The Christmas holidays are around the corner, and Italian Christmas desserts would make them memorable. Many families usually have favorite Italian Christmas cookies and Christmas desserts that they enjoy during holidays. However, if you’d like to surprise your family with something different this Christmas, then you’re in the right place.
Here, you’ll learn about five unique Italian Christmas desserts and how to prepare them. Italians are renowned for their recipes that blend both taste and tradition. These Christmas dessert recipes are straightforward, and you wouldn’t have a challenge in the preparation thereof. Read further to find out more.
5 Italian Christmas Desserts You Should Try
The Panettone is a classic Italian cake eaten mostly during Christmas and New Year celebrations. The sweet bread fruit loaf has a dome shape and is made by mixing raisins, candied orange, citron, and lemon zest. Ughetto Atellani is believed to have made the first Panettone prototype in the 15th century. His idea has now turned into a well-known Christmas desert. You can enjoy the cake on its own or with chocolate.
- 1 package dry yeast (1/4 ounce)
- ½ cup of warm water (110 – 115 degrees F)
- ½ cup flour
- 2/3 cup golden raisins
- ¼ cup grappa, brandy, or orange liqueur
- 8 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
- 2 eggs
- 4 egg yolks
- ¾ cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 3 ½ to 4 cups flour
- Grated zest of 1 orange
- Grated zest of 1 lemon
- ½ cup chopped candied citron or orange peel
- To prepare the starter dough or sponge, dissolve the yeast in ½ cup warm water in a bowl. Add ½ cup flour and stir to make a very loose dough. Cover the bowl with a plastic cover and kitchen towel and leave it in a warm place to rise for at least 6 hours or preferably overnight.
- Mix the raisins and liqueur in another bowl and leave them to soak overnight or for at least 6 hours.
- Mix the butter, eggs, yolks, sugar, and vanilla extract in a large bowl using an electric stand mixer’s paddle.
- Drain the soaked raisins using a strainer set over the bowl. Press the raisins with a spoon to extract as much liquid as possible, then add the liquid to the egg mixture. Add the starter dough and mix well.
- Add 2 cups of flour and combine the mixture well. Add another cup of sugar and mix until a soft dough forms. If you are working with an electric stand mixer, switch to the dough hook and knead the dough for around 5 minutes until smooth and elastic.
- Butter a large bowl and place the dough in it and turn once to cover both sides with the butter. Cover with a plastic wrap and leave for 6 hours to rise.
- Butter and flour a Panettone mold or any other mold 6 inches tall and 7 inches wide. If you’re using paper Panettone mold, you don’t need to grease it.
- Punch down the dough and move it onto a lightly floured surface. Flatten the dough into a rectangle using your hands, then evenly distribute the orange and lemon zest, raisins, and citron over the dough.
- Fold the dough into half to enclose the fruit and knead to distribute the fruit throughout the dough.
- Put the resulting dough in the mold and cover with a kitchen towel and leave it for 45-60 minutes to rise. The dough should rise slightly above the mold.
- Preheat the oven to about 375 degrees F. cut an X at the top of the dough with a sharp knife and bake for 15 minutes.
- Reduce the heat to 350 degrees F and continue baking for 40-50 minutes or until the skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
- Put the bread on a rack and leave it to cool for 30 minutes before removing from the mold.
Pandoro, translated as Golden Bread, is originally from Verona. This traditional Italian cake is usually baked in an eight-pointed star shape. So, if you want to be a star this Christmas, you’ve got to try the Pandoro. The cake is usually golden in color, and it is believed that if you use fresh eggs, the color becomes more golden. You can enjoy the cake with Mascarpone or whipped cream. Melted chocolate is also a great choice. The origins of the Pandoro can be traced back to the 18th century when it was a favorite for the local aristocracy. Presently, it is enjoyed by everyone.
Biga or Sponge
- ¼ cup of warm water (around 105 to 115 degrees F.)
- 1 package dry yeast (1/4 ounce)
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 egg yolk
- ½ cup flour
- 4 ½ – 5 cups flour
- 7 egg yolks
- ¾ cup sugar
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
- ½ cup water
- 1 egg
- Grated zest of 1 large lemon
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
- ½ cup apricot jam
- Confectioners’ sugar
- To make the sponge, put the warm water in a bowl and add the yeast, sugar, egg yolk, and flour, then stir. Once well mixed, cover it with a plastic wrap and place it in a warm place.
