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Francine Segan spent a year in Italy eating desserts for her new cookbook Dolci: Italy’s Sweets. Tough gig, we know.
Sure, she found the usual beloved suspects - tiramisu, panna cotta, affogato, cannoli - but she also discovered a sampler platter of regional specialties that have been popular in Italy for decades, centuries even, that we've hardly ever heard of on this side of the Atlantic.
Here's to la dolce vita.
Five Sweet Treats from Italy You Need To Know: Francine Segan
There are dozens of fabulous Italian desserts made with pasta. I discovered a crunchy-chewy chocolate pasta pie popular in Bologna; in Sicily, there’s a simple dessert made with twirled forkfuls of leftover angel hair pasta, quickly fried, then topped with honey and chopped pistachios. A Christmas Eve specialty in central Italy is macaroni with chocolate walnut sauce and in the Veneto, they enjoy a sweet lasagna layered with sliced apples and dried fruit as a holiday dessert. There are also dozens of dessert ravioli that are baked and filled with everything from chickpeas sweetened with jam and chocolate to sweet ricotta fillings.
For a quick and satisfying pasta dessert, toss cooked hot linguine with grated milk or dark chocolate. Serve it in a wine glass topped with a splash of hazelnut liqueur, a sprinkle of crushed hazelnuts, and a dollop of mascarpone cheese or whipped cream."
Sicilian Pasta Crisps
2. Red wine desserts
One of my favorites is a red wine ring cookies that are not only made with red wine, but traditionally served with a glass of red too. Italians pull them out after dinner to nibble on with the meal’s left-over wine. To make red wine cookies, tarallucci al vino, combine about 4 cups of flour with 1/2 cup dry red wine, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/3 cup olive oil, one egg and a pinch of salt. Knead until smooth and then roll out strips about 1/2 inch wide and 3 inches long. Form little rings, dip in sugar, then bake, sugar side up in a 350° oven for about 15 minutes, until dry to the touch. Once cool, they keep for three months. Great for dunking in a glass of red wine!"
3. “Refrigerator” cake
My favorite refrigerator cake, torta mimosa, is a popular dessert for Italian women, which is eaten on March in celebration of International Women’s Day - Festa della Donna - a sort of BFF day celebrating womanhood and female friendships. The cake looks like a bouquet of mimosa flowers."
4. Fruit for dessert
In Italy, pandoro is often served cut in horizontal slices that are stacked to look like a Christmas tree. Each layer is spread with mascarpone custard and decorated with candies to create a pandoro Christmas tree cake. It even comes boxed with a packet of confectioners sugar to sprinkle on top.
You can spread the pandoro with anything creamy like ice cream, whipped cream, icing, pastry cream or even zabaglione. And just like a gingerbread house, you can decorate it with anything festive including tiny candies, sprinkles or crushed candy canes."
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