Italian desserts tend to be on the lighter side because they don’t have mounds of frosting or sugar fillings.
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It seems like everyone has a favorite Italian dish (or two or three!). Maybe you’re a huge fan of spaghetti and meatballs, or perhaps lasagna with loads of cheese is your jam. Or you may be a gourmet chef who loves to cook complicated Italian recipes. You still need some desserts, though.
They have enough sweetness to satisfy that sweet tooth, but these Italian dessert recipes focus on natural flavors generations have enjoyed.
Tiramisu and other classics like biscotti or cannoli have made their way into restaurants in America, but there are so many other easy Italian desserts you need to try.
Sit back and take note of these Italian deserts and choose your favorite to make right at home.
Traditional Italian Desserts
1. Italian Rum Cake
A good Italian rum cake is meant to be sweet but with a savory taste of rum added to it to balance out all the flavors.
Even though the cake itself doesn’t have a ton of flavors, you will need to make all the frostings and fillings. Of course, you can buy these at the store to save some time.
Making them on your own though gives you the chance to sweeten them up a little more if you are trying to satisfy a craving.
2. Italian Butter Cookies
You’ll enjoy these Italian butter cookies because they’re light and flaky on the outside but soft in the center.
You can sprinkle some powdered sugar on top or dip half of it in chocolate for a special treat.
These classic cookies will pop up around the holidays but they are good enough to eat any time of the year.
You’ll really get a good taste of creamy butter flavors in this cookie, so it’s tasty enough to have on its own.
3. Strawberry Gelato
Gelato is an Italian classic and with strawberry, the flavor profile can’t go wrong.
This recipe has simple ingredients that yield fantastic results each time you make it.
The strawberries are sweetened up with honey so they aren’t tart or sour at all, which is why you can serve this ice cream to practically anyone and they’ll like it.
You’ll be able to get inventive with this recipe and make a ton of different flavor combinations depending on what you feel like having.
You can really impress your guests with these simple strawberry gelato recipes and they’ll never guess how easy it was to make.
You can make a big batch too so that way you have some leftovers throughout the rest of the week.
After trying this gelato recipe, you may never look at ice cream the same way again.
Canestrelli has a wonderful taste with just a hint of lemon. It’s basically a sugar cookie with a crunchy texture.
You’ll love the flavor and this traditional Italian dessert will go great with a cup of coffee or tea.
You’ll need to make sure you use parchment paper when baking these cookies so that they don’t stick when you’re taking them off.
This is one of those Italian sweets you can have lying around in a bowl all year for a quick snack between meals.
5. Torta Barozzi
You’ll be pleasantly surprised by this Italian version of a brownie because of its unique flavors.
The torta barozzi has been around in Italy since the 1800s and it’s just as good today as it has ever been.
You’ll have nuts mixed with chocolate mixed with coffee to get this incredible taste.
It’s ok to have a couple before even setting them on the table. Before you know it, the whole batch will be gone.
6. Traditional Italian Breakfast Cookies
Hey, if the name says you can have them for breakfast then you can go wild.
These cookies may not be nutritional enough to be your permanent breakfast meal, but they won’t disappoint in taste.
These are like little boats and the outer exterior should be slightly crunchy while the middle remains nice and soft.
The more you beat in the eggs the lighter your cookies will be, so try to get a good froth going.
After a long and heavy meal, you want a dessert that’s going to be light but also might pick you up a bit.
Nothing is more perfect than this affogato recipe that only needs three ingredients. Four if you count a nice serving of party wafers, you can use to dip in your affogato.
Take your vanilla gelato (or any flavor you love) and toss it into a hot cup of espresso.
You can even throw in 2 oz of amaretto liqueur to sweeten things up even more.
You’ll make this your go-to dessert recipe when you get a good taste. Not only does it satisfy the sweet tooth, but it also gives you a nice pick-me-up after a heavy meal.
