What are the biggest Italian dessert names? As you might already know, Italian desserts are just as famous as pizza or pasta dishes. In Italy, people just love having dessert after lunch or dinner. It’s not really an optional thing, we do want to eat something sweet at all times. However, we must also point out, that even if they are called sweets, sugar, creams with food coloring, and non-healthy ingredients are usually avoided when it comes to the best desserts in Italy. We tried to do our best in this article and bring you the best Italian chocolate desserts, but also some of the most famous Italian custard dessert, and Italian lemon dessert. Of course, since one of the most famous is Tiramisu, we are covering the Italian coffee dessert category too!
25 Best Italian Desserts
Whether you are looking for cakes, tarts, gelato, or cream desserts we have covered everything for you in this traditional Italian desserts article. I can’t lie, my mouth was watering throughout writing the details and browsing for the pictures. Italians are just so creative in making these sweets and some of them have been around for centuries but in different forms.
After having a delicious pasta dish and drinking some Italian wine, you can indulge in these sweets at any restaurant or cafe. Some of them are easy enough to create at home, so don’t be shy. Let us know which one is your favorite of the 25 best Italian dessert names. Oh, and before we dig, make sure you check our articles for great Italian appetizers, Neopolitan dishes, pastries, and dishes from Puglia too!
Recommended Italian dessert recipe books
The number one of the traditional Italian desserts on our list is the famous Tiramisu. This layered Italian dessert is adored by many and has been recreated in various ways throughout the years. It comes from the state of Veneto probably around the 1980s. The first mention of the Italian coffee dessert was in 1983 in a cookbook.
What were the original ingredients? Well, the base did not change, it was and still is ladyfingers. The sponge should be soaked in coffee and then layer everything with mascarpone cheese and cocoa powder. Tiramisu can come in any shape as long as it’s layered properly. You need of course some other ingredients, such as rum and eggs too.
By the way, the Tiramisu also has a meaning in Italian. If you separate the two words, “tirami su”, that means pull me up. So if we think about it, basically Tiramisu is the sweet that will pull your mood up when you eat it. Especially if you can get pistachio cream and add some to your mascarpone cream!
2. Maritozzo con la Panna – Maritozzo with Cream
Maritozzo is a big-time favorite Italian dessert that you must try if you are traveling to Rome! This is specifically a dessert and pastry originating from Rome, so there’ in literally every bar where they have pastries, you’ll find Maritozzo too! Maritozzo is a typical dessert in the Lazio region. Now, the name derives from the custom of offering this dessert to future bridges.
Whoever gave the dessert to the bride was called the “Maritozzo”. This dessert consists of a small loaf mixed with flour, grapes, honey, and butter, filled with whipped cream. Maritozzo is often enriched with pine nuts, grapes, or candied orange too. Lately, in some places, you can find in Rome Maritozzo with pistachio too!
Cannoli is one of the classic Italian desserts that already existed in Sicily around 1090 AD. Its origins can also be traced back to Palermo and Messina by Gaetano Basile, however, it became a staple in Sicily. Today Cannoli is also one of the favorite Italian Christmas desserts.
How do you make Cannoli then? This dessert is a fried and crispy pastry wrap which is then stuffed with creamy ricotta, chocolate chips, and candied pumpkin cubes. It takes about 40 minutes to prepare and another 30 to cook, the result is delicious! Sicily is packed with delicious food and some of the most popular Italian desserts, so make sure you get your belly ready if you’re visiting Sicily!
4. Panna Cotta
Who didn’t hear of Panna Cotta, one of the most famous Italian dessert names? The next one of the delicious Italian desserts named Panna Cotta originates from Piedmont. Its origins are unclear to this day, some say it was invented by a Hungarian woman in the 1900s. In 2001 is when Panna Cotta is included on the list of traditional food products.
Panna Cotta is an Italian custard dessert. The name translates to cooked cream. It is usually sweetened with sugar, flavored with vanilla, and thanks to gelatin it gets this thick form that does not melt. Panna Cotta is usually served with fruits, jam, or caramel too. A delicious dessert to make at home for everyone’s good mood!
