Top 10 Italian Desserts

Experiencing Italian cuisine in Italy is going to change the way you see these foods forever.

Food is such a significant part of Italian culture; something that represents happiness, sadness, celebration, loss, family and love simultaneously — and that’s just the main courses!

Italian desserts are a force to be reckoned with. I find the sweet treats of this land to be wonderfully decadent, on par with French desserts in some ways, but nowhere near as rich & definitely light enough to enjoy daily.

Here are my top 10 worst a bite or two. 

1. Tiramisu

When I refer to eating an Italian dessert daily, it’s tiramisu I’m talking about.

Whether you’re celebrating the end of a meal, or simply in need of a way to kill an hour between sight seeing, settling down for a slice of the nearest tiramisu is like Italian tradition.

Tiramisu – by Markus Mitterauer – Wikimedia Commons

Tiramisu is a layered dessert made using finger biscuits soaked in coffee piled between layers of mascarpone cheese, cream and cocoa.

Click here for a list of some of the best tiramisu in Rome.

2. Bônet

A bônet is sort of a cross between a custard slice and a biscuit.

Traditionally, a digestive spirit such as rum or Cognac is added to each bônet to give it its heavy flavor. The rest of the ingredients are a mix of sugar, eggs and cocoa.

Each bônet is topped with small amaretto biscuits and occasionally hazelnuts. The treat is served cold and makes a great counterpart to a hot cup of tea or a well brewed espresso.

3. Sfogliatelle

This next dessert hails from Naples, and translated into English, sfogliatelle means ‘lobster tail’.

Looking at the shape of this dessert, you’ll understand where the name came from. Sfogliatelle are made using layers of crispy puff pastry that bundle together in a lobster-like way, though some will argue they look more like a stack of leaves.

They are filled with a delicious mix of ricotta cheese, sugar, eggs and candied citrus.

Sfogliatelle – by Alpha – Wikimedia Commons

4. Gelato

You won’t get away with not trying gelato while in Rome. This is a very important dessert to the land of Italy, and the people have been perfecting the art of this dish for centuries.

Gelato is a frozen dessert closely resembling ice cream, though don’t ever say this out loud. In Italy, gelato is gelato — and it’s superior to ice cream, containing less fat and sugar.

Gelato – by 4028mdk09 – Wikimedia Commons

With the recent health movements turning people away from dairy and gluten, gelato makers around the world have had to find new ways of creating this dessert. In certain places in Rome, you’ll be able to eat both vegan and gluten free gelato if needed.

5. Biscotti

Regardless of where you come from in the world, you’ve probably eaten a traditional Italian biscotti and not even realized it.

Oftentimes this dessert is served in miniature portions as a complimentary treat next to a coffee or cappuccino.   

Biscotti is a twice baked Italian biscuit containing a ton of almonds in every slice. The biscuits are incredibly crunchy and are eaten similarly to a rusk. Dipping the biscotti into a hot drink of sorts is how the Italians do it.

Biscotti – by VD – Wikimedia Commons

6. Cannoli

Cannoli’s originated on the island of Sicily. They were traditionally baked once annually for the Carnival celebration, but have since spiraled into a globally loved dessert all the way from Europe to the far west.

Cannolis are tube shaped shells of pastry, deep fried to hold their shape. Each sell is filled with a cream, usually made of ricotta cheese and a lot of sugar.

Bakers have began experimenting with creative renditions of the cannoli. Some even have a layer of chocolate on the inner shell, or chocolate chips in the filling cream.

Cannoli – by jeffreyw – Wikimedia Commons

7. Sbrisolona

This Italian cake gets it’s hard-to-say name from its flakiness. Sbrisolona means “crumbly”, and that exactly what this nutty dessert does at every bite.

Traditionally made with hazelnuts, lard and corn flour, sbrisolona is served during Italian celebrations or at the end of a hearty feast. More and more people are opting to bake their sbrisolona with almonds instead of hazelnuts, which completely changes the experience (in a good way, of course).

Sbrisolona – by mantova – Wikimedia Commons

8. Panna Cotta

Panna cotta is a dessert found widely enjoyed around the world. It can be made in many different shapes and many different flavors, usually making use of a single fruit as the main component.

Panna cotta is a cream that is thickened with gelatin and set in a ramequin until it is able to hold its dome-like shape. Fruity panna cotta is always a crowd pleaser, but traditional Italian cooking usually sticks to coffee and/or vanilla.

Panna cotta – by Acacace – Wikimedia Commons

9. Panettone

Panettone is another dish that you’ve likely eaten many a time even without having visited Italy.

It originated in Milan, and was created as a type of sweet bread intended for consumption around Christmas and New Years. Italians consider it a bread, but most would identify it as a thick, fruity cake.

The key ingredients to a panettone are flour, candied fruits and raisins.

Panettone – by N i c o l a – Wikimedia Commons

10. Affogato

Affogato is an Italian dessert that you might have made yourself accidentally while experimenting in the kitchen.

It’s a scoop of vanilla ice cream, or in Italy it will always be gelato, that is drowned in a shot of freshly brewed espresso.

Affogato – by VR38DETT – Wikimedia Commons

The hot coffee hits the cold dessert and combines into a delicious, decadent treat. Some variants will include a shot of amaretto, Bicerin, or any other liqueur as an addition to the flavors.

Affagato is widely available throughout Italy, but isn’t always put onto menus. If you want one, restaurants will generally make one for you upon request.