Blogger in the Spotlight (BITS) today is none other than the gorgeous Carmelita Caruana of ‘Cook Italy’, Bologna, food capital of Italy. She talks about her favourite desserts and includes some recipes for you to try.
Everyone thinks first of pasta and pizza when they think of Italian food, but Italy has many divine desserts too. Although traditionally the end to a meal was a piece of fresh fruit, there are yummy sweets in every regional cuisine. In the past, these were associated with religious holidays and festivals and so they would make their appearance only once a year. Luckily for the greedy and sweet-toothed, many of these sweets are now made every day, all year round, and ending the meal with a dessert has become customary at least on Sundays and when eating out.
Trying to choose just 5 desserts from all of Italy’s regional cuisines proved impossible for me, so here are my 5 top choices from Northern Italy (I just might tell you about my 5 fave sweets from Southern Italy another time!)
1. Panna Cotta
This one just slips down easy, even at the end of the biggest meal. Sensuously silky and deceptively light, it is also quick and easy to make. I like it left alone – no fancy Mango or Green Tea Panna Cotta for me, but Panna Cotta as it is. Traditionally made in Emilia-Romagna and Piedmont it is a pure, dazzlingly white, slightly wobbly mound, set off by fresh seasonal red or blue berries that add freshness and a little tart accent. Simply delicious!
2. Torta di Riso / o Torta degli Addobbi (Rice Cake)
Talking of simple, one of my favourites here in Bologna is the traditional cake. Once upon a time, this was made every ten years for a religious holiday. Today the holiday no longer exists but the cake is eaten all year round! This Rice Cake may feature chopped candied peel and almonds but once again my favourite version is the simplest of all. Small round grain rice cooked in milk, freshest egg yolks, sugar and grated lemon zest or perhaps a splash of Anis liqueur to give a subtle fragrance. The end result is a tender cake with a lusciously creamy texture. It’s not safe to leave this one near me, I tend to keep cutting another little slice.. and then another and then just one tiny slice more…
3. La Torta Barozzi (Chocolate Almond Cake)
Mmmm, yum, this low rise cake is almost pure chocolate, it is so good, it can move me to tears. It has the perfect texture combination, a thin dry flaky crust and super melt-in-your-mouth moist interior. Very rich so a little at time is best. Raspberries and strawberries pair well with it.
4. Budino di Ricotta (Baked Ricotta Cheesecake)
This is the most versatile cake and one I make often. It’s another very straightforward recipe which you can find here (please scroll down to final post). Ricotta, lemon zest, eggs and sugar are the base then it has diced candied citrus peel, raisins and pine nuts on top which get toasted while it bakes. It comes out moist, slightly crumbly and very tasty! A lovely dessert that is very light on calories, and it’s delicious for breakfast too.
5 & 6. Dolce al Mascarpone and Coppa di Mascarpone (Two ways with Mascarpone)
I know I’m cheating by including two desserts here, but Mascarpone is so sinfully delicious I hope you don’t mind!
The first way is a variation on Tiramisù that I think is better suited to warmer weather than the classic coffee/chocolate mix, and it is alcohol free too. The biscuit layer is dipped in a lemon syrup only, no alcohol, though if you miss it you could add in some Limoncello. I know you all want the recipe, so this is where you’ll find it. By the way if you have or if you make Lavender syrup then try another great variation on Tiramisù by making a lavender scented Mascarpone – it goes beautifully with the chocolate topping.
The Coppa di Mascarpone is really easy. You just make up the Mascarpone as in the previous recipe, scent it with 3 tablespoons of an anis based liqueur like Sambuca or Varnelli then pile it into some pretty glass container. The topping I like best is macerated berries – have you noticed I adore berries? But it can also be grated chocolate or flaked almonds as well!
7. Zuppa Inglese (Layered Two – Custard Dessert)
Last but not least.. Bright, bold and beautiful, this is probably everyone’s favourite dessert, certainly in the region of Emilia-Romagna and also beyond. For though it comes from Ferrara, it is popular in much of the rest of Italy too. In practice it has now become a national dessert like the Panna Cotta and Tiramisù. No the name does not mean ” English soup”, Haha.. ! If you want to know what the name means and if you want the recipe for this delectable custard dessert, all you need to do is go here. Bon appetite!
“Dessert is probably the most important stage of the meal, since it will be the last thing your guests remember before they pass out all over the table.”
~ William Powell
About Carmelita Caruana
Carmelita Caruana set up her Cook Italy cooking school in 1999 in Bologna, food capital of Italy. She is so kind and cool.. little did I know that she is famous in Italy! She offers daily Market-to-Table classes and 3 day Gourmet breaks year round. On request she also customizes week-long residential classes for groups or families celebrating something special anywhere in Italy. You can find recommendations for her classes on Trip Advisor and Linked In and you can email her at carmelita@cookitaly dot com
Follow Carmelita on twitter @cookitaly
Or check out her cool blog for some really cool recipes!