One of those Italian dessert names that we don’t have to explain too much! Italian Gelato is loved worldwide as it is one of the most popular desserts, especially when it comes to Italian chocolate desserts. Have you ever tried artisan Nutella gelato? Although many believe it is ice cream, Gelato has a more dense and rich flavor than ice creams, it’s more creamy and has a richer texture.
The Gelato as an Italian dessert is related to Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli whos cafe introduced the gelato in the 1600s. Since then there have been many variations of this dessert, but if you wish to try the authentic gelato, you must go to Italy! Outside this country, you won’t ever taste real Gelato, even if they say it is.
Moving on with our Italian desserts, the Crostata is basically a tart or a pie and recipes can be traced back as far as 1456. We are not quite sure which region came up with these delicious Italian desserts, since some say it’s coming from Venice, others say Naples.
Crostata is one of the classic Italian desserts which is made from a pastry crust, jam or ricotta, and fruit. Crostata can be considered a layered Italian dessert as before the base consisted of three layers. Today only a shortcrust pastry is used and filled with different sweet jams.
In the region of Emilia Romagna, when you want to buy a crostata, you would be looking right away at the chocolate one. It’s called Torta di Vigolo and it is a really popular local delicacy, that especially in Piacenza is much appreciated.
7. Torta Caprese
Continuing with the next of the best Italian chocolate desserts, the Torta Caprese. There are many chocolate Italian dessert names on our list so make sure you check them all! As the name suggests, Torta Caprese originates from Capri, although it is not fully clear when did they start baking this dessert.
Some sources suggest that the cake was accidentally created in the 1920s when a baker forgot to add flour to the almond cake. Whether these speculations are true or not, the important part is that we now have one of the most loved authentic Italian desserts. The main ingredients which make it so crunchy are the almonds and as we have mentioned flour is not needed. The cake can be served with some whipped cream.
Let’s see another interesting sweetness on our Italian dessert names list! Semifreddo is quite an interesting Italian lemon dessert. Although the main ingredient is not lemon, this dessert can be quite versatile. Semifreddo means half-frozen and one of the first recipes was discovered in the 20th century.
Although it also resembles the classic French parfait. So, how is Semifreddo made then? This delicious dessert which is also served as one of the Italian Christmas desserts is whipped into a thick cream. As it is not quite an ice cream, but more like a cold dessert, the texture is pleasant and it can be flavored with anything. Whether that’s nuts, fruits, vanilla, or chocolate, Semifreddo is a treat!
Do you like a classic Italian custard dessert? You’re in for a treat with this Italian Zabaglione dessert. This sweet dish is also popular among the Italian Christmas desserts and Italian easter desserts. First of all, nobody knows where Zabaglione is from. It can be either from Tuscany, Piedmont, or Emilia-Romagna.
At least we know it is definitely one of the most popular Italian desserts and today loved by everyone. You only need 4 ingredients and those are eggs, sugar, Marsala wine, and some fruit or chocolate for decoration. It can also be served with ladyfingers.
Cassata is another Italian dessert you should definitely try! This colorful-looking dessert is delicious and it can be traced back to Palermo in the 10th century. It’s one of the easy Italian desserts to make and it was first mentioned in 1178. So what does it consist of? Although it doesn’t look like it, there is a sponge cake present.
The sponge is moistened with some liqueur or fruit juices, which is then layered with ricotta cheese and candied fruit. This filling is the same used for cannoli. The outside is white as it’s made of marzipan and some colorful icing. Very simple! Let’s move on to the next famous Italian desserts.
The next of the best Italian desserts on our list is called Bonet. What you need to know about Bonet is that it’s from the Piedmonte region which is also the region where the most famous chocolate is made in the whole of Italy.
Why did it make the list of most popular Italian desserts? I think the ingredients speak for themselves. Who doesn’t love any dessert made from chocolate and biscuits? The biscuits are amaretti cookies, combined with eggs, cocoa powder, sugar, milk, and rum. On top of this comes drizzled caramel.
12. Crema di Cogne
Crema di Cogne is probably one of the most simple and best Italian desserts out there. This sweet chocolate dish is typical in the Aosta Valley and it is very easy to make, yet the outcome is delicious. If you’re wondering which are authentic Italian desserts, this is one great example.
