When one thinks of Italian cuisine, images of savory pastas, hard cheeses, cured meats and hearty wines immediately come to mind.
Don’t forget about the desserts! While traveling in Italy, I always save room for a sweet something at the end of a meal.
Here are some of my favorite Italian sugary indulgences.
Gelati and sorbetti (ice cream and sorbet): There’s nothing more refreshing than a scoop (or three) of gelato (ice cream) and sorbetto (sorbet) on a hot summer afternoon. The Italian versions are richer and far more satisfying than any ice cream of sorbet I’ve ever had in the States. Some of my favorite flavors include amaretto, pistachio or any dark berry (blackberry sorbetto is especially lovely when combined with chocolate gelato).
Panettone alla Milenese (citrus butter cake): Panettone is traditionally made at Christmastime, but it’s possible to find it all winter long in some areas of Italy. This rich cake is made from a rich and effective combination lemon, raisins, candied orange peel and, of course, lots of butter and sugar. There are many varieties of panetttone (I like the kind filled with mascarpone cream, myself). To be enjoyed with a strong cup of espresso and good company.
Fichi al cioccolato (chocolate-covered figs): I love the simplicity of a plain dried fig, or perhaps one stuffed with an almond or half of a walnut. Add a bit of chocolate and this wholesome afternoon snack becomes a decadent treat. Popular in the Piemonte region, fichi al cioccolato are served chilled, sometimes as a compliment to gelato.
Brutti ma buoni (spiced nut cookies): I’ll admit it: I am partial to brutti ma buoni because I love the name— “ugly but good”— which is completely appropriate given both their appearance and flavor. Almonds, hazelnut, cinnamon and other spices are combined in these favorite Tuscan cookies.