If you are really feeling your sweet tooth, drizzle some caramel or chocolate sauce on top!
8. Easy Panettone Recipe
This Panettone bread recipe is going to change your dessert rotation.
It can be a lot of work to get this recipe just right but it will really make the difference.
It has a wonderful zest to it from the orange and some sweetness from the apricots and cherries.
It’s perfect around winter holidays because you can sub out the cherries for some cranberries to get more of a fall flavor.
You’ll need to schedule out a few days to make this bread because it takes a lot of time to rise but you’ll be surprised at how much it helps.
The donut hole is the best version of a donut because you don’t have to feel as guilty eating an entire donut even though you’ll probably have handfuls of Zeppole.
These delectable treats are soft and doughy with sweet powdered sugar coating every bite.
They’re even better if you create your own dipping sauce on the side, like chocolate or lemon, so that each bite is even more packed with flavor.
Just make sure you bake a ton of Zeppoles because they will go fast once they hit the table.
10. Lemon Ricotta Cake
Ricotta cake is a perfect Italian dessert because of its creaminess that comes from using ricotta cheese.
This is a lighter cake so it’s the ideal way to end a meal without feeling weighed down.
It uses a custard sauce on top which gives it a more finished look and adds some extra sweetening to the whole deal.
This is going to be one of those traditional Italian desserts that you’ll keep in your back pocket for when you need to bring something easy but impressive.
You’ll notice the flavors come together so well and it’s all because you use fresh ingredients like lemon zest.
11. Chocolate Gelato
If you’re getting tired of having ice cream night after night you should switch to this chocolate gelato recipe.
Gelato is different from ice cream in that it uses less air and less fat to create a nice, dense texture.
This gelato recipe is fairly simple but does require some time for the ingredients to blend together just right.
By letting this sit overnight, you’ll have much richer flavors so don’t be surprised if everyone’s obsessed with this chocolatey dessert.
You’ll be getting requests to make it at everyone’s next get-together.
The perfect balance of textures and flavors in tiramisu makes it a classic Italian dessert.
It has a great balance of sweet and sour that makes it a special treat whenever you need something to end the night with.
You can use ladyfingers but if those aren’t available, then sponge cake is also acceptable as an option.
The reason this Italian pastry dessert is so popular outside Italy is that it can be adapted to different regions or flavors.
You’re not just limited to coffee, though that’s the most popular flavor, tiramisu can also include chocolate, amaretto, and more!
If you’re really making authentic tiramisu, then you’ll be using raw eggs in your filling. Don’t worry though, there are some egg-less versions you can make if you don’t want to try it raw.
13. Italian Pear Almond Cake
The Italian pear almond cake is an interesting Italian dessert for people who love sweet flavors but don’t want to get overwhelmed.
It’s not quite as sweet as some cakes you might come across, so it’s a great option if you’re looking to cut back on sugar.
You’ll end up with pear slices that are lightly infused with vanilla and almond, which are then topped off with whipped cream to add a bit of creaminess and lighten things up.
You can even add in some vanilla extract to the whipped cream for added flavor.
If you want something sweeter, consider adding in some fruit preserves or chocolate sauce to really round out the flavors.
14. Easy Classic Pizzelle Recipe
If you don’t have a small Pizzelle iron for this recipe that’s ok. You’ll still be able to get that delicious flavor, regardless of how they look.
You’ll need to make a ton because these little Italian desserts will go quicker if you have a lot of people over.
These are just like the light and sweet wafers that your grandparents may remember eating as a kid. They love that taste and chances are you will too!
The most classic version of this recipe just calls for some vanilla but you can mix things up and add some lemon, orange, or even lime zest to it.
15. Italian Christmas Cookies
The best thing about Italian Christmas cookies is that you can make them in a ton of different ways.
It’s just like the soft bread Mexican cookies you might have had around the holidays.
You can throw on different frostings, sprinkles, or add small fillings to give your cookies a unique taste.