All you need to prepare this is some fresh cream, sugar, egg yolk, rum, chocolate, cocoa, and vanilla. If someone doesn’t like the taste of rum, they can just leave it out. Serve it in small bowls and with almond or hazelnut cookies.
13. Zuppa Inglese Emiliana
Don’t let the name confuse you, this is not a soup, but one of the famous Italian desserts made with a sponge cake. This dessert is popular in the Emilia Romagna region, hence the name Emiliana. Our beloved ladyfingers are used to prepare this, or alternatively, it can be made with sponge cake.
The ladyfingers are soaked in Alchemers (a type of Italian liqueur), then you put one layer of cocoa cream, then another layer of sponge or ladyfingers, and a layer of custard. Some variations include chocolate chips too. It’s mouthwatering!
Strudel is an Italian dessert that’s actually really popular in Central European countries such as Austria, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and of course in northern Italy. Basically, it’s famous in every country that once belonged to the Austro-Hungarian Empire and it also has ancient origins. The Strudel recipe was first written in the 17th century.
We should highlight here that while we named Strudel an Italian dessert, its origins are not Italian, as you could figure out from its name. Strudel is actually considered one of the national dishes of Austria, but as we said, it is widely popular on the territory of the once Austro-Hungarian Empire. In Italy, you can find traditional Strudel mainly in Trentino Altro Adige. Now, this dessert consists of a mixture of flour and eggs with a filling of raisins, pine nuts, cinnamon, and rennet apples from the area.
15. Pastiera Napoletana
We are almost at the end of our list of traditional Italian desserts and we now have to talk about the Pastiera Napoletana, or in other words a Neapolitan tart. Where is this tart from? Your guess is as good as ours. What we do know for sure is that the Pastiera Napoletana is good for every occasion.
The old recipe claims that while preparing the pastry, the ricotta is mixed with eggs or with grain, however, in a newer recipe the pastry is also mixed with a cream to make it softer. It does take a while to bake this, so make sure you have enough time. Pastiera Napoletana is also one of the Italian easter desserts and a highlight of Neopolitan pastries.
16. Piccola Pasticerria
When we think about our favorite small Italian dessert, as its name suggests, the Piccola Pasticceria is a top pick! This has to be my favorite of the most popular Italian desserts and traditional Italian desserts. I just love small pastries filled with cream, fruits, and jelly. The Piccola Pasticerria or small pastries are a famous assertation of tarts in Italy, but they are the most popular especially in the north.
The recipe is pretty much the same as the one for tarts, you’ll just have to put them in small forms as they are meant to be eaten with one or two bites. I think the best ones are with fruit and jelly, but the chocolate ones are also tasty. You will find plenty of these little deliciousnesses, especially in Milan!
When it comes to the most famous Italian dessert names you should know about, Panettone is definitely one! Panettone is one of the most famous Italian Christmas desserts also known in the whole world, not just in Italy. What is the legend behind this delicious dessert? Well, it is said that a Milanese baker fell in love with a woman who was walking past his bakery every day.
He worked day and night to create a loaf that smelled like vanilla just to lure the woman into the store. Where does the name come from? His name was Toni, so he named the loaf Pan di Toni, also known as Toni’s bread.
Of course, this is just a legend, but we still love it. In order to achieve the fluffy texture of the dough, there is a special way of baking a Panettone. You can recreate it at home if you have a bread maker, or just buy it in pastries from Italy! Italians are indeed usually buying it. They know which Panettone brand makes the best one, and they just simply buy them.
Pasticciotto is a favorite Italian dessert for many. Why? Everything that has cream in it is a favorite, isn’t it? Now, the Pasticciotto is a symbol of Salento pastry and one of the local dishes from Puglia that everyone should try. Well, not a dish but a dessert. The invention of Pasticciotto is credited to Andrea Ascalone, a chef in Galentina, in Lecce province.
Legend says that in 1745 he used ingredients left from full-sized cakes and he created a smaller cake that’ filled with custard cream and it’s baked in the oven. Though recent studies say that the Ascalone family wasn’t living in Galatina before 1787, the point anyway is, that this is a traditional pastry in the region of Puglia, that you should definitely try!
