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    28 Italian Desserts You Need To Try Before You Die


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    1. Bombolone

    What is it? A fluffy, cream-filled doughnut.

    These soft balls of caloric goodness are best served fresh out of the oven. Recipe here.

    2. Amaretti

    What is it? Almond shortbread cookies.

    These bittersweet cookies are crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. Recipe here.

    3. Panettone

    What is it? A plush, light, sweet bread prepared with candied fruit.

    From tarts to tiramisu to bread pudding, there are all kinds of desserts you can make with the leftovers you'll inevitably have. Recipe (for the actual panettone) here.

    4. Occhi di Bue

    What is it? Round shortbread cookies with a hazelnut or jam center.

    The superior way to enjoy your favorite breakfast spread. Recipe here.

    5. Cartellate

    What is it? Pinwheel-shaped fritters dipped in honey or wine syrup.

    You can also sprinkle them with powdered sugar, nuts, or dried fruit. Recipe here.

    6. Gelato

    What is it? A denser version of ice cream that uses more milk than cream.

    Recipe here, and read more about the differences between ice cream and gelato here.

    7. Torta Della Nonna (Grandmother's Cake)

    What is it? A custard tart topped with pine nuts.

    While many families have their own variations on this cake, almost all have a lemony aroma and dusting of sugar on top. Recipe here.

    8. Zeppole

    What is it? A fried ball of dough often filled with pastry cream and topped with powdered sugar.

    Usually made on Saint Joseph's Day, zeppole can also be enjoyed as a savory treat with an anchovy filling. Recipe here.

    9. Zabaglione (or Zabaione)

    What is it? A custard dessert made with egg yolks, sugar, and Marsala wine (or another sweet wine.)

    To complete the dessert, serve with a slice of panettone or a biscotti. Recipe here.

    10. Ciambellone

    What is it? A dense, fragrant bundt cake.

    Though many add chocolate or fruit to it, this simple cake is actually perfect in and of itself at any time of day. Recipe here.

    11. Tiramisu

    What is it? A custard cake made with layers of espresso- and rum-dipped ladyfingers and a mascarpone mixture.

    An easy way out of preparing this with raw eggs (which the classic recipe calls for) is to cook the eggs over a double boiler. Recipe here.

    12. Torta Caprese

    What is it? A flourless chocolate cake made with ground almonds.

    This moist, dense cake is often served with a scoop of vanilla gelato. Recipe here.

    13. Struffoli

    What is it? Crunchy, deep-fried balls of dough rolled in honey.

    Traditionally, struffoli are painstakingly arranged into cone or wreath shapes. If you've ever wandered into an Italian pastry shop, you've probably seen one and wondered if the beautiful arrangement was edible. (Answer: hell YES.) Recipe here.

    14. Sfinci (or Sfingi)

    What is it? A light, hollow, fried pastry topped with sugar and cinnamon.

    Sfinci may look like zeppole, but they're actually less doughnut-ey in texture, with a crunchier, more fried exterior. Recipe here.

    15. Pandoro

    What is it? A plush, light, sweet bread shaped like an eight-pointed star.

    Literally translating to "bread of gold," this Christmas cake has a huge rivalry against the fruit-studded panettone, which bears a similar look and taste. You'll find any traditional bakery stocked with equal numbers of both, right next to each other. (I'm Team Panettone.) Recipe here.

    16. Semifreddo

    What is it? A quick-to-melt frozen mousse.

    Meaning "half-frozen," a semifreddo is an ice cream–like dessert you can make without any special equipment. Recipe here.

    17. Sfogliatella

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    What is it? A crunchy, clam-shaped pastry known for its layered texture.

    Don't be thrown off by the sfogliatella's tough exterior: The filling is made with a soft, not-too-sweet ricotta mixture with candied orange that'll balance out the hard crunch. Recipe here.

    18. Cannoli

    What is it? Fried dough shaped into a tube and traditionally filled with a ricotta-based cream.

    Probably the most popular Italian dessert in the States, this smooth, creamy, and crunchy pastry hails from Sicily. Some bakers make them using pizzelle for the shell. Recipe for the cannoli shells here, and for the filling here.

    19. Panforte

    What is it? A dense cake made with candied fruit, nuts, and spices.

    This treat is made with such a plethora of candied fruits and spices that it more often resembles candy than pastry. Recipe here.

    20. Iris (or Inis)

    What is it? A fried bun filled with pastry cream and dusted with sugar.

    This dessert is traditionally filled with a white cream (not with Nutella, as pictured above) and found in Sicily. Recipe here.

    21. Frappe

    What is it? Strips of fried dough topped with powdered sugar.

    There's literally no way to eat these without getting powdered sugar all over your face. Recipe here.

    22. Pizzelle

    What is it? Crispy, thin waffle cookies stamped with delicate patterns.

    Buying a specialty pizzelle maker is pretty much the only way to get those beautiful shapes indented onto your cookie, but if you're not willing to invest in the specialty gadget, there are other ways. Recipe here.

    23. Torrone

    What is it? Nougat made with almonds and other toasted nuts.

    This candy is known to chip teeth, so enjoy with caution! Recipe here.

    24. Pignoli

    What is it? Crisp cookies made with almond paste.

    Rolled in pine nuts and made with rich almond paste, these cookies are expensive to make and are considered a fancy treat. Bring some to your next holiday party! Recipe here.

    25. Baba

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    What is it? A spongy, mushroom-shaped pastry soaked in rum or another liquor.

    The baba is so treasured in Naples that the name is also used as a compliment. Recipe here.

    26. Panna Cotta

    What is it? A gelatin-based pudding made with cream and sugar.

    One of the most classic Italian treats, you'll find this on almost every Italian dessert menu. Recipe here.

    27. Biscotti

    What is it? Dry, crumbly biscuits made with sliced almonds.

    These twice-baked biscuits lose all their moisture during the second round of baking, contributing to their super-crunchy texture. They're usually enjoyed in the morning, with a cup of coffee. Recipe here.

    28. Cassata Siciliana

    What is it? A ricotta-layered sponge cake soaked in liquor and covered in marzipan.

    This cake is usually elaborately decorated with candied fruits, nuts, and marzipan, making it hard to cut the first slice. (But not that hard because YUM.) Recipe here.