Italy is famous for its food such as unique kinds of pasta, delicious pizzas, world-class cheeses, and incredible wine. Italian cuisine has a lot to offer but don’t forget their bread, pies, and pastries. When you walk into a well-stocked Italian bakery, you find dozens of different loaves of bread, pies, pastries, cakes, cookies, etc. Most of them will look alike but they taste different. Sometimes, their names are even unpronounceable.
When it comes to Italian bread, focaccias and ciabattas are the usual ones. Other than these two, several varieties of Italian bread are famous among consumers. Eating in Italy is magical, especially when it comes to desserts like pies and pastries. In the past, the traditional Italian desserts were only available in their specific regions but now you will find them everywhere. Now Cannoli and Sfogliatella are not only limited to Sicily and Naples but they are everywhere.
Best Italian Breads
Focaccia is a yeast-baked flat Italian bread. It is similar in texture and style to pizza but in some places, it is known as Pizza Bianca or White Pizza. Focaccia can be served as a side dish or in slices of bread. The shape of focaccia can vary from round to square or rectangular shape.
The simplest styles of focaccia are drizzled with olive oil and topped with herbs. Also, meats and vegetables are used for toppings on various versions of focaccia. Besides the famous focaccia, there are other varieties of Italian bread.
Pane Toscano, translated as Tuscan Bread, is a delicious, beautiful, and regional specialty of Tuscany. It is a big, round, and springy bread similar to the white bread, but much flatter. Traditionally, Tuscan bread is baked in a wood-fired oven that gives a unique flavor to it. Also, it is ideal for making a Tuscan stew or soup.
As you get it from the name, it is a cross between pizza and bread. When it comes out of the oven, the dough spreads out quite thick. It looks more like bread than pizza because of its thickness. You can use olives and mozzarella for topping and serve it hot.
Ciabatta is a slipper-shaped bread and perhaps the most popular and best-known Italian bread. The unique texture and plasticity of this bread allow you to make almost anything out of it. To your surprise, it is not traditional Italian bread. It was created in 1982 by an Italian miller Arnaldo Cavallari in Italy. You can consider it as a modern classic Italian bread.
Sourdough is one of the most popular bread styles around the world right now. If you are a sourdough lover, you should try the Italian version; Coppia Ferrarese. It comes with a protected geographical indication, which means that the stage of production takes place in Ferrara.
The unique flavor of this bread comes from the malt; used to make it. Also, the particular shape created by twisting 4 strands of dough in a cross shape makes it a unique Italian bread.
Best Italian Pies
This Italian dessert consists of cream and cheese with fruit in a crispy pastry, similar to fruit-filled pies. The fruits used in crostata are peaches, apricots, berries, and cherries. It can be prepared as an open-faced dessert or covered with a top crust. Usually, it is prepared in a lattice shape.
Its name comes from the Latin word Crustata which means scab. The earliest printed mentions of crostata are found in the 15th century cookbooks such as:
- Libro de Arte Coquinaria by Martino da Coma
- Cuoco Napolitano
Scaccia is a unique dish from the Sicilian province of Ragusa. It can be best described as a cross between pizza calzone and lasagna. Scaccia is made by covering the thinly rolled dough with various ingredients. It is folded back on itself to make it look like a strudel.
The long rectangular-filled flatbreads are traditionally cut into chunks while revealing the savory layers of Italian cheeses, sauce, and dough. Several regional varieties of Scaccia are topped with cheese and sauce only, whereas, some are topped with different vegetables, sausages, cottage cheese, and potatoes.
Torta Della Nonna
Torta Della Nonna or Grandma’s cake is a moist cake filled with rich and delicate custard cream. It is topped with toasted pine nuts and dusted with powdered sugar. This delicious cream pie is considered a traditional Tuscan dessert just like Tuscan style Easter Eggs. It is equally popular across the country and some people make it with slight variations. Some people use lemon zest or vanilla for custard, whereas, some use ricotta cheese for filling.
This tasty pie comes from the province of Reggio Emilia. It was invented as a rustic and humble dish by using ingredients that were in abundance. It consists of traditional stuffing such as leeks, chard, spinach, or different herbs. These ingredients are enclosed between two layers of butter-based dough.