Sbrisolona is a really delicious and also easy and simple dessert from Northern Italy. This Italian dessert originates from Mantua, and it’s commonly produced and consumed in the Lombardy, Emilia Romagna, and Veneto regions.
Sbrisolona is made of flour, yellow flour, and sugar in equal parts. It’s indeed a sweet dessert. All these are mixed with plenty of butter too. The characteristic of this dessert is the cake that has an irregular consistency due to the fast processing and coarse cut of the almonds that are in and on the cake.
One of the best traditional Italian desserts in the Emilia Romagna region, specifically in the Ferrara area is the Tenerina. This is actually the first Italian dessert I ever tried after moving to Italy, and we did have Tenerina for dessert in a traditional Osteria in Ferrara. The name Tenerina means tender, but actually a little tender, like when you’re complimenting someone and you want to say it even sweeter.
Tenerina is made of a few ingredients only. It consists of dark chocolate mixed with eggs, butter, and flour. The peculiarity is given by the fact that the small crust forms on the outside, but inside Tenerina, the heart of the cake remains tender and creamy. The inside is really similar to a chocolate souffle, or a half-baked brownie.
21. Torta Pistocchi
Torta Pistocchi is one of those Italian dessert names that probably most of you didn’t hear about until now. When it comes to Italian chocolate desserts, well, Torta Pistocchi is the most loved chocolate cake in Italy for sure! Torta Pistocchi has a delicious consistency that’s difficult to describe except by throwing the clay out of the way (see Sara Porro).
This cake is the heaven of chocolate lovers! Torta Pistocchi was born in Florence, and it has a huge, 65% extra dark chocolate ganache. The cake was created by a skilled and not really sober Tuscan artisan chocolatier, and well, who said alcohol can’t help in great inventions? Torta Pistocchi is also available in the mignon version, as an emergency comfort food.
It’s time to head back to the south of Italy, and speak again about Neopolitan pastries! Babà is one of the most delicious Neopolitan pastries out there. An Italian dessert that if you’re in Naples, you must try without exception! Babà is an absolute classic dessert you can find all around Naples in pastry shops and bars.
This dessert is made with softly leavened dough, baked in the oven, and soaked in rum. It’s basically a sponge cake soaked in rum. Starts good, right? To top that taste, Babà is also filled with cream, which makes it even more perfect.
23. Granita Siciliana
The Granita Siciliana or simply just Granita is one of the best traditional Italian desserts. This is a delicious semi-frozen dessert that is made of sugar, water, and various flavors with fruits and not only. Granita is something like the sorbet, and it’s originating, and it’s also really popular around Sicily.
A smooth dessert that is almost like ice cream but it’s creamier and smoother, with a more crystalline texture. Granita is largely the result of different freezing techniques produced in gelato machines, and the coarser varieties are frozen with only occasional agitation. This is a Sicilian dessert that you definitely should not miss. And also make sure you check our list of Sicilian dishes!
Millefoglie is one of those less famous Italian desserts which Romans keep a secret. Scholars of pastry art in the most famous kitchens in Europe, the De Bellis brothers are the ones who create Rome the most delicious fried croissants, profiteroles, and mousses. After you had some Roman dishes, you can also go for Millefoglie, but it’s rather a breakfast pastry.
Cream puffs with firm and dry pasta, the freshest cream, and boldly whipped cream. Below that, a small caramelized crust lies that offers a hint of crunchiness. To enrich Millefoglie, a fabulous breakfast pastry, if you visit the Millefoglie bar, they’ll serve you the famous dessert in an express and personalized version according to your personal taste.
We’ll close our Italian dessert list with an Italian lemon dessert from Sardinia. Sebadas is indeed originating from the beautiful island of Sardinia, and it’s really popular around the island. This is a fried dessert made from semolina flour, water, lard, and lemon zest.
There’s also sour cheese inside, and they cover it with honey or sugar. A tiny and delicious cheese dessert for all of those who love cheese. And definitely something you must try if you’re in Sardinia!
Wrapping up the best traditional Italian desserts names
This concludes our list of best Italian desserts. By the end of this list, we hope you have found at least one dessert that you’ll want to try out right away, if not all. If you want more sweetness in your life, then try out the best Italian chocolate brands! Also, if you want some more traditional sweets, make sure you check our list of the best Italian pastries.