Italian food receives all the reverence it deserves, but food lovers can forget to give Italian desserts the same praise as the main course. There are many delicious desserts from “Bel Paese,” and the best part is that so many are simple to make.
Read on to learn more about the delectable tastes of Italy’s sweeter side, like Granita, poached pears, olive oil cake, and more.
- 1. Tiramisu
- 2. Chocolate Pasta
- 3. Panna Cotta
- 4. Meringue
- 5. Italian Christmas Cookies
- 6. Ambrosia Biscotti
- 7. Strawberry Gelato
- 8. Sicilian Plum Ice Cream
- 9. Ricotta Cheesecake
- 10. Pear Crostata
- 11. Graffe Napoletane
- 12. Zeppole
- 13. Granita al Limone
- 14. Grilled Pineapple
- 15. Caprese Ice Cream
- 16. Red-Wine Poached Pears
- 17. Cannoli
- 18. Pignoli Cookies
- 19. Pizzelle Cookies
- 20. Olive Oil Cake
- 21. Maritozzi
- 📖 Recipe
Tiramisu is a classic Italian dessert that dessert lovers can find in most Italian restaurants. It has a light coffee flavor and includes espresso-soaked ladyfingers with a layer of mascarpone and cocoa powder.
Many chefs add dark rum to the mix to complement the espresso and chocolate flavors. Tiramisu may come as a cake, but some serve it in a cup.
It is common knowledge that no one does pasta better than in Italy. However, only a few people know that chocolate pasta is an option for dessert.
Add cocoa powder to the flour of fresh pasta dough to give chocolate pasta its signature bitter yet appealing flavor. Some recipes add hazelnut ice cream with fresh fruit or caramelized pecans for a sweeter savor.
3. Panna Cotta
The name Panna Cotta translates to “cooked cream” in English, which summarizes this gorgeous Italian dessert. A mixture of sweet cream and gelatin makes a sweet, jiggly pudding. The sugar and milk create a sweet taste, and some add extra flavor with vanilla extract, caramel, fruit syrups, chocolate, or coffee.
Meringue is a typical dessert in several cultures, but Italians have a flair for it. It consists of whipped egg whites and sugar as the base of this sweet, dry, and crisp dessert. Meringue is a versatile treat that can become candy, pies, or towers.
The sugar-to-egg ratio will determine how crispy the meringue is, so home chefs can experiment with the combination to make the perfect dessert.
Ring in the Holiday season with traditional Italian Christmas cookies. These cookies are soft and cake-like with a rich flavor. Some home bakers like to add sprinkles and a layer of icing to the cookie for an extra crunch.
They come in different shapes, from twisted ropes to S-shapes and balls, but they all have the same base of flour, sugar, eggs, butter, vanilla extract, and anise extract.
Biscotti is a crunchy almond biscuit that some Italians dip into a drink for extra flavor. It is a great way to end a meal, especially with added flavors like this “ambrosia biscotti” recipe.
It includes cherries and coconut, creating the perfect cookie sidekick for a post-meal cappuccino, tea, or hot chocolate. Those who dislike cherries and coconut can add other flavorings to the mix of baking powder, eggs, sugar, and flour, such as pistachio, orange, or cashew.
The difference between gelato and ice cream is the milk-to-cream ratio. Gelato has more milk than cream, and in the case of lovely strawberry gelato, more fresh fruit in the mix.
Sugar and fresh strawberries sweeten this dessert with refreshing natural flavors. Replace strawberries with another fresh fruit for a crisp, enlivening follow-up to any meal.
Italian plum ice cream is an Italian delight. The creamy dessert is the perfect mix of sweet and sour, using fresh, ripe plums for a flavorful tang with sweet honey and brown sugar.
Roast the plums in brown sugar before making the ice cream for a rich and smokier taste. The ice cream is deep purple, making it unique in presentation and flavor.
Ricotta is a staple cheese in Italian cooking, and desserts are no exception. Ricotta cheesecake is a delicious take on a standard cheesecake, adding the light, creamy, and slightly nutty flavor of ricotta cheese.
It is easy to make a yummy ricotta cheesecake gluten-free, as well. Many cooks add lemon for a zesty final product with more than one flavor.
10. Pear Crostata
A crostata is an Italian pie or baked tart. In Naples, locals refer to it as “Coppi.” The crostata is more free-form than a slice of pie since it has an open face.
