The French may have souffles and Mexicans have churros, but there’s a reason our readers go wild for Italian desserts when they see them on Instagram. Whether you’re craving silky (panna cotta), frosty (granita), creamy (gelato), boozy (tiramisù), crunchy (biscotti) or foamy (zabaglione), there’s a sweet treat from the Olde World that’s right up your alley.
Here are some of our favorites to consider for your next dinner party or weeknight meal.
Panna cotta, you dreamboat. It’s one of the easiest make-ahead desserts there is, and we have seven ways to make it your own, from chocolate to cherries. Italian for “cooked cream,” the silky custard employs a bit of gelatin in order to set. That generally means you can make a big batch of it in advance and have folks scoop their own to order. For a more formal, white-tablecloth affair, simply let portions set in individual ramekins.
A dessert for which the word “unctuous” was coined? Maybe so. Gelato is the sensuous sibling of ice cream, typically made with more milk, less cream, and fewer egg yolks, if any. It’s a snap to make, and our half dozen recipes encompass pistachio (both with and without chocolate), lemon, chocolate and olive oil varieties. Time to break out that ice cream machine.
If your only experience with biscotti has been at a mediocre café, please allow us to re-introduce you. Done right, this European favorite can be a dessert on its own, no coffee required, especially when drizzled in chocolate and studded with almonds, as seen here. It is remarkably simple to make in less than an hour, and just the thing to bowl everyone over at the PTA or work meeting.
There is arguably no dessert so refreshing as granita. The frozen treat originated in Sicily, and is no more than ice with flavorings. It’s as easy as it sounds to make your own, whether spiked with fresh watermelon and basil, grapefruit and grenadine, or Sauternes and lemon, as seen here. (Granita is particularly liquor-friendly.)
You may be more familiar with its French sibling, Sabayon. Zabaglione, an ethereally foamy, sweet substance, is a wonderful way to showcase the fruits of the season. Our recipes for it tend to pair it with spirits and stone fruit (like Marsala and nectarines, as shown here). Although it’s not hard to make, it tends to knock the socks off guests.
Oh, tiramisù. What’s tastier than you? Whether you like yours frozen, topped with cocoa, or swirled with chocolate sabayon, there’s a recipe for every fan. Traditionally a mix of ladyfinger cookies, mascarpone, a splash of rum, and that dusting of chocolate, it’s a divinely satisfying dessert. There’s just something about that particular mix of ingredients on a spoon that makes it abundantly clear why “tiramisù” means “pick-me-up” in Italian.