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Dessert Italian Style

My boss has thrown down the dessert gauntlet for our divisions' annual summer function.

As part of the affair, each department has been requested to bring 2-3 desserts, serving 25-30, that are Italian in theme or style. The department will decide which desserts to submit for blind judging (i.e. the judges are not from the division and won't know who, or which department submitted each dessert)

My baking and dessert skills are good to very good and as the Director of Food Service I'm pretty sure my department will be looking to me to provide a dessert.

Hit me with your best Italian dessert ideas. Recipe links appreciated

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  1. I could not begin to advise you, but I've wanted this book for a while
    it might be a start.

    1 Reply
    1. re: blue room

      Yes, that book is fabulous, and the cover recipe is for a watermelon tart with pistachios. You can't do much better than that!

    2. Make a "deconstructed peanut butter and jelly" gelato flyte.

      A peanut gelato, a strawberry gelato and a Grape Nuts gelato.

      Serve a scoop of each in a gelato flyte, as a deconstructed PB&J gelato.

      4 Replies
        1. re: DiningDiva

          For something like cannolis you can certainly use a small cooler to pack your filled pastry bags in until it's time to pipe the shells.....not that difficult. And just think you will be the only clever one who bought in a cool creamy dessert!

          1. re: DiningDiva

            Hey it just occurred to me -- if you are Director of Food Service at a company with multiple divisions, and your boss wants an Italian dessert contest, shouldn't the company provide refrigeration of some kind

            1. re: blue room

              The facility in which her summer fling is taking place doesn't have refrigeration (other than A/C). We're catering it from another facility about 8 miles away

        2. Mini amaretto cheesecakes
          Chocolate cannolis
          Tiramisu pudding with espresso whipped cream
          Chocolate espresso granita
          Pineapple chunks soaked in Sambuca
          Better yet, flaming pineapple chunks soaked in Sambuca!

          6 Replies
          1. re: Dirtywextraolives

            Cannoli is already plural and does not need an 's' at the end. A single one is a cannolo.

            Vivi, ama, ridi e specialmente mangia bene (Live, love, laugh and especially eat well).

              1. re: ChiliDude

                And I bit my tongue from saying this...please admire my restraint! ha

                  1. re: sandylc

                    I know that I have become pedantic about the Italian language, but it is such a beautiful language that I brings on tears when it is not correctly spoken. Unfortunately, my restraint is lacking much to the suffering of my wife who is of Italian heritage whom I too often embarrass.

                    I miei antenati non erano italiani (My ancestors were not Italian).

                    All the misspelling of 'capocollo' are my pet peeve. It is a delicious salumi (cured meat) that I cringe when I see 'capicola' and other misspellings.

                    Mi dispiace tutti (I apologize everyone).

              2. being from an I-A family where "everything" was from scratch dessert was usually bought - pastries and baked goods were aside from some regional family dishes not ever made at home

                EXCEPT COOKIES

                Italian holiday cookies are so awesome and often homemade - I am partial to pine nut and ones with lemon frosting but there are so many

                4 Replies
                  1. re: DiningDiva

                    If you're thinking cookie route, one of my favorites is the rainbow cookie:


                    1. re: chowser

                      That one is always a hit. And it keeps very well, too.

                  2. A giant cake in the shape of a horse's head, complete with "blood" at the neckline. Winner, winner, chicken dinner!

                    1 Reply
                    1. Cookies!!!! And more cookies!!!

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Boccone Dolce

                        These are my favorite cookies in the universe

                        1. re: Boccone Dolce

                          This is a great cookie! I make them small and round these days.

                        2. So not Italian but you could make it "Italian Theme" by making in the shape of Italy instead of a circle . . . ..

                          Paris Brest - best dessert ever if made well.

                          1. Rats about the lack of refrigeration. I was going to suggest a tiramisu icebox cake - no bake, creamy deliciousness.

                            1. Nothing heroic, but Italian and easy.
                              We're having an Italian dinner Sunday for 25 and we're going the easy and delicious way (easy and delicious being my style rather than from-scratch baking).
                              Cookie platters courtesy of Trader Joe, the soft bites biscotti in two flavors and Lacey cookies, dark chocolate.
                              If you wanted to splash out on one more, there are Italian olive oil pound cakes (I found my recipe on a Berio olive oil label) that are easy enough for even me to bake them. Not too sweet, just right, with wonderful keeping texture, and that little bit unusual. Serve 'em with summer fruit, whether berries or peaches. Genuine Italian!

