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28 Italian Desserts You Need To Try Before You Die


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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.


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.

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.


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.

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.


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.


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.

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.


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.

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.