7 Desserts Which Have Italian Origins, From Cannoli To Amaretto

Unlike French desserts which are famed for their delicate crusts and skilful finish, Italian desserts are known for the balance in their textures. Most Italian desserts are simply made by assembly; like the homely tiramisu, which features layers of espresso-soaked ladyfinger biscuits, creamy mascarpone cheese, and a dusting of cocoa powder. This luscious dessert strikes the perfect balance of sweetness and bitterness, making it a favourite finale to any Italian meal. 

Similarly, panna cotta and affogato are more examples of desserts which are simple in premise but can offer elevated flavours. Italian desserts tend to let their ingredients shine and most Italian desserts are not made with dense or heavy ingredients like heavy cream or ganache, since they usually exude a sense of airiness. Here are some popular desserts which are Italian in origin.


Hailing from Sicily, cannoli are iconic Italian pastries known for their crisp shells and creamy fillings. These tube-shaped delights are traditionally filled with sweetened ricotta cheese and often studded with chocolate chips, candied fruit, or chopped nuts. Cannoli can vary in size, from bite-sized treats to larger, more indulgent versions, but each one offers a satisfying crunch followed by a creamy burst of flavour.


Italy's answer to ice cream, gelato is a beloved frozen dessert that has captured the hearts of sweet enthusiasts around the world. Made with milk, sugar, and various flavourings, gelato boasts a smoother and denser texture than traditional ice cream, thanks to its slower churning process. With flavours ranging from classic options like chocolate and vanilla to more adventurous combinations such as pistachio, stracciatella, and hazelnut, gelato offers a wonderful umami-rich flavour in every scoop.

Panna Cotta

The north Italian panna cotta is a creamy and elegant dessert that translates to "cooked cream." This silky-smooth treat is made by simmering cream, sugar, and gelatin until thickened, then poured into moulds and chilled until set. Panna cotta can be served plain or topped with a variety of accompaniments, such as fresh berries, fruit coulis, or a drizzle of caramel sauce, adding a burst of flavor and color to this classic dessert.


Zabaglione, also known as zabajone or sabayon, is a light and airy dessert custard with origins in the Piedmont region. Made with egg yolks, sugar, and sweet Marsala wine, zabaglione is whipped over a gentle heat until thick and creamy. This delicate custard can be enjoyed on its own or served as a topping for fresh fruit, berries, or sponge cake, adding a touch of elegance to any dessert spread.


A simple yet indulgent dessert, affogato combines two Italian classics: espresso and gelato. This delightful treat features a scoop of creamy gelato "drowned" in a shot of hot espresso, creating a harmonious blend of rich coffee flavour and velvety smoothness. Affogato can be enjoyed as a refreshing pick-me-up on a hot day or as a luxurious after-dinner treat that satisfies both coffee and dessert cravings in one delightful sip.

Torta della Nonna

In English, this dessert means, ‘grandmother's cake,’ and torta della nonna is a classic Italian dessert that originated in Tuscany. This rustic yet elegant pastry features a tender crust filled with creamy custard and topped with pine nuts and powdered sugar. The custard filling is typically flavoured with lemon zest or vanilla, adding a refreshing citrusy note to each bite. Torta della nonna is a timeless dessert that evokes memories of home and family gatherings, making it a cherished treat for generations.

Amaretti Cookies

These traditional Italian almond cookies are beloved for their crisp exterior and chewy interior, as well as their distinct almond flavour. Made with almond flour, sugar, and egg whites, amaretti cookies are often flavoured with almond extract or amaretto liqueur, adding depth to their sweet and nutty taste. These delightful cookies are perfect for dunking in espresso or enjoyed on their own as a sweet accompaniment to afternoon tea or coffee.