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31 Glorious Italian Desserts That Are Worth Making At Home Year-Round

Some of these are most popular during the holidays, but if you ask me, they can (and absolutely should) be enjoyed all the time.

Italian desserts are simple but irresistible, both in texture and in taste.

Chaksin Thangchitcharoen / Getty Images/EyeEm

And while we can't all travel to Italy right now, we can at least eat like it. From zeppole and torta della nonna, to gelato and cannoli, here are some of the most popular and incredible Italian desserts out there, along with recipes that will let you make them from the comfort of your own kitchen. (PS: If your favorite isn't on this list, leave it in the comments!)

1. Cannoli

Probably the most popular Italian dessert in the States, this smooth, creamy, and crunchy pastry filled with ricotta cream hails from Sicily. Fill right before serving for the crunchiest eating experience. 




2. Gelato al Pistacchio

Gelato is the Italian dessert loved by people all over the world, and the biggest difference between gelato and ice cream is that it uses more milk than cream. And of course, we can all agree pistachio is one of the most classic Italian gelato flavors out there. 

Recipe: Gelato al Pistacchio

3. Cartellate

A popular Christmas dessert, especially in the Puglia region, these deep-fried rings come together with four ingredients and vincotto (made with figs and water). In lieu of vincotto, you can also use honey; it'll still taste delicious.




4. Torta Della Nonna

Found in bakeries and pastry shops, this tart is made with a creamy lemon- and vanilla-scented custard cream, and covered with fragrant pine nuts. It's exactly what you want your kitchen to smell like at all times.

RecipeTorta Della Nonna

5. Brownie Tiramisu

This quintessential Italian dessert is made with layers of espresso- and rum-dipped ladyfingers and a mascarpone mixture. This specific recipe substitutes a brownie mix (in lieu of ladyfingers) for an even richer and sweeter result.

Recipe: Brownie Tiramisu



6. Bomboloni

These soft cream-filled donuts are best served fresh out of the oven. 

Recipe: Bomboloni

7. Panettone

A holiday classic, panettone is a plush 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. 




8. Castagnole Fritte

Made with yeast, these fried, sugar-topped fritters are chewy, snackable sweets that are popular during carnival season. Serve them warm, and you can guarantee they'll disappear in a flash. 

Recipe: Castagnole Fritte

9. Zabaglione (or Zabaione)

This creamy dessert is made with egg yolks, sugar, and Marsala wine and paired often with a slice of panettone or biscotti. 

RecipeZabaglione (or Zabaione)



10. Amaretti

Crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside, amaretti are a bittersweet cookie that'll always hit the spot. And there's no other way to serve than with a heavy coating of icing sugar. 


11. Ciambellone

Essentially a dense bundt cake, a ciambellone comes in many flavors and additions, like chocolate and fruit. If you have some leftover dark chocolate, you can bake this version, which is studded with chocolate and zested with orange. 




12. Pandoro

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.) 


13. Panforte

This solid cake is made with such a plethora of candied fruits and spices that it more often resembles soft candy than pastry. Toss a slice of it into your bag next time you're going on a long bike ride, and you'll thank yourself later. 




14. Frappe

This Roman treat fills every corner bakery when carnival comes around every February, and its simplicity makes sure that everyone loves it. Just be careful: For every snap of a frappe, you'll receive a snowfall of powdered sugar on your lap. 


15. Zeppole

Usually made on Saint Joseph's Day, zeppole are fried dough balls (made without yeast) that can be enjoyed with pastry cream or powdered sugar. A second version of this treat, called the Zeppole di San Giuseppe, are piped and topped with cream. 

Recipe: Zeppole



16. Sfogliatella / Via

There's no way to eat a sfogliatella without making a crumbly, flaky mess, but that shouldn't keep you from these crunchy, clam-shaped pastry known for their layered textures. And 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.


17. Ricciarelli

Easily mistaken for amaretti (which are not as soft and fluffy), these soft and chewy cookies are infused with 2.5 cups of blanched almonds. They're known for their cracked surface and soft lemon aroma.

Recipe: Ricciarelli



18. Baci di Dama

Baci di Dama, or "Lady's Kisses," are crumbly hazelnut cookies that might require just six ingredients, but they do ask for a bit of discipline. Make sure to wait until cookies have fully cooled to start building your tiny sandwiches, or you might just be left with a crumbly mess. 

Recipe: Baci di Dama

19. Sgroppino

Digestivi (alcoholic post-meal drinks) are popular in Italy, and help you wash down and supposedly digest large meals. This one is a sweet concoction made up of lemon sorbet, vodka, and prosecco, and it is the perfect nightcap for a summer dinner under the stars. 




20. Zuppa Inglese

Think of zuppa Inglese as an appetizer platter of all the best Italian dessert flavors out there. To put it together, just layer Italian ladyfingers with chocolate and vanilla pastry cream, and top it with whipped ricotta and sliced almonds. 

Recipe: Zuppa Inglese

21. Torta di Riso

Wouldn't you know it — you can be gluten-free and still enjoy Italian desserts! This rice cake is just sweet enough, comforting, and dotted with raisins throughout. Cut the cake into squares to turn it into the perfect afternoon pick-me-up.

RecipeTorta di Riso



22. Brutti ma Buoni

Called "ugly but delicious," these cookies are, as one might deduce, misshapen (but very tasty) bites of meringue made with chopped hazelnuts. 

Recipe: Brutti ma Buoni

23. Sicilian Torta di Pistacchio

Originating from Bronte, a town in Sicily that's known as the capital of pistachios, this cake is perfect for special occasions. Though some recipes call for pistachio flour and even pistachio cream, this iteration comes together with your standard American baking ingredients, in addition to, obviously, a bag of high-quality pistachios. 

RecipeSicilian Torta di Pistacchio



24. Befanini

These small sprinkles-coated shortbread cookies are a favorite among children celebrating La Befana, also known as the day of Epiphany. On this holiday, it is said that a witch goes around homes leaving treats for children. You can read more about the holiday here


25. Crostata di Ricotta e Cioccolato

It might be made with cheese, but this tart bears little more resemblance to the American cheesecake. This Italian iteration is composed of a short pastry filled with a creamy ricotta-based filling, which dances with chocolate flavor and a seductive citrusy aroma. 

RecipeCrostata di Ricotta e Cioccolato



26. Almond Biscotti

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. 

RecipeAlmond Biscotti

27. Almond Semifreddo

Meaning "half-frozen," a semifreddo is an ice cream-like dessert you can make without any special equipment. There are many steps, and you will have to freeze the recipe overnight, but semifreddo always rewards those who put in the work. 

Recipe: Almond Semifreddo



28. Torrone

Made with honey, lots of nuts, and egg whites, this simple candy is perfect for snacking on or giving as gifts.  


29. Panna Cotta

Literally translating to "cooked cream," panna cotta is a simple pudding made with cream and sugar and solidified with the help of gelatinOne of the most classic Italian treats, you'll find this on almost every Italian dessert menu. 

Recipe: Panna Cotta



30. Baba

Angelafoto / Getty Images / Via

The baba — a spongy, mushroom-shaped pastry soaked in liquor — is so treasured in Naples that the name is also used as a compliment. 


31. Pizzelle

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


What's your favorite Italian dessert? Share in the comments!



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