you've tried - sfogliatella aragosta or lobster tail, A.K.A. the American version of the dessert.

2. Semifreddo

Semifreddo, a semi-frozen dessert. A bit like a frozen mousse

Semifreddo or a half-frozen dessert. Much softer than ice cream, a bit more like a frozen mousse. The main ingredients are cream, egg yolks, and sugar, as all others are a variation. After mixing all of the ingredients, semifreddo needs to stay in the freezer for a few hours. A combination of crème sugar and egg foam prevents it from turning into ice.

Among the diversity of flavors, the Torrone Semifreddo stands out. It can be made more sophisticated by adding nuts such as pistachio and almonds. Also, it's often made with honey instead of sugar.

1. Tiramisu

Tiramisu is a coffee-based creamy delight

Italian sweets list won't be complete without tiramisu, a creamy, refreshing delight perfect for any time of day. Tiramisu has some essential ingredients which may vary depending on the region. However, the original recipe consists of ladyfingers (or sponge fingers), mascarpone cheese, egg yolks, sugar, coffee, and cocoa powder. 

The instructions are easy to follow: mix the yolk with the sugar, add cheese, dip the ladyfingers into the coffee. Next, take a bowl of your choosing, put the cream, then ladyfingers, and repeat until you use all ingredients and put the cocoa powder on top of it, and that's it! Moreover, some recipes add liquor, whipped cream, or various fruit types, as choices are numerous.

We don't know about you, but this article made us craving for some Italian sweets. If you feel the same way, try some easy online recipes you might enjoy!

Have you ever tried some of the sweets from the list? Or have you ever made one at home? Please write to us in the comment section, as we would like to hear your impressions.


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