Bombolini might be Italy’s answer to the Germanic Berliner. Its name hints to bomba, the Italian word for bomb. Filled with strawberry jam, whipped cream or jelly, this small doughnut surely tastes more explosive than its adorable look leads on.
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A family treat mostly associated with Christmas, pandoro is a creation of Verona in Northern Italy. It’s a bread-dessert hybrid stuffed with orange, lemon, raisin and other dried fruits. But unlike its more famous cousin panettone, pandoro boasts a more fashionable star shape, with icing sugar sprinkled on top to reference the winter season.
Zeppole is the Southern Belle of Italian desserts, commonly found in the pasticcerie on the streets of Naples and Rome. It’s also called Zeppole di San Giuseppe as it was first invented to celebrate Saint Joseph’s Day. The dough made with flour and dessert is deep-fried and sprinkled with icing sugar. The flavour and texture might remind you of doughnut. The zeppole now is even more luscious, as it is often filled with cream or chocolate.
True, there’s a lot to love about gelato, but you shouldn’t miss out on another frozen dessert semifreddo. It offers a different texture that is between mousse and ice cream. Adding a layer of cake at the bottom, it really has everything a dessert lover craves.
Cassata is as colourful as its birthplace Palermo, Sicily. Its bright appearance comes from a coating of marzipan, icing sugar and fruit compote. Citrus such as orange and lemon are the most iconic toppings, being the island’s signature agricultural products. But the goodies don’t end there. Once cut open, a sponge cake flavoured by fresh fruit juice, Sicilian liquor, and a thick layer of ricotta cheese are ready to put any dessert fan to heaven.
Native to Siena, Tuscany, panforte means firm bread in Italian. It’s durable and delicious, with notes of spices mixed between sweetness. That’s why the local army in the past often carried it in battles. The tough cake has a flat, round shape. The filling comprises various nuts as well as cinnamon and nutmeg.
If there’s anything that elevates a dessert, it’s got to be alcohol. And Italians know this principle by heart. There’s rum in tiramisu, and in zabaglione they pour in Marsala wine. This confection calls for a whisked egg yolk and sugar mixture as the foundation. After adding the Marsala, the mixture is transferred into a container and cooked in water, stirred until silky smooth. It’s served usually with biscotti and fruits. Another great place to taste zabaglione is Argentina (locally known as sabayon) thanks to the large of amount of Italian immigrants there.
The southern island of Capri gave birth to this cake composed of ground almond, chocolate and olive oil. Legend has it that the dessert was created out of a happy coincidence: a chef forgot to add flour to his pastry. Some people there also like to add local liquors like Limoncello or Strega to it.
This quirky biscuit proudly wears its “ugly but tasty” name. Made with hazelnut and almond, it has a nice chew and the fragrance of the nuts is sensational. Brutti ma buoni comes from Prato, Tuscany. It can be spotted easily in a family-run pasticceria there.
Sharing ricciareli with family is a Christmas custom in Italy. The almond biscuit’s history can be traced back to 14th century Siena. It’s thought to be created by Ricciardetto della Gherardesca, a member of the most powerful families in Pisa, after he returned from the Crusade. Ricciarelli is made from a dough of flour and ground almond and is dusted with icing sugar after baked. The nutty aroma is best paired with a glass of local sweet wine.
Naples-born struffoli is a small spherical fried dough enveloped in honey, cinnamon and citrus peel. Italians like to stack these balls into a tower to make them look more festive, and share them with guests before dinner.