Italy is food, and food is Italy! Yes, we’ve said it! As we compiled this essential guide to some of the best Italian Pastries known…we really struggled.
What we mean by this is two-fold: Firstly, how does one go about choosing only ten? Next, of course, we had to sample these treats to be able to compile this article.
It was hard, but someone had to do it…before reading this article, we recommend that you visit an Italian bakery, also known as a forno first; otherwise, you might be tempted to leave mid-way. Take our word for it!
Cake your own day!
Before running to the bakery, we suggest that you go well-prepared for what you will find. Your nose will be your guide as the mouth-wateringly good smell of cakes, pastries, and biscuits will greet you for many blocks before you even reach your intended destination. And you can be rest assured it won’t be persona che fuma with their vape that smells like Italian cookies – no falsies…we promise!
When you reach the door, you will probably stop dead in your tracks. Great Cakespectations is the word! You will find yourself confronted by mountains of Italian desserts. Depending on where in Italy you may be at that point, but words like Cassata, Struffoli, and Cannoli, will roll off the baker’s tongue like quality Italian butter, as they tempt to seduce you with their baked Italian desserts.
In no specific order below, we will explore the various Italian pastry types on offer; you will be talking foreign in no time!
Polenta e osei
If ever you might be in the vicinity of Lombardy bordering the Veneto region, we strongly recommend that you try this unorthodox treat. The name literally means “polenta” and “roast birds.” This is a delicacy enjoyed in this region.
The bakery will pay homage to it by creating a little, bright yellow marzipan cake, and then decorating it with a chocolate bird on top.
Crostata ricotta e visciole
When you fancy a dessert that is both rich but also provides a bit of a sour bite to it, then this is one of the Italian pastries you have to try. It is encased in a shell of buttery, flaky Italian pastry dough. The filling consists of ricotta and layered sour cherries, giving a beautiful burst of unexpected color to the dish.
This Italian dessert is one of Tuscany’s best offerings. Essentially it is a donut that is enjoyed at any time of the day by the Italians. They can be found in Italian bakeries (pasticcerias) all over the country.
These little donut balls are coated with a film of sugar, and biting into them will reward you with a delectable creamy center of custard, cream, and even chocolate cream in some instances.
Upon entering a Sicilian bakery, you will be guaranteed to find Cassata. It is a soft, spongy cake that is laced with alcohol, filled with ricotta and candied fruit. It then receives a layer of marzipan, followed by icing – Italian style. The baker then completes their creation by adoring it with more candied fruit.
This Campinese pasty is affectionately known in the US as “lobster tails.” The reason for this is contributed to the shape of the pastries. Nuns invented the slightly salty pastry in a monastery.
They filled the layers with ricotta and candied fruit, creating a design that is well balanced and equally flavorsome.
Another great thing to come out of this region and a pastry that is much loved and very popular worldwide! The pastry dough is made, rolled out, and then wrapped around a piece of metal tubing.
It is then deep-fried and cooled down. Once the cooking process has been completed, the baker then fills it with sweet ricotta, and it is up to the bakers’ patrons’ preference as to whether the pasty is then topped with candied fruit peel, pistachios, or chocolate chips.
Italian Wedding Cookies
Region: Anywhere in Italy!
They are also known as Russian Tea Cakes, or (lols) butterballs! The name says it all. These delightfully airy biscuits are enjoyed at many an Italian festival and special occasion. The cookie melts in your mouth due to the quality of butter being used.
It is one of many easy Italian recipes to recreate at home, with many ingredients to be added to the base dough. For more on this interesting biscuit, read our in-depth article on Italian Wedding Cookies and how to make them.
Many different variations exist for this Italian pastry. Traditionally it was only served on the 21st March each year as part of the St. Joseph Festival.
The recipe consists of a fried dough ball with fillings such as custard, cream, jelly, or a combination of honey and butter.
Simplistic in its form and design, but make no mistake…it is up there amongst the favorites! The crust is heavenly creamy and moist because it is made with butter. A surprise burst of flavorsome pastry cream will greet you halfway in the middle.
Stand and queue for this to come out of the oven, as it is best consumed fresh from the oven.
Region: No one is really sure…
Every region in Italy appears to lay claim to the fact that they have created this pastry. It is known by many different names, as each region in Italy calls it something different. One of the best descriptions we have come across is “Angel Wings.”
This treat is typically described as a snack enjoyed during carnivals. The dough is cut into ribbons and then deep-fried. Once it has cooled completely, it is then dusted with powdered sugar.
They can be used very creatively for any occasion or celebration by adding in some alcohol for a good mix! Then you have yourself a very festive celebration indeed!
The final say
Are you salivating yet? We don’t blame you one bit! We can keep you here all day long. But you have probably stopped reading by now, and you are already queuing at the nearest Italian bakery!
Until next time… Goditi i tuoi dolci!