Depending on how you make them, they could have a wonderfully crunchy outside with a tender, soft middle.
16. Buttermilk Vanilla Panna Cotta Tart
If you haven’t tried panna cotta then you don’t know about one of the most delicious Italian desserts out there.
This recipe is going to be a little different than what you’re used to because it’s made in a tart pan instead of one big mold like other versions.
It still has all the same creamy goodness, but this allows for more room on top and to make it look really pretty if you cut it in slices.
There’s nothing classier than a really nice dollop of whipped cream on top of this Italian dessert. That way, it looks almost homemade.
You’ll notice the flavors are very different because it has some vanilla in there, which is what helps take away any sweetness you may have tasted before.
17. Easy Tiramisu Cake
Making tiramisu is one thing, but to have an entire cake of it is a whole other!
To make the best tiramisu cake, you’ll want to pick up some packaged ladyfingers since it’ll take way too much time to make them all from scratch.
Then, you can just create layers of this mascarpone cream and the slightly sweet cake so it all comes together perfectly for a fun Italian dessert experience.
It’s so easy to throw together and if you have a special event coming up you can always make it the day before so it has time to chill in the fridge.
The baileys cream really gives it a nice creamy texture and boozy flavor without all the boozy consequences.
Don’t limit yourself to one or two styles, try to make several different kinds so you can know what everyone’s favorites are.
18. Almond Biscotti Recipe with Cranberries
Biscottis are a classic Italian treat and this almond with cranberries recipe will mix things up a bit.
If the cranberries are too much for you then you can leave them out and it’ll still taste really great.
This is better suited to being an afternoon treat since biscotti is usually dry but, these have some fruit inside so they help out with that problem.
Dip them in some coffee or some milk to soak up some liquid and they will be softer to eat.
Make a ton and have them around the home so you can munch on them throughout the week.
19. Thick Italian Hot Chocolate
You might have thought you knew everything there was to know about hot chocolates but there are actually some really unique versions out there.
This thick chocolate is something you want to be sure to save for a special occasion because not only does it taste amazing but it also looks beautiful.
It’s perfect for those colder months and you can even throw in some cinnamon to give it more of a fall flavor.
The smoked salt is optional but it really rounds out the sweet flavors with a bit of savory.
You’ll also be using a slight amount of corn starch to help thicken out your hot chocolate.
20. Italian-Style Candied Chestnuts
If you’ve never had candied chestnuts before then this is a recipe you need to try.
The flavor and texture are both so unique and it’s one that will draw people in who may not have tried Italian desserts before.
This is a dish that was passed down through the generations and, even though it takes some time to make, this process can be broken up into steps so it all comes out at once.
This is something you’ll want to do during the holidays because it’ll be a great conversation piece and everyone will love this unique take on chestnuts!
21. 5-Ingredient Cannolis
The classic cannoli is one of the best Italian desserts because it combines so many things into one.
You’ll get the crunchy shell, the creamy inside, and you can even add in some chocolate chips if you want.
It’s really easy to make because there are only 5 ingredients in total, so it doesn’t take much time at all to whip up a batch or two for when guests come over.
Now, if you don’t have the right equipment, making your own cannolis can be a pain.
Luckily for you, you don’t have to go through a terrible process or spend a bunch of money to get great tasting cannolis.
Just head to the store and get them pre-made so you can keep this recipe simple.
Our 20+ BEST Irresistible Italian Desserts (+Creamy Italian Hot Chocolate)
- 3 1/2 ounces dark chocolate chips or chopped dark chocolate pieces
- 2 Tbsp. caster sugar
- 2 Tbsp. powdered cocoa
- 2 cups + 2 Tablespoons milk
- 4 tsp. cornstarch
- Heat the milk in a pan and add the cocoa, chocolate, and sugar.
- Stir until melted.
- Mix milk and cornstarch and add to the mixture.
Organize all the required ingredients.
Enjoy the food.
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