- Let the sponge rise for about 1 hour until the size doubles.
- To make the dough use a large mixing bowl. In the bowl, mix 4 egg yolks, ½ cup of sugar, butter, and water and beat on low speed to combine the ingredients.
- Add the sponge and keep beating to combine.
- Slowly add 3 cups of the flour, one cup at a time, mixing well after every additional cup. Increase the mixer’s speed to medium-low and beat the dough for around 3-4 minutes until the dough is soft and sticky.
- Lubricate a large bowl with butter, add the dough, and cover with a plastic wrap followed by a kitchen towel and let it rest in a warm place for about 2 hours for it to rise.
- Create a hole at the center of the dough and add 1 ½ cups of flour, the remaining 3 egg yolks, the whole egg, the remaining ¼ cup sugar, lemon zest, and optional vanilla extract.
- Knead the dough to combine the ingredients. Then, transfer it to a lightly floured surface and knead for around 5 minutes until the dough is smooth. You can add extra flour if necessary.
- Place the dough in a sizeable lubricated bowl, turn to coat the dough and cover it with a plastic wrap and a kitchen towel. Let it rise for around 2 hours.
- Butter 6 x 9-inch Pandoro molds. Divide the dough into halves and form each half into a ball. Put each ball into the prepared mold and cover with a towel. Let it rise for 1 ½ hour or until the dough has risen ¾ of the way up the length of the molds.
- Preheat the oven to around 375 degrees F. Bake the loaves for 30-35 minutes or until tops are brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Leave the bread in the pans for 10 minutes to cool, then remove bread from the molds and let them cool completely on wire racks.
To serve your Pandoro, heat the apricot jam to melt it, then apply to the bread. Then, sprinkle with the confectioners’ sugar. This simple-to-prepare recipe should be on the list of traditional Christmas desserts you should try this Christmas. You can serve your Pandoro with whipped cream, cherry sauce, or Mascarpone topping.
The Panforte is among the authentic Italian desserts made with fruit, nuts, honey, spices, and almonds. The name Panforte translates to “Strong Bread” and is believed to have originated from Siena in the 13th century. According to the historians, the Panforte was used as payment for monks and nuns of the local monastery in 1205.
The recipe is straightforward, and it would be best to top it with some icing sugar to achieve the Wintery dusting. Some variations to this Italian Christmas desserts include:
- Panforte Nero – a darker version with an underlying taste of almonds.
- Panforte Margherita – a lighter and more delicate version originally invented by Enrico Righi in the 19th century.
- ½ cup walnuts, halved
- ½ cup whole almonds
- ½ cup hazelnuts
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts
- ½ cup candied orange peel
- 1/3 cup raisins
- Grated zest of 1 large orange
- 2/3 cup flour
- 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 1 ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
- Pinch of salt
- 2/3 cup honey
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons water
- Confectioners’ sugar for dusting
- Mix the walnuts, almonds, and hazelnuts in a large bowl. Reserve 1 cup of the mixed nuts in the bowl and coarsely chop the remaining nuts, returning them into the bowl. Add the pine nuts, candied orange peel, raisins, and orange zest.
- In another bowl, mix the flour, cocoa powder, chopped chocolate, and all the spices. Add the flour mixture to the fruits and nuts. Toss to coat evenly.
- Preheat the oven to around 325 degrees F. Grease a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom.
- Combine the honey and granulated sugar in a saucepan and boil the mixture. Lower to a simmer and cook for 2 minutes, stirring continually. Remove from heat and mix in the water.
- Pour the hot syrup over the fruit and nut mixture and stir to coat everything evenly. The resulting batter is very thick.
- Pour the mixture into the tart pan you had prepared and bake for 30-35 minutes or until the center is firm.
- Cool while still in the tart pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Remove the side ring from the pan and let it cool completely.
- Dust the top of the tart generously with confectioners’ sugar before serving. With a sharp knife, cut your Panforte into thin wedges.
You can wrap and store your Panforte for several days at room temperature. You’ll find it tastes even better a day or two after baking when it has had time to age and deepen the sweet, zesty savor. Therefore, it would be best to prepare it two days before your Italian Christmas dinner.
These are mouth-watering fritters originally from Calabria. They are also known as Turdilli or Turdiddri. It was served during the traditional Italian Christmas dinner by the Calabrians. Others served the tasty snack before the big day. You’ll need some alcohol in the preparation of the Tordilli. Once you taste one, there is no stopping.
For the pasta Fresca
- 3 eggs
- 300g all-purpose flour
For the filling
- 40g of grated parmesan cheese
- 40g of grated pecorino cheese
- 150g of minced beef
- 150g of minced pork
- 50g mortadella
- 2 eggs
- Parsley, thyme
- Salt to taste
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 100g crumb
For the filling
- Sauté the oil, all the meat, and thyme in a pan for about 10 minutes, stirring with a spoon. Remove your pan from the heat and let it cool.
- Grind the cooked meat with the mortadella, then put the mixture in a bowl and add cheese, the eggs, pepper, salt, parsley, and the crumb soaked in the meaty gravy and squeezed. Mix them all together.
For the pasta
- Pour the flour on a wooden working surface and make a hole in the middle. Add the eggs and knead for about 10 minutes using your fingertips. Knead until the dough begins to form a smooth and silky texture. Cover it with a damp, clean towel and leave it for around 2 hours.
- Slice a piece of the dough and flatten it a bit. Roll it into a thin sheet with a pasta maker-machine. Repeat until the dough is silky, then decrease the setting slowly until the thickness is 0.04 inches.
- Dust the working surface with some flour, put the sheet on the table, and dust with flour. Put dollops of the filling on it.
- Cover it with a pasta sheet and use a round pastry cutter to cut them in circles of 5 cm in diameter. Seal the edges of the pasta firmly and ensure you press out all the air.
- Dust the tordelli with some flour to prevent them from sticking together.
- Fill a pot with water and bring it to a boil for 5 minutes. Add salt, then the tordelli. Cook for 3-4 minutes, occasionally stirring until the tordelli rises to the surface and are al dente.
- Drain the tordelli and mix them with ragu’ and finish with the grated parmesan.
The Struffoli is the snack of choice if you want to decorate your Christmas tree. Struffoli is a Neapolitan delicacy that is usually light and has colorful sprinkles. They are cooked by means of deep-frying and can be mixed with honey or any other sweet ingredient of your choice.
- 400g flour type 00
- 3 organic eggs
- 80g melted and cooled butter
- 40g granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoon limoncello or anise liquor/orange liquor
- 1 orange, the zest
- 1 lemon, the zest
- 1 leveled teaspoon baking powder
- Pinch of salt
- 600-700 ml peanut oil
- 250-300g acacia honey
- 1 tablespoon icing sugar
- 3 tablespoon sprinkles
- Some candied fruits
- Some sugar pearls
- Melt the butter and let it cool. Add sugar and limoncello in a small bowl.
- Use a big bowl to mix flour, baking powder, a pinch of salt, and the orange and lemon zests.
- Put in the melted butter and sugar/limoncello mixture.
- Use a wooden spoon to mix everything until the mixture is consistent.
- Create a hole at the center, add the eggs, and mix with the wooden spoon until smooth.
- Shape the mixture into a ball, cover with a plastic wrap, and leave it to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
- After the 30 minutes has elapsed, cut a slice of the dough about 1 cm thick and roll it into a long piece of rope with a diameter of around 1 cm.
- Cut the rope into pieces around 1 cm big using a sharp knife. Shape each piece into a ball using the palm of your hands.
- Heat the peanut oil in a small pan around 18 cm diameter on medium heat.
- Cook a few dough balls at a time using a wire mesh colander spoon for around 30-40 seconds. Don’t let the balls brown too much.
- Once the balls are cooked, lay them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Once they are drained, place them in a big bowl.
- In another small pan, melt the acacia honey and icing sugar. Stir continually as you melt.
- Take it off the heat, then add to the Struffoli in the bowl. Add half of the sprinkles and stir. Make sure all the Struffoli are coated. Add some of the candied fruit and mix.
- Place them in a serving bowl before the honey hardens, shaping them into your preferred shape. You can make them into a pyramid, wreath, or Christmas tree.
- Add more sprinkles, candied fruits, and sugar pearls.
The Struffoli can last for up to one week at room temperature. They can be used for around 8-10 servings at the Italian Christmas dinner. It takes 1 ½ hour to prepare this Italian Christmas dessert.
As you plan your traditional Italian Christmas dinner, it would be a great idea to incorporate these fantastic Christmas dessert recipes. They are easy to prepare, and the ingredients are readily available. Happy holidays! Well, in advance.