Italian desserts have established their niche in the culinary world. They’re a league on their own, providing delicious dishes and an elegant experience.
These Italian treats are of such good quality and taste that they are often associated with luxury. But you don’t have to break the bank to experience great desserts when you can make them at home.
This post compiles the best traditional Italian dessert recipes you can try in your kitchen. Each bite of these exquisite treats will transport you to Italy and all the culinary goodness this beautiful nation offers.
1. Creamy Vanilla Panna Cotta
Panna cotta, originating from Piemonte, Italy, is one of the most popular desserts worldwide. This creamy dessert has gelatin holding together the cooked, sweet cream to form a solid structure.
Besides the gelatin, you’ll also need milk, whipping cream, sugar, and vanilla. There have been several variations of panna cotta based on flavors, such as strawberry, orange, and raspberry.
Besides its form, panna cotta is distinct for the silky smooth texture that lets your spoon and tongue glide across it. Top with sweet sauces like chocolate, caramel, and berry, and serve in a glass or plate.
2. Italian Christmas Cookies
Bring something new to your celebration by making these soft and delicious Italian Christmas cookies. With their sweet, vanilla frosting, these cookies melt in your mouth and leave the best and sweetest aftertaste.
They’re unusually moist compared to other cookies because of the added ricotta cheese. Besides the ricotta cheese, ingredients are standard already, like flour, butter, sugar, vanilla, baking soda, and more.
The frosting is from scratch and made with butter, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla extract, and 2% milk. Pour the frosting all over the cookies before placing sprinkles to give them a pop of color.
3. Vanilla Gelato
One of the greatest blessings the boot country bestowed to the food world is this classic Italian dessert: gelato. It is the Italian version of ice cream but less fat, denser, and richer in flavor.
Like ice cream, gelato comes in different flavors – strawberry, chocolate, avocado, and more. But for this post, I’ve selected a vanilla bean gelato, which provides subtle yet rich flavors.
To replicate the recipe, you’ll make creamy custard from vanilla bean, whole milk, vanilla extract, eggs, sugar, and heavy cream. Then load it into an ice cream maker to churn out a silky smooth ice cream.
4. Classic Biscotti
Among the traditional Italian desserts, you’ll often find crunchy biscotti. It’s a delicious, crispy biscuit you can have in many forms and flavors and tastes great with hot chocolate, coffee, and tea.
While there are many varieties, like chocolate or almond, what unites these cookies is how you prepare them. This Italian classic is twice-baked, resulting in a dry and crispy pastry that serves as a canvas for many flavorings.
This recipe makes biscotti in four ways: classic or plain, almond, cranberry-orange, and chocolate. Each variant demands different ingredients and procedures but leads to the same crunchiness.
5. Authentic Tiramisu
Despite the non-Italian-sounding name, authentic tiramisu is an Italian classic from Treviso, Italy. It has bold flavors courtesy of coffee-soaked ladyfingers and creaminess from mascarpone.
Because of its great popularity, there have been many variants of tiramisu based on flavoring and method of preparation. But this recipe honors the Italian way of making tiramisu, which uses espresso coffee, raw eggs, and mascarpone cheese.
However, they also provide alternative recipes if there’s no mascarpone or you don’t like raw eggs. But, hey, if you want authenticity, it’s best to stick to the OG recipe, right?
6. Panettone Bread Pudding
A moist and delicious bread pudding is one of the best inclusions to your dinner party menu. This Italian version of bread pudding uses panettone, a sweet bread loaded with dried fruits, raisins, and citrus; thus, this pudding has unique textures and complex flavors.
Besides the sweet bread, you’ll also need butter, eggs, sugar, heavy whipping cream, and whole milk. Season with your favorite holiday spices, such as cinnamon.
You can serve this bread pudding with a dusting of confectioners or powdered sugar. You can also slather a dollop of fresh whipped cream on top.
7. Cantucci (Italian Almond Biscotti)
Cantucci is another classic Italian cookie and a type of biscotti. It’s specifically almond-flavored, making it different from biscotti, which can have different flavors, as you’ve seen in the 4-ways recipe I’ve included.
Actual almonds (for authentic taste and texture) and almond essence provide cantucci with its rich flavors. Like biscotti, you’ll bake the cookies twice to achieve that perfect crunchiness associated with these Italian treats.
You can also make mini-versions of these almond biscuits, called cantuccini. Cantucci (and cantuccini) are best paired with a glass of vin santo, a sweet Italian dessert wine.
Sfogliatelle, a shell-shaped pastry also known as lobster’s tail, is one of the most bizarre-looking pastries I have seen. Although having a unique name and look, they’re simply the Campania version of puff pastry crossed with a croissant.
Sfogliatelle has fillings like whipped cream, custard with candied peels, cheese, or almond paste. There are three variations: riccia, frolla, and aragosta, with the latter being the most popular abroad.
As complex as it looks, the dough is simple – just flour, salt, water, and honey. The filling is more complex, made with many ingredients like semolina flour and ricotta cheese.
Affogato or gelato drenched in coffee liqueur tops the list of easy Italian desserts. There’s nothing complicated to this sweet treat. You just need ice cream or gelato, espresso, amaretto, and the optional dark chocolate shavings.
Thus, this easy recipe for affogato will do the trick if you’re looking for a quick treat to satisfy your sweet tooth. Scoop ice cream into a glass, then pour espresso and amaretto over it, and voila! Dessert!
Serve with dark chocolate shavings for added pizzazz. Now, you have coffee, vanilla, chocolate, ice cream, and alcohol in one! So easy, right?
For some reason, the Italians really love their cookies. I’ve included a lot of cookie recipes already, like biscotti and cantucci, but here’s another one: canestrelli.
Canestrelli, which is popular in Northern Italy, is a type of shortbread cookie. It isn’t as crunchy or crispy as biscotti or cantucci, mainly because it isn’t baked twice and has egg yolks.
The egg yolks make canestrelli crumbly, which makes it perfect for a hot cup of tea, coffee, or other beverages. Make these sugar cookies using flour, powdered sugar, salt, cornstarch, butter, vanilla, yolks, and lemon zest.
11. Italian Lemon Ricotta Cake
Of course, we can’t have a compilation of dessert recipes without cake, so here’s an Italian lemon ricotta cake recipe. The entire cake bursts with fresh and creamy flavors from ricotta cheese and lemon juice.
It’s a popular sweet treat in the country, so you will likely find this displayed in many Italian bakeries. But if there’s no Italian bakery near you, you can easily make this cake on your own from scratch.
This cake is one of the fluffiest and most delicious when prepared right. Serve this Italian lemon cake with powdered sugar, whipped cream, and fresh fruits.
12. Torta Caprese
Have you ever wondered if you can make a cake without flour? Apparently, the Italians have, and they set out to make a flourless cake, now known as torta caprese, a chocolate and almond cake.
Torta caprese has blanched almonds, dark chocolate, unsalted butter, sugar, and eggs. You can swap the blanched almonds for an almond meal and add lemon or orange zest for more flavor.
Served with a generous sugar dusting, you can’t tell that this is a flourless cake. It looks and tastes as good as the traditional ones, so give it a try!
12 Traditional Italian Dessert Recipes
Bake and make these traditional dessert recipes to get a taste of Italy!
Creamy Vanilla Panna Cotta
Italian Christmas Cookies
Panettone Bread Pudding
Cantucci (Italian Almond Biscotti)
Italian Lemon Ricotta Cake
- Select your favorite recipe.
- Organize all the required ingredients.
- Prep an Italian dessert in 30 minutes or less!