10 Traditional Italian Desserts You’ve Never Heard Of

Some classic Italian desserts are super popular outside of Italy: like Tiramisù! However, many tasty Italian desserts are recipes you’ve probably never heard of! Here’s a look at 10 of our favorites:

#1 Zuppa Inglese

Zuppa Inglese

The origins of this traditional Italian dessert is not certain. However, one theory is that it was inspired by the English trifle. Layers of Pan di Spagna, soaked in Alchermes liquor and filled with pastry cream. It’s a show-stopping dessert, especially when topped with Italian Meringue !

#2 Chiacchere (Frappe) – Carnival Cookies

Chiacchiere (Frappe) are popular Italian Carnival Cookies!

Called by many names, shaped in even more—these are the classic Chiacchiere Carnival Cookies! Sweet pasta dough is shaped and then fried. Simple but classic toppings include powdered sugar or a splash of Alchermes liquor. But, there are many creative ways to decorate these tasty treats!

#3 Italian Layered Lemon Cake (Torta Mimosa)

Torta Mimosa: an Italian Layered Lemon Cake

The Torta Mimosa is the iconic dessert of Spring in Italy and is popular for Women’s Day. The decoration is designed to mimic the yellow mimosa flowers which bloom in early spring. Layers of sponge cake are soaked in limoncello (or a similar liquid) and layered with diplomat cream. Mamma mia!

#4 Panforte Margherita (Italian Fruitcake)

A Tuscan classic from Siena!

There are two versions of this classic Italian Fruit Cake: with and without chocolate! This is a traditional recipe for the Panforte Margherita (without chocolate). It’s a classic at Christmas time in Italy!

#5 Torta Mantovana (Italian Almond Cake)

Torta Mantovana – Italian Almond Cake of Tuscany

The Torta Mantovana (Italian Almond Cake) is a simple dessert—buttery, with a hint of lemon and topped with almonds! It’s easy to make and perfect for an Italian breakfast or a snack!

#6 Pardulas (Dessert with Ricotta Cheese)

A traditional dessert from the Italian island of Sardegna!

The Italian island of Sardegna has many mouthwatering desserts that are praised throughout Italy. Pardulas are a simple pastry filled with a citrus-flavored ricotta custard. It’s kind of like a ricotta cheesecake wrapped in a pastry shell. SOOO good! We can easily down four at breakfast.

#7 Pan di Spagna (Spanish Sponge Cake)

Pan di Spagna Sponge Cake

Pan di Spagna is a core competency for those looking to master Italian desserts! This sponge cake (traditionally made with whipped eggs—no baking powder) is the perfect cake for soaking up syrups and liquor. That’s why it is an ingredient in some of the desserts we’ve already mentioned! We’ll share all of the tips you need to master this cake, which is simple but easy to ruin!

#8 Torta delle Rose (Italian Rose Cake)

Torta delle Rose!

The Torta delle Rose is not a cake at all! Rather it is a ‘tear and share’ bread filled with jam to resemble a bouquet of roses.

#9 Panpepato

Another Italian dessert popular during Christmas, this treat with nuts and chocolate (and usually a dose of black pepper!) is called Panpepato (peppered bread in Italian). Like cookies elsewhere in the world, these treats are often exchanged by Italians in Umbria and the surrounding regions at Christmas time. Watch the video to see Nonna Margherita’s special version of this tasty dessert.

#10 Roasted Chestnuts

how to roast chestnuts
Roasted Chestnuts are a favorite treat for Italians when it is the season!

Roasted Chestnuts are wildly popular in Italy when it is chestnut season! This is no surprise, because Italy produces the famous marrone—a variety of chestnut prized for its larger and sweeter nut. Traditionally, Italians prefer caldarroste —chestnuts roasted over an open fire—but they also roast them in a pan or oven. To learn how to roast chestnuts all three ways, check out our other article! It’s no exaggeration to say that PIATTO™ cooking channels have become the reference for roasting chestnuts throughout the world, due to our comprehensive YouTube videos on the topic!

Leave a comment!

Have you ever heard of any of these classic Italian desserts? Which one do you want to try? Let us know in the comments!

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Classic recipes from Italy and beyond. Traditional Italian Cooking and Mediterranean Diet recipes!

PIATTO™ Recipes bring traditional Italian food recipes to your table with our tested, step-by-step recipes and videos. You'll find the best Italian recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert. Always tested, always delicious.

3 thoughts on “10 Traditional Italian Desserts You’ve Never Heard Of”

  1. This article about 10 traditional Italian desserts is a treat for any dessert lover. It’s great to learn about new desserts that aren’t well-known outside of Italy. The pictures and descriptions make my mouth water! I would definitely love to try Pasticciotto, a pastry with a custard filling, or Sanguinaccio Dolce, a chocolate pudding made with pig’s blood. Reading about these unique Italian desserts makes me eager to plan a trip and experience them in person.

  2. Thank you for talking about torta mantovana. We have this plan to try different pastries from around the world. This seems like something my husband and I would like, so I’ll be sure to try this out.


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