I’m usually not a sweets person (I prefer a large plate of pasta to the accompanying torta), but lately I have been in sweets mode. It must be the month of February in general and the holiday or Carnival. I’ve been thinking about which Italian desserts are my favorite and which I would recommend to the first time visitor to Italy. Here’s what I came up with.
This might be the king of Italian desserts, and it might be the easiest to get too. Most Italian cities have a gelato shop or two around every corner, and they have almost a religious zeal about which shop is the best throughout the city and who has the best recipes. To each their own, but honestly, I have never had a bad scoop of ice cream in Italy.
You will only find this dessert available around the time of Carnevale in February (so you might still be able to snag one or two). They’re usually a ball of fried dough mixed with some sort of fruit. Depending on the region, you can have multiple different kinds. While mostly made for children, there’s no reason you can grab some and take it down the street where the baker doesn’t have to see you eat it. It would be a shame not to grab because it’s only available around this time of year.
Probably my favorite of all the Italian sweets, this one is hard to beat after a large meal. Whipped cream and light ladyfingers drenched in liquor makes this treat one that should probably be consumed in a restaurant because it is so technical. Recipes for this wonder usually are passed down from family member to family member. For the most authentic taste, duck into a trattoria for the full dining experience.
A kind of think pudding usually accompanied with a kind of fruit and made with honey and egg whites, it’s almost gelatin-like in texture. You can find some in the grocery stores throughout Italy, but like tiramisu, the best you are going to find is at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant where it’s made fresh and according to a special recipe. It literally means cooked cream.
To finish off a giant meal, Tuscans won’t let you leave without a little bit of digestivo, or a digestive drink. Limoncello is one of the sweetest, and again, it’s an art to make. Many will tout their stores, but don’t go for any that isn’t bright yellow. That means that they used the most lemons possible to create the best flavor. It’s a delicious way to end an evening.
Do you have a favorite Italian dessert? How about a dessert from another locale?