To complement the vegetables, Parmigiano Reggiano, garlic, Pancetta, and ham are used before baking. This pie is traditionally spread with lard. Also, it is enjoyed as a light snack or appetizer.
Pardalus are small pies made with ricotta originating from the Italian island of Sardinia. Depending on the area, Pardalus can be found with different names such as Nuoro in Casadinas and Pardulas in southwest Sardinia.
Pardalus are made with ground semolina, lemon zest, saffron, eggs, sugar, ricotta, and lard. Traditionally, they are prepared for Easter. Also, they are eaten warm and sprinkled with powdered sugar.
Best Italian Pastries
These delicious and crispy fried puff pastry tubes are filled with delicious ricotta cheese cream. Perhaps, they are one of the best-known Sicilian desserts. It is believed that cannoli originated in the 9th century in Palermo when Sicily was under Arab rule.
Also, they were originally prepared by the women of the ancient city of Qal’at al-Nisā’ which is now Caltanissetta. Later, the recipe found its way to the monasteries of Palermo where the nuns prepared this magnificent dessert during the carnival season.
Sfogliatella is one of the most famous Italian pastries. Many regions offer their version of the recipe. Although traditionally it is associated with Naples, it is said that it originated around 1700 on the Amalfi Coast in Italy. It was the initiative of the nuns from the monastery of Santa Rosa.
Sfogliatella is filled with delicious pastry cream and black cherries preserved in syrup. Although the nuns were forbidden to have contact with the outside world, the recipe was obtained by a Neapolitan chef. He began preparing a variety of Sfogliatella that became Naples’ favorite.
Chiacchiere is an Italian carnival pastry donut. It is made from dough cut into thin rectangular sheets which are then either held flat with scalloped edges or twisted into ribbons. They are then fried and topped with a sprinkle of powdered sugar. This carnival treat goes by many names such as angel wings because of their appearance.
These delicious little balls of fried sweet dough are one of the most recognizable treats of the Italian carnival. Its name derives from the word castagne which means chestnuts. Castagne refers to the size and shape rather than the use of actual chestnuts in the recipe.
Castagnole can be baked or fried. They are filled with cream or covered in honey. Also, you can use coffee, ricotta, or chocolate for fillings. They are crispy on the outside but chewy and soft on the inside. Serve them warm with a coating of powdered sugar.
Zeppole is a fried dough specialty found throughout southern Italy. It consists of fried dough usually covered with sugar or filled with pastry cream, jelly, and custard, or with a combination of butter and honey. This delicious pastry is usually prepared for the St. Joseph festival on March 19. In the past, only Zeppole was served at this event where rich and poor shared the same meal.
The name of this pastry comes from the Arabic word zalābiyya which means fried soft dough. Today, zeppole are found with many variations in the recipe, including fillings such as anchovies, candied fruit, chocolate, and ricotta.
Other Best Breads, Pies, and Pastries
The Italians have a delicious range of breads and pastries, from appetizers to side dishes. The recipes below are perfect as quick dishes to serve at any gathering.
Pastries and Sweets
Mocha Sheet Cake
Honeydew Melon Granita
Chocolate Pistachio Cheesecake
Summer Berry Tart
Apple pastry with vanilla cream
Cream in crunchy caramel cage
Mixed Seasonal Berries with Balsamic Syrup
Grilled Polenta Berry Shortcakes
Easy Picnic Dessert
Pizza, Quiches, Souffles
Italian Desserts – Breads, Pies, and Pastries
Bread is a wonderful food and a great base for most of the meals. Also, it plays an important virtual role in every food culture. Italians, on the other hand, might not eat bread as much as the Europeans or Americans but they do use them in most of their cuisines. Italian cuisine is a wealth of variety of breads. Focaccia might be the famous and best Italian bread but you can try other best Italian breads such as Pane Toscano, Pizza Bianca, Ciabatta, and Coppia Ferrarese.
When you talk about Italian desserts and pastries, the cannoli and Sfogliatella pastry comes immediately to mind. Apart from this famous pastry, there are other best pastries that you can try for your dessert menu while hosting an event. Also, when you want to add pies to the menu, crostata and Scaccia would be your preference but you can have a variety of other best Italian pies. And make sure you try these healthy Valentine’s Day desserts as well.