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: BerkshireTsarina

                                I love cherries simmered in red wine (add sugar and a cinnamon stick) alongside a slice of pound cake. A dollop of lightly sweetened mascarpone over the top is nice.

                              2. Cannoli with chocolate chips and chopped pistachios
                                gelato (get special cold packs to hold till service)
                                zabaglione with summer berries
                                biscotti, homemade
                                torta alla mandorle

                                1. Olive Oil Cake served with fresh berries and marscapone?

                                  4 Replies
                                      1. re: Cherylptw

                                        Marscapone is a cheese. I believe you were thinking of Moscato, the sweet wine.

                                        1. re: Bigley9

                                          But it's a cheese the way sour cream or creme fraiche are cheeses, and can be eaten with cake and berries.

                                      1. that lack of refrigeration could be a problem for a lot of italian desserts. So, i searched for Lidia Cake Recipes and found a whole bunch. including this one:

                                        I know she's posted recipes for olive oil cakes, and for orange cakes as well

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: jiffypop

                                          An olive oil cake served with macerated fresh berries would be great. The strawberries/basalmic/black pepper combo is one of my favorites

                                          1. everything i've made from the gina de palma book "dolce italiano" is amazing. the ricotta pound cake (i make my own ricotta for this which i'm sure you're more than capable of) is excellent. she has several other cake and cookie recipes. i also use the italian cookie recipes from nancy silverton's "pastries from the la brea bakery." the pignoli cookie and italian macaroons are very good. the hazelnut baci from david lebovitz' website would be another great addition to a cookie platter.

                                            1. I have a recipe for lady fingers, mascarpone cheese, cocoa. It is not sweet at all but is rather rich. Do you want it?

                                              1. Ripe summer peaches sliced into glasses of good red wine. Simple, my nonno's favorite, and seasonal.

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: pinehurst

                                                  That's exactly what I thought of because my mother always served freshly picked in red wine, tho sometimes in prosecco, instead of a rich pastry. That was for later with espresso.

                                                  1. re: Gio

                                                    Perfetto! I'll have to try them with prosecco. A little like a Bellini? Sounds great!

                                                    1. re: pinehurst

                                                      We always seem to be on the same page pinehurst. I like that.

                                                  1. Wow, I picture a beautiful tray/platter with rows of Rainbow Cookies; Almond Horns, but made small and round; and mini Biscotti.

                                                    1. DiningDiva. I just bought "Marcella's Italian Kitchen' and I am looking at the recipes for desserts-some sound outstanding, but I cannot find them published online :(.

                                                      Examples-chocolate cake with raisins and pine nuts pg 303
                                                      Angle Hair noodles and almond pie pg 304
                                                      Riso Nero-black Rice Cake pg 310

                                                      If you have this book, great...if not, I am not sure what to do because moderators often take even my paraphrased recipes off. These recipes sound fantastic, different, and very Italian.

                                                      3 Replies
                                                      1. re: jill kibler

                                                        Thanks JK. I've been known to sit in a bookstore and copy recipes I like. Could do that if I can find the cookbook and recipes I like

                                                        1. re: DiningDiva

                                                          Will paraphrase (moderators say it is fine and that my memory of them taking them off is mistaken) if any or all sound good! The black rice cake is black because of espresso and chocolate!

                                                          1. re: DiningDiva

                                                            My favorite use of a smart phone - just photograph the recipe!

                                                        2. I do love Italy and Italian food, but I have to say they are not really "know" for their desserts. While many of them taste great (peaches in wine is one of my favorites mentioned above), they are usually very simple. I don't think that is a negative in "real life" but if you're looking to Wow in a competition they don't typically have that wow factor. They more often rely on a great ingredient, often seasonal, which like I said is great but a competition dessert needs more than that. (Of course all IMHO).

                                                          Do you want to stay traditional Italian or "Italian inspired" as mentioned in your OP?

                                                          (I imagine I'm going to get pummeled for this one but I stand by it …)

                                                          1. What about an almond torte? Either the one from Joy of Cooking or one that uses canned almond paste, which is what I generally use. I had my first taste of almond torte in Italy, so it always seems Italian to me. Also, the Queen of Sheba torte from JOC, or other chocolate almond torte. I usually serve these with almond flavored sweetened whipped cream, but they do fine on their own. You could maybe bring the cream already whipped in a cooler? You could do either of these with hazelnuts, too. Yum. Now I want to make one.

