After a recent trip to Rome, Naples, and Venice, I realised how much I had enjoyed traditional Italian desserts. There may be a lot of pasta and pizza, but with all these tasty after dinner treats on offer in restaurants and gelaterias, it leads me to wonder if Italy really is the home of the very finest desserts in Europe.
When gallivanting the globe, I always like to seek out the local desserts, as I have a very sweet tooth. Yet more than this I just want to try the cuisine of the country in which I am travelling, in a fun and relaxed way (so no 5 course dinners!). As such, I have managed to discover 11 incredible Italian desserts, from ice cream variants to sweet breads. Yet one thing is for sure: all of them are delicious!
Barbajada is a popular Milanese sweet frothy drink, made with whipped chocolate, milk, and coffee in equal parts, and possibly topped with cream. It is served cold in summer and hot in winter, usually to accompany other Milanese delicacies.
Cannoli consist of tube-shaped shells of fried pastry dough, filled with a sweet, creamy filling that usually contains ricotta. They range in size from “cannulicchi”, no bigger than a finger, to the fist-sized proportions typically found in Sicily.
Gelato is the Italian word for ice cream. It can be made with milk, cream, various sugars, and flavouring such as fresh fruit and nut purees. It is generally lower in calories, fat and sugar than other styles of ice cream.
Neapolitan Ice Cream is made up of blocks of vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry ice cream side by side. It was named in the late 19th century as a reflection of its origins in the city of Naples, and the design is said to mimic the design of the Italian flag.
Panettone is a type of sweet bread loaf from Milan. It is served in slices, vertically cut, accompanied with sweet hot beverages or a sweet wine, such as Moscato d’Asti.
Panforte is a traditional dessert containing fruits and nuts, and resembles fruitcake or German Lebkuchen. It dates back to 13th century Siena, in the Tuscany region. Literally, panforte means “strong bread” which refers to the spicy flavour.
Panna Cotta is an Italian dessert of sweetened cream thickened with gelatine and moulded. The cream may be aromatized with rum, coffee, vanilla, or other flavourings.
Struffoli is a Neapolitan dish made of deep fried balls of dough about the size of marbles. Crunchy on the outside and light inside, struffoli are mixed with honey and other sweet ingredients. There are many different ways to dress them, but the traditional way is to mix them in honey with cinnamon and bits of orange rind. Struffoli is sometimes served warm.
Tiramisu is a popular coffee-flavoured dessert. It is made of ladyfingers dipped in coffee, layered with a whipped mixture of eggs, sugar, and mascarpone cheese, flavoured with cocoa. The recipe has been adapted into many varieties of cakes and other desserts.
Zabaglione is an after-dinner favourite in Italy. Made with egg yolk, sugar, and a sweet wine (usually Marsala wine), a light custard is formed, which is then whipped to incorporate a large amount of air. It is usually served with strawberries.
Zeppole are Roman pastries of a deep-fried dough ball that is usually topped with powdered sugar, and may be filled with custard, jelly, cannoli-style pastry cream, or a butter-and-honey mixture.
What’s your favourite Italian dessert? And do you really think Italy is the ‘King’ when it comes to after dinner treats? Italian foodporn indeed!