Italian desserts marry a diversity of sweet flavours and ingredients, from fresh fruit to smooth, creamy fillings. With their quality ingredients and tried-and-true crafts and techniques, treats from the Mediterranean country are some of the most decadent, feel-good desserts out there. Discover our special on Italian sweets from authentic Italian dessert shops as you dream of la dolce vita… or live it!
Have you ever wondered why some flavours of Italian desserts are so popular? Think pistachio, or lemon, and of course coffee. For one, Italian coastal regions like the Amalfi or islands like Sicily enjoy ideal weather conditions almost year-round. A lot of the country’s fruit production takes place in sunny Sicily, while Italians and tourists alike know the Amalfi coast for its particular variety of lemons, the sfusato amalfitano. Cooks and bakers use all parts of these lemons, from their juice to their peels, as they are bursting with flavour. A fun fact about these lemons: in Positano and other coastal towns, the streets are lined with lemon trees whose special fruit people can even help themselves to!
Sicilian pistachios, nicknamed Bronte pistachios after the town they are cultivated in, are actually so popular (and so fresh and sweet!) that the Italian government gave them a “protected” status to ensure their longevity. Apparently, Bronte pistachios are different from some other nuts in that they are moist with a rich flavour. They are also smaller, have a deeper green colour with purple strokes on the skin, and pack more concentrated flavours.
When they feature quality pistachios, Italian desserts like the cremoso al pistacchio above really allow the pistachios center stage as their flavour contrasts with the creamy taste of condensed milk and crunchy cacao nibs or crumble. A refreshingly simple dessert, cremoso al pistacchio keeps its texture from the addition of gelatin to the cream, which also has many health benefits for the skin and bones.
Are you ready to discover, or rediscover, some classic Italian desserts and some creative versions of them? Find a sunny spot, grab your coffee granita, and picture yourself on a Roman balcony!
Biscotti: These crunchy biscuits consist of almonds, eggs, flour, vanilla, sugar, and sometimes oil or butter, depending on the recipe. A classic Italian sweet that people enjoy with a cup of coffee in the afternoon or alone, biscotti are a simple and tasty snack on- the- go or sitting down on a terrasse. In fact, people originally dipped the biscuits in Vin Santo, a type of dessert wine!
Cannoli: The sweet with a tubular shell and creamy filling is probably one of the most popular desserts to come out of Italy. Maybe you’re learning today that the cream inside cannoli is made of ricotta, a kind of whey cheese. Similarly to cheesecake, but in a crispier shell, the addition of sugar and other aromas prevents the treat from tasting too cheesy. As cannoli are made with ricotta and not cream cheese, the filling has a lighter texture and taste: perfect for a quick afternoon snack! The cannoli you see above are not only pleasing to the eye. They also bring a burst of original flavours to the traditional recipe, showing its adaptability.
Cronetti: Maybe you’re familiar with the cornetto, the croissant-type pastry filled with pastry cream? Or bombolone, the filled donut sprinkled with sugar? If you like both and can’t decide, cronetti might be your match! A hybrid of the two desserts and inspired by the cronut, the cronetto is an idea from La Cornetteria, a bakery in Montreal’s Little Italy. The bakery was born from the owners’ childhood summers in Italy and sweet memories of the moment when fresh cornetti were delivered to their aunt’s cafe in Pescara. With a texture and taste comparable to both croissants and donuts, the cronetto comes in a variety of flavours. A great choice for indecisive dessert lovers!
Granita: Who doesn’t like a fresh granita on a steamy summer day? Those we have outside of Italy may not feature fresh-squeezed sfusoto amalfitano lemons, but are still a prime summer treat! Usually handmade, granitas consist of sugar, water, and various aromas. Sometimes, the texture of granita can be crunchy with coarse bits of ice. In that sense, they can be somewhat reminiscent of shaved ice, although the Italian dessert is more liquid. Sit back and sip on!
Tartufo: Summer means more frozen desserts in our selection, and tartufo is a particularly decadent one! Consisting of ice cream layers with a fruit or chocolate heart, this frozen cake originates in Calabria, Italy. Often, the delicacy is sprinkled with cocoa powder or coated in chocolate, if you like chocolate covering on your desserts. With its dome shape and ice cream heart, tartufo sometimes resembles bombe desserts. However, it has a denser consistency, more neatly separated layers, and no pâte à bombe (meringue mixture). You are sure to impress your guests’ palates with this gourmet, fresh treat this summer!
Affogato: Attention coffee lovers, you may have just found your next favorite treat! We covered coffee desserts such as tiramisu, but are you ready for this one? The affogato above features espresso with a mountain of soft serve vanilla ice cream. Coffee and gelato, who could resist? As the ice cream melts, it gives the beverage a pleasant and unique creamy texture. The mix of coffee and vanilla is a classic for a reason: the vanilla nicely balances out the bitterness of the coffee. This also makes for a deliciously indulgent dessert experience… How do you say “yum” in Italian?
Gelato: Of course, what would our selection of desserts from Italy be without what is probably the most popular one? You’ve guessed it… gelato! Although gelato just translates to “ice cream” in Italian, the process to make it varies slightly from other types of ice cream, making it more flavorful. The one above follows a classic Italian recipe, but with an original flavour that is all the rage now: green tea. What’s more, it also features cookie crumbs for an original and tasty flavour full of contrasting textures. Perfect treat for a nighttime stroll on a hot summer evening!
With so many variations, flavours, and types of sweets, Italian desserts are never boring, and always tasty! While we say ciao until our next post, we are not leaving you without a gift! We know it’s difficult to control the craving for some cannoli or a fresh granita after taking this mini trip to Italy. That’s why we did the work of finding Italian sweets for you! Head here to get your hands on some delicious desserts. Arrivederci!
DessertAdvisor.com is an organization dedicated to the research of desserts, baked goods, and snacks. The community maintains one of the largest databases of dessert items and dessert places in Canada.
With a mission to facilitate foodies’ search for their desired products, the site allows finding locations that dessert items are sold at, enhances knowledge on various treats (i.e., variety, flavours, health benefits, history, origins, etc.), and enables people to enjoy the wealth of life.