Storm Dennis scuppered many plans last weeked and whilst we sat in our showroom and contemplated the storm waters coming down the road, we did get an overpowering craving for desserts.
From those we love to make, to those that we love to sit and eat with our friends and family, there is nothing better. It had us thinking, what Italian desserts do we enjoy the most that many may never have attempted to have made, or knew they could make at home?
We put together a list of some of our favourites from a few different regions of Italy so you could spend a bit of time trying them yourselves. If they come out great, be sure to pass by and leave some for us!
Made famous in the UK by Dudley Moore and a Tesco advert in the early 90s, Tiramisú has become a restaurant classic and if anything it should become a household classic as well. It’s actually simpler to do than many people think.
This dish which heralds from Veneto, Trieste to be precise is a perfect mixture of zabaglione (egg yolks and sugar) with mascarpone and trifle fingers. Whilst there are lots of different stories of its origins, the now defunct restaurant, Al Fogher holds claim to the recipe which unlike many other Italian things dates back only until the early 1970s.
There are some great recipes online but, we recommend not using double cream. It’s not a very Italian ingredient and it certainly lacks flavour when it is used instead of mascarpone. This recipe from La Cucina Italiana is a true authentic style that we would recommend.
Also a few years ago, we did an infographic for our chef Antonia when she came to do a cooking demonstration – definitely time for an upgrade but in the meantime, check it out below!
2. Torta Della Nonna
Grandma’s Cake is an all time classic and should definitely be tried at least once – we guarantee it won’t be the last time. This tuscan dish has become a seasoned member of the dessert trolley in osteria’s across the peninsula and even further afield. It was even noted in Pellegrino Artusi’s nominal book that “his journey into Tuscany was lightened by the aroma of a pine nut covered cake”.
So what is it? Take a shortcrust pastry, add cremé patisserie & lemon scented custard, pine nuts a dusting of icing sugar… Does this sound like dessert perfection? You haven’t even tried it yet.
It’s one of those desserts that screams digestif and espresso afterwards as well. There are a few great recipes including this one from Great Italian Chefs. This take on the famous Tuscan dessert on the Guardian website is lovely and deserves a view or two.
In the UK we have pancake day, in Italy we have chiacchiere. (In fact they have over 30 different names depending on regions and certain towns in those regions.) Coinciding with Mardi Gras (Carnevale in the Roman Catholic calendar) these festive treats best be prepared soon for calendar reference and whilst they’re not strictly desserts, if you can knock out a batch of these delicious bites, then you have got strong Italian genes in you.
Dating back to roman times, these crunchy pastry treats would be symbolic of the calendar events and would be easy to use up leftover flour and eggs, much like pancake day.
This recipe from La Cucina Italiana even has a pictorial guide that is worth following. This version from Savouring Italy is also comprehensive and even gives more insight into this wonderful dessert.
There are lots of recipes across Italy where the crostata reigns supreme. Why? It is the perfect use of a shortcrust pastry filled with the things you love. In certain regions, they have become the go-to dessert recipe, that also works as a tea time treat the next day, or even for breakfast. Perfect for when family comes and stays over.
In the north in regions like Piedmont, they will have crostata with hazelnuts, chocolate and even hazelnut chocolate, encapsulating all the flavours of the region in one go. In Le Marche, it’s common to see apple varieties and in Campania, it’s common to see lemon and orange varieties pop up.
The Chiappa Sisters have done a few varieties in their books and shows but this jam one has to be the go-to. It’s simple and makes you yearn for more crostata creations!
5. Cassata Siciliana
This is not for the faint hearted. La Cassata Siciliana is a sacrosanct dessert and hard to make, but, if you do this correctly, you will go down in Italian folklore as the one who tried, and succeeded. Sweetened ricotta, sponge cake, chocolate chips, light marzipan and candied fruits make this a showstopper that should be on the next Great British Bakeoff!
The heritage of this stems from Palermo and whilst on the outside, it may appear a slightly more gaudy dessert, it is actually a light and sweet dessert that is a real treat.
There are loads of recipes for this cake, and it’s very popular in Italian communities around the world so the ingredients are easy to come by. This from Food 52 captures the spirit of the desserts, as well giving more information on its heritage. This version from Alitalia is a real throwback to the original found on the streets of Palermo and cannot be ignored.