Our favourite Italian baking recipes

Our favourite Italian baking recipes

by Great British Chefs 10 October 2017

Release your inner nonna, dust your countertop with flour and get ready to create a pastry and dough-filled feast that transports you to the sunny climes of Italia with these delicious Italian bakes.

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Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews as well as access to some of Britain’s greatest chefs. Our posts cover everything we are excited about from the latest openings and hottest food trends to brilliant new producers and exclusive chef interviews.

The Italians could certainly give the British a run for their money when it comes to baking. We might have Victoria sponges, Bakewell tarts and pies, but in Italy they have just as many sweet treats to get stuck into. While we tend to whisk and mix our batters, Italians make use of their beautiful pasta machines, rolling out the dough to a uniform thinness before flavouring it with all manner of delicious ingredients.

If you’re getting a little tired of layer cakes and fruit crumