Italian food is known for its rich and decadent nature, and the Christmas food in Italy is no exception!
There is so much more to Italian desserts than well known fare such as cannoli and tiramisu, and this is even more so when it comes to desserts commonly associated with the festive season.
With this in mind, we are going to be looking at twenty authentic and delicious Italian desserts that are sure to add some Italian flair to your Christmas sweet treats! Let’s get started.
Struffoli is a popular Italian holiday dessert that is made up of rolled dough balls, all of which are around three quarters of an inch in diameter.
The dough balls are then deep friend until they are golden brown and crispy before they are traditionally assembled by being placed on top of one another in a pyramid or dome-like shape on the plate.
The dessert is then finished off with some sweet and tasty toppings such as sugar sand, sprinkled or even candied fruits.
If you are a chocolate lover, then this next Italian dessert is a must-try during the festive season!
This traditional treat is made up of chocolate along with fruits, nuts and honey, with the most common fruits being candied ones such as candied cherries, candied lemons, candied figs and candied oranges.
The nuts usually involved in the dessert include almonds, walnuts, and hazelnuts to name a few.
The dessert also includes a rich dark chocolate as well as honey for sweetness and cinnamon, ginger, pepper, cloves and nutmeg for some seasonal spice.
Also known as Pitta ‘Mpigliata, this Italian Christmas cake recipe has that traditional Italian dessert taste thanks to including various fruits and nuts in the fillings, such as raisins and orange.
This isn’t a choice of dessert for the kids, though, as the filling includes anisette liquor and whiskey and the dough features white wine!
Top off the cake with some sweet and colorful sprinkles and drizzle it with honey to offset the spiced nature of the dessert.
One of the more well-known Italian Christmas desserts, panettone cake, originated in Milan in Italy in the 1500s and classically features a fluffy cake or bread that is chock-full of candied fruits and nuts.
It is one of the most popular sweet treats to be found in Italy at Christmastime, thanks to the combination of sweetness with seasonal spices.
If you are a fan of the traditional Italian festive dessert flavors with nuts and fruits, then panettone is a must.
Otherwise known as Italian ricotta doughnuts, Zeppole are a light and sweet treat that are soft and velvety on the inside and crunchy on the outside.
These deep-fried sweet Italian pastry balls are a favorite in Italy thanks to their creamy ricotta cheese filling, though some variations of the recipe include custard and are topped off with an amarena cherry.
Finish off your Zeppole with some powdered sugar for dusting and to emphasize that festive look and taste.
6. Cannoli Cake
We all know the Italian pastry that is the cannoli, and the cake variation of the dessert is just as popular as the standard cannoli during the Christmas season.
This cake features a ricotta cheese filling- much like the pastry cannolis do- but they also feature semisweet chocolate chips scattered throughout as part of the ricotta filling.
The cake is then topped off with a whipped cream frosting, emphasizing that delicious sweetness.
Hazelnuts are a commonly used ingredient in festive Italian desserts, and this hazelnut chocolate cake is a decadent choice that is sure to please both chocoholics and lovers of that nutty yet sweet hazelnut taste.
The cake is made from the famous hazelnuts of the Piedmont region in Italy, whilst the cake as a whole has a deliciously fragrant cocoa aroma.
For a rich and decadent hazelnut and chocolate dessert, this cake is a must.
This short-crust cake combines dark chocolate drops with sweetened sheep’s ricotta cream to create a fantastic fusion of flavors.
Cassata is a popular dessert in Sicily during various occasions, such as Easter and Christmas.
This cake sometimes features candied fruits and marzipan, but this particular recipe opts for a simpler recipe, with pastry made from sugar, flour, egg yolks, butter, salt, and grated lemon peel, and ricotta cream made from powdered sugar, sheep ricotta, and chopped dark chocolate.
Susumelle are spiced biscuits that originate from the Calabria region in Southern Italy and are traditionally served up at Christmas.
Not only are these biscuits a tasty festive treat, but they are also very easy to bake if you are in the need of a Christmas dessert to make quickly.
The dark chocolate elements of the biscuits combine with the fruity elements- that come from the raisins and orange juice in the recipe- to create the ultimate Italian flavor.
Tiramisu is another popular Italian dessert that is known all over the world, and it is one that is often served during various celebrations, such as the holiday season.
This particular recipe only requires six ingredients and will give you a delicious, no-bake espresso-flavored treat that is sure to please coffee lovers at Christmas.
This creamy and melt-in-the-mouth dessert only requires mascarpone cheese, Italian ladyfinger biscuits, three egg yolks, unsweetened cocoa powder, and either strong coffee or cooled and brewed espresso to make.
Another authentic Italian dessert recipe that is popular during the seasonal period, this layered dessert features semifreddo- a frozen dessert that is similar to ice cream and is made up of sugar, cream, and egg yolks-, mascarpone cheese, and candied fruit loaf to create a delicious blend of tastes and textures.
The layers of fruit loaf contrast deliciously with the semifreddo, whilst the candied fruit offers a spiced, seasonal taste that is sure to be a pleasing treat during the festive season.
12. Panettone Bombe
This unique take on the aforementioned panettone, this panettone bombe is a showstopper that is sure to impress your guests at a Christmas get-together!
The dessert has an outer shell made up of rich and creamy chocolate.
Beneath the chocolate is a layer of panettone and within the panettone is delectable and creamy semifreddo, making for a fantastic combination of desserts in one bombastic dessert.
Pignoli are another traditional kind of Italian cookie that is commonly eaten at Christmas.
The main ingredient of these cookies is pine nuts, making for a great combination of sweetness and nuttiness.
The great thing about pignoli is that they are very easy to make and don’t need that many ingredients, those being confectioners sugar, all-purpose flour, unsalted butter, granulated sugar, vanilla extract, salt, and toasted pine nuts.
These cookies make for a great snack to bake for your guests at a Christmas party.
Whilst we are on the topic of Italian Christmas cookies, Toto cookies are also popular during the festive season in Italy and are known for their unique taste, combining chocolate chips with orange flavoring, cocoa, and walnuts.
These ingredients make for cookies that aren’t too sweet, but are still delicious.
The sweetness that the cookies do have comes from the chocolate orange glaze, but you can increase the sweetness if you so choose by adding on some colorful sprinkles.
15. Tiramisu Sud
For a unique and creative take on the traditional tiramisu during the Christmas season, then this tiramisu sud recipe is an excellent choice.
This recipe combines standard tiramisu with ricotta, yogurt, and candied capers to create a delicious and creative combination of flavors, with a creamy, coffee, citrusy and sweet taste all rolled into one dessert.
Want some more Italian cookies that make for great treats at Christmastime? Then try out these canestrelli cookies!
Typically known in the Liguria e Piemonte regions in Italy, there are all sorts of variations of this recipe, but they usually result in the same delicious taste and melt-in-the-mouth texture.
The icing sugar on top makes for an extra dash of sweetness, whilst the cookies in general have a light and airy feel to them.
These cookies are known for their prettiness, with a flower-like shape that offers a touch of elegance to any table during the festive season.
These next Italian Christmas treats are basically Italy’s take on the classic fig newton cookies, featuring a gooey and chewy fig based filled.
The cookies can then be made more festive and sweet by covering them in a tasty frosting and topping them off with sprinkles before dusting them with powdered sugar.
If you are a fan of fig newtons, then cuccidati are a must-try as a Christmas cookie.
Pizzelle cookies are instantly recognizable thanks to their shape, with a flat and geometric design- thanks to the pizzelle makers used to create them commonly featuring these kinds of shapes- that kind of make them look like flowers or snowflakes.
This is another classic Italian cookie that is highly versatile, and able to have a wide range of flavors such as chocolate, vanilla, or even anise.
These are a popular treat to snack on during Christmas, thanks to their versatility as well as the sweet, crispy, thin, and delicate nature of these wafer-like cookies.
This next dessert is from Sicily and is a traditional Italian dessert, otherwise known as ricotta fritters.
The Bacio di Pantelleria is a popular biscuit-like dessert that is very easy to make, as well as being perfect for a Christmas party.
All you need to make these fritters are milk, eggs, all-purpose flour, oil for frying, sugar, and ricotta cheese.
20. Zuppa Inglese
Translating to “English Soup”, the Zuppa Inglese isn’t actually a kind of soup! Instead, it is similar to a trifle in nature.
This trifle is made with biscuits or cookies that are soaked with your choice of liqueur (though Marsala wine is a popular choice to soak the biscuits) and layered alongside chocolate and custard fillings.
The dessert is then left in the fridge overnight to give it an almost cake-like texture but with added softness, making for a perfect Christmas dessert for the adults to indulge in!
Frequently Asked Questions
What Are The Most Popular Italian Desserts?
As mentioned, Italian desserts are all about rich flavors, many of which are deliciously sweet and creamy, and some of which feature various candied fruits and nuts.
Some of the most popular Italian desserts include tiramisu, panna cotta, ciambella, sfogliatella, cassata and cannoli to name a few.
So there you have twenty popular, authentic Italian desserts that are often enjoyed during the Christmas period.
No matter what your personal tastes might be in terms of desserts, you are sure to find an Italian dessert that you will love from our extensive list!