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What Are Different Types of Italian Pastry Desserts?

By Alexis Rohlin
Updated May 16, 2024
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Italian pastry desserts are similar to French pastries. They consist of light, flaky dough that is baked or fried. Some Italian pastries are filled with pastry cream or light whipped ricotta cheese. The pastries are often dusted with a light coating of confectioner's sugar. The different types of Italian pastry desserts include the pignolata, pizzelle, cannoli, chiacchiere and bignole.

Pignolata consists of small, glazed pieces of fried dough that are piled into a pine cone shape and sprinkled with cinnamon or confectioner's sugar. The glaze is made with caramelized honey that is flavored with lemon zest, rose water, orange zest, cinnamon or chocolate. This pastry originated in southern Italy and is made for Christmas and Carnevale, the celebration that takes place every spring just before Lent begins.

Pizzelle, or pizzelle cookies, are flat, thin, crisp pastries that are cooked in a specialized iron or griddle that has a molded shape. A pizelle iron is similar to a waffle iron, except the pattern created is a lacy circle that resembles a snowflake instead of a grid of squares. These pastry desserts typically come in anise, lemon, chocolate, amaretto and vanilla flavors and can be topped with jam or a fine layer of powdered sugar.

Cannoli siciliani are often thought to be the classic example of Italian pastry desserts. They consist of a flat pastry dough that is rolled into tubes and deep fried. The dough becomes a crisp bubbly golden brown shell that is filled with a mixture of whipped ricotta cheese and miniature chocolate chips.

Chiacchiere, or angel wings, are a sweet, light fried pastry. Thin pastry dough is rolled out and cut into ribbons that are twisted, deep-fried and covered with confectioner's sugar. Angel wings can be flavored with lemon, orange zest or anisette wine.

Bignole are bite-sized cream puffs. They consist of sweet, small pastry shells that are allowed to rise until they are fluffy, light and airy. After baking, the cream puffs are filled with a pastry cream. The bignole pastry cream is in flavors such as coffee, vanilla, pistachio, chocolate or almond.

Another type of Italian pastry desserts are sfogliatelles, which are a multi-layered, shell-shaped treats. The name sfogliatelle means "many layers" or "many leaves" and refers to the pastry's multi-layered surface. The pastry's layered look is created by stretching out the dough on a long table and rolling it into a many-layered log. Slices are cut off from the dough log and have pockets pressed into them. The pockets might be filled with ricotta and orange, marzipan or candied citron peel.

A variation of the desert is sfogliatella Santa Rosa. It originated in a monastery of Santa Rosa in Solerno, Italy, during the 18th century. The Santa Rosa variation is shaped like an oyster shell and stuffed with pastry cream.

Cannoncini alla crema pasticcera are horn shaped Italian pastry desserts that are filled with cream and often sprinkled with large, decorative sugar crystals. The dough is rolled up into horn shapes and baked to a golden brown color. A pastry bag is used to pipe the rich vanilla flavored pastry cream into the horn.

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Discussion Comments
By bear78 — On Dec 21, 2013
I wonder if profiterole is considered to be pastry. It has cream puffs inside, but the cream puffs are covered in a chocolate cream pudding.

I'm from Eastern Europe and I grew up eating profiterole. Italian desserts are actually very popular throughout Europe, but we have had them for so long that we've almost forgotten that they are Italian in origin.

By fBoyle — On Dec 20, 2013

@donasmrs-- You can find Italian pastry shops in many metropolitan areas in the US. There is one close to where I live in Virginia and they have amazing pastries, cakes, cookies and chocolates. I'm a huge fan of their cookies and angel wings. I buy them for myself and I also buy them to gift to friends and family. I could try to make them myself but I doubt it will be as good as the ones from the bakery.

By donasmrs — On Dec 19, 2013

I love Italian pastries that are filled with cream like cream puffs and Cannolies. I haven't had the pleasure of having authentic Italian pastries, but the bakery section of my supermarket makes several different ones on a regular basis. I love the cream that they use in Italian pastries. It's not like frosting or whip cream, it's more like custard. It's not extremely sweet, but still rich. I think it makes a great combination with crispy, flaky pastry dough.

I prefer these treats over any other type of dessert. I like having them with my after-dinner coffee.

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