Fresh pear is one of the most common fillings. A pear crostata is flaky, buttery, and sweet, with some extra tang for those who include lemon and ginger.
Graffe Napoletane are Italian donuts. They are sweet, fried donuts coated in granulated sugar. Their base includes potato and lemon, making them a hearty and zesty treat.
Some even use limoncello and buttery mashed potatoes for a rich recipe. Serve these sweets fresh from the fryer with a side of ice cream for the best results.
Zeppoles are another classic Italian pastry. It is a deep-fried dough ball of any size coated with a nice layer of powdered sugar. Some serve zeppoles with a dipping sauce like chocolate or custard, while others prefer to enjoy the fried treat as is.
Fill the zeppole with jelly, custard, or cannoli cream to go the extra mile and surprise dinner guests.
Lemon granita is a traditional Sicilian dessert that Americans know as a simple “lemon Italian ice.” They are sour and zesty but sugary and sweet enough to eat as a dessert or mid-day summer pick-me-up.
Ice, sugar, and lemon zest are the primary ingredients in this simple treat, much like frozen lemonade. Add a scoop to lemonade or iced tea for extra flavor on a hot day, or enjoy it as a palette cleanser after a large meal.
Slices of grilled pineapple double as a side dish and refreshing dessert. Italians and other cultures mainly use coconut and brown sugar for a smoky, sweet, and tangy flavor. It combines all the best dessert flavors while being healthier than the other desserts on this list since its flavor primarily comes from the natural sugars that caramelize on the grill.
Caprese and ice cream may seem like a bold combination, but the two mesh nicely together for an authentic Italian dessert. The frozen treat includes all the Caprese basics, like tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, and balsamic vinegar. The name says “ice cream,” but the dessert has more of a sherbert texture.
Red wine-poached pears are a well-known dessert in France and Italy. Poach pears in a saucepan with orange juice, wine, cinnamon, and sugar for a sweet and tangy flavor. Cooks can use any red wine, but the following wines yield the best results:
- Chenin Blanc
- Sweet Semillon
Cannolis are one of the most well-known Italian desserts. Fried pastry dough encompasses a thick, creamy cannoli filling that consists of whole milk ricotta and mini chocolate chips. The golden, crispy tubes of cream are a staple for Italians everywhere and are available in almost every Italian restaurant or coffee shop. Luckily, they are easy to make at home, too.
18. Pignoli Cookies
Pignoli cookies are an Italian dessert that is crunchy and sweet. They are made with almond paste and ground pine nuts, giving them a unique nutty flavor. The dough is rolled into small balls before baking, giving them a distinctive chewy texture. Pignoli cookies make for the perfect after-dinner treat or midday snack. Not only do they taste wonderful, but they are also filled with essential vitamins and minerals from almonds and pine nuts, making them a health-conscious choice as well.
19. Pizzelle Cookies
Baking a Pizzelle cookie may seem like a complicated feat, but it takes little to no effort with a well-stocked kitchen toolbox. Pizzelle makers are an easy way to bake thin, traditional Italian wafers. With one of these appliances to press the cookie into shape, the only additional ingredients are
- Vegetable oil
20. Olive Oil Cake
Olive oil cakes are light and spongey with a distinct lemony flavor. Many prefer the cake for its airy texture, while others like that it is healthier than a standard cake. Add dimension to the lemon-flavored treat with fresh fruit or a scoop of ice cream.
Maritozzi is a small dough ball stuffed with light whipped cream. Most bakers use brioche for the dessert’s exterior, but any sweet roll will work fine. Some like their Maritozzi with plain whipped cream, but others prefer to add some flair with espresso, nuts, chocolate, or fresh fruit.
- Chocolate Pasta
- Panna Cotta
- Italian Christmas Cookies
- Ambrosia Biscotti
- Strawberry Gelato
- Sicilian Plum Ice Cream
- Ricotta Cheesecake
- Pear Crostata
- Graffe Napoletane
- Granita al Limone
- Grilled Pineapple
- Caprese Ice Cream
- Red-Wine Poached Pears
- Pignoli Cookies
- Pizzelle Cookies
- Olive Oil Cake
- Review the listed recipes
- Pick your favorites
- Make your desired Italian dessert recipes