• Cocoa cannoli with ricotta (cannoli al cacao con ricotta). (Paola Bacchia)
Because tiramisu isn't the only sweet thang to come out of the little boot!
8 Aug 2018 - 10:45 AM  UPDATED 10 Jan 2019 - 2:13 PM

If you want an impressive Italian dessert, you can't go wrong with a wicked tiramisu. Conveniently meaning "pick me up", it is a luscious concoction of sponge fingers, coffee, and mascarpone cream and it comes as no surprise that it's been a favourite in homes across Australia.

So, here we are. If you're facing the dreaded 3pm slump, and in need of a little pick-me-up, it might be time to introduce your buds to some of the other sweet, sweet Italian treats on offer (and there are plenty!). Here are our favs: and you'll want to BYO coffee! 


Classic zabaione (also written as zabaglione) is made with only three ingredients to arrive at a light, fluffy dessert that is often served with a little something on the side. Zabaione pairs well with poached pear, vanilla cake or biscuits, caramelised figs, roasted plums or peaches, or macerated cherries. A dessert of zabaione is often served with a generous glass of whatever sweet alcoholic beverage was used to create the dish: Limoncello, cognac, Marsala or Moscato D'Asti. When making zabaione, get your whisking muscles ready! Check out The Chefs' Line winning zabaione from restaurant Sotto Sopra. 

Zabaglione with almond polenta crumb and cherries in amarene syrup.

Cocoa cannoli with ricotta (cannoli al cacao con ricotta)

Cannoli are one of the most popular sweet Sicilian street foods. This unique version adds cinnamon, cocoa and coffee to the pastry. This recipe requires you to fire up your deep fryer, but if you're feeling really lazy, you can also buy empty shells from select delis. Shhhh, we won't tell on you! 

Cocoa cannoli with ricotta (cannoli al cacao con ricotta).


Legend has it that sfogliatelle originated in a convent around Naples (exactly which convent is a hot topic for debate). The story goes that a nun wishing to use up leftover semolina added candied fruit, sugar and ricotta, wrapped the mix in puff pastry, shaped the pastry to resemble a monk’s hood and popped it into the oven. Campanians have been eating various versions of sfogliatelle for breakfast ever since. Sfogliatelle is eaten piping hot, which is the best way to contrast the crunchiness of the outer pastry with the smoothness of the fragrant inner filling. 

Italian ricotta cake

Sometimes only cake will do! Cheesecake, to be exact. Light citrus cheesecakes are a common sight across Italy, where they are made with ricotta in place of cream cheese. This one is baked with a light pastry crust, to balance out the creamy filling with some crumbly crust! 

Almond polenta shortbread tart (sbrisolona)

Although technically classed as a 'tart', this big round crumbly treat eats a little more like a large cookie or biscuit. Make it in advance, and keep it on hand to have with your next cuppa. If it works as a breakfast treat in Italy, then it certainly works as an afternoon pick-me-up! We approve.

Almond milk panna cotta with amaretto caramel

If you love your tiramisu because of the booze and cream, then you'll love this almond milk panna cotta. We've spiked this with amaretto, which lends a sweetness to this creamy dessert. This recipe blends soaked almonds, but feel free to use your favourite store-bought almond milk instead. 

Chocolate, orange and fennel seed custard fritti

You know what's better than custard? FRIED CUSTARD. 'Nuff said. You're welcome. 

Chestnut cream puffs

Who doesn't love a cream puff? These are filled with chestnut cream, made with the same chestnut puree that's used in the construction of the classic French Mont Blanc cakes. Make the pastries ahead of time, and fill just before serving for a fresh treat! 

Jam crostata

Part hand pie, part tart... what this crostata really is, is an excuse to eat us some jam and pastry! Once you get the pastry rolled out, this is super easy to make - every imperfect crack just makes for some extra crispy bits! 


In Delizia! The epic history of Italians and their food, John Dickie mentions that ‘Respectable pleasure and good health’ was written in Latin and authored by 'Platina' the Vatican librarian under Pope Sixtus IV. In this early version,  biancomangiare consisted of peeled almonds and the boned breast of a capon pounded to a pulp and cooked with spices and sugar. You will probably find this recipe more appealing – it’s a silky, creamy sweet concoction lightly flavoured with orange blossom water.


Cassata, the intensely sweet ricotta and marzipan cake originating from Palermo, Sicily, is traditionally served only at Easter. The smell of candied fruit mingling with Marsala or rum liqueur signals the festive season in many Italian homes. Interestingly, though the sponge cake used in its construction is baked, cassata itself is not. Instead, it is constructed, weighted down and left to ‘cook’ overnight in the refrigerator. The flavours in the cake are so popular they’ve been translated into an ice cream flavour that is enjoyed any time of year.

Cassata is traditionally served at Easter, but we won't tell if you eat it any time of year.


Semifreddo (‘half cold’) is a cross between a mousse and a gelato. It has the texture of a frozen mousse – creamy, airy but with just a little bit of bite. Semifreddo can be moulded and sliced, so it makes a great party dessert. You can enrich semifreddo with every possible flavour combination, but this Italian nougat, cherry and dark chocolate recipe is particularly nice.

Have we got your attention and your tastebuds? The Chefs’ Line premieres Monday 6 August, 6pm weeknights, on SBS followed by an encore screening at 9.30pm on SBS Food Network. Episodes will be available after broadcast via SBS On Demand. Join the conversation #TheChefsLine on Instagram @sbsfood, Facebook @SBSFood and Twitter @SBS_Food. Check out sbs.com.au/thechefsline for episode guides, cuisine lowdowns, recipes and more!

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