                                                            1. No refrigeration? Almond biscotti (cantucci), anise bicotti, bowls of fresh fruit and melon, some good gelato in a cooler, bottles of Marsala, moscato, and a vin santo. That's Italian.

                                                              1. ZABAGLIONE...over an assortment of fresh berries.

                                                                1. Here's a link to some recipes from "Organic Tuscany Cookbook"


                                                                  I haven't made anything yet so can't vouch for any of the recipes, but it may give you some ideas.

                                                                  1. Make Italian Guanti's, you'll easily defeat the other departments and possibly score a raise!

                                                                    5 Replies
                                                                    1. re: treb

                                                                      Oh yeah. If there are effort grades involved, for sure. Only one of my aunts would ever attempt "Wandi" (our weird Neapolitan pronunciation).

                                                                      1. re: pinehurst

                                                                        That's where I'm from, right on phonetics PH.

                                                                      2. re: treb

                                                                        How do these hold up after frying, as I'm not going to be able to do that right before the function. I'd have to do it Sunday and transport

                                                                        1. re: DiningDiva

                                                                          Treb, excuse me for jumping in. Not bad, but you don't want to bang them around during transport too much...and, as with most delicate fried things, eating them fresher is better. If my aunt was cooking for the next day, she'd sub anisette for the water in the recipe (not everyone loves the taste of anisette, though), and of course, wait to add the powdered sugar. Excellent with espresso.

                                                                          1. re: DiningDiva

                                                                            You'll be a hero, they hold up well, just pack them loose as they are a little delicate. My aunts used bake the day before and to bring boxes to weddings all the time.

                                                                        2. Hey DD. .

                                                                          Momofuku Milk Bar Pistachio Layer Cake

                                                                          Almond Pistachio Nougat

                                                                          Roasted pears, brie and pistachios

                                                                          Cassata cakes

                                                                          Donut holes filled with a pistachio cream and sprinkled with pistachios

                                                                          Costco has $5 pistachio gelato by the pint at certain locations in SD...good served with some Italian cookies with chocolate ganache and rolled half in pistachios.

                                                                          Can you see I'm on a pistachio kick..
                                                                          I am half Italian and Swedish!
                                                                          ; )

                                                                          5 Replies
                                                                          1. re: Beach Chick

                                                                            That pistachio layer cake looks killer. I will have to make that, but not this weekend :-)

                                                                            I'd already seen the F&W recipe for the mini cassata cakes and that's a real possibility.

                                                                            Right now I'm leaning towards doing the limoncello tiramisu, mostly because I've got some limoncello I need to use up before I move :-)

                                                                            1. re: DiningDiva

                                                                              Is tiramisu (traditional or otherwise) going to be a problem with no refrig available?

                                                                              1. re: pinehurst

                                                                                Make it Sunday, transport it Monday to my kitchen doing the catering and put it in the fridge there. It arrives when they arrive with the food. From there on out, it won't be refrigerated, but it also won't melt like gelato ;-)

                                                                              2. re: DiningDiva

                                                                                Limoncello tiramisu sounds fantastic. .

                                                                                TJ's has a very good Limoncello and that reminds me to take it out of my freezer and enjoy this weekend.
                                                                                Concur that the Momofuku pistachio cake looks sublime...report back when you make that bad boy!

                                                                                Also, on how well you did and took the trophy and all the glory..Cinderella story.

                                                                              3. re: Beach Chick

                                                                                Great, now I want some pistachio ice cream. That Momofuku has to be lethal.

                                                                              4. I would make Pesche Con Crema. I have never made them, I have never eaten them, but this is a contest and I would go for the win.

                                                                                I saw these in an Italian bakery in Hartford, CT. I've never seen them in another bakery. I kicked myself on the way home for not having bought one to try it. I think they are beautiful! Here are a couple of recipes I found online. If you like the idea I would look up several recipes and find one that seems to be the best. While they do have pastry cream I think they would be fine if held at your catering area until time for the party. I bet they could sit outside for a while without a problem.



                                                                                1. I'm a sucker for Ricotta filled Zeppoles with a dusting of powdered sugar and a cherry on top!

                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                  1. re: Infomaniac

                                                                                    Those would go really well with my coffee right now. But I'll just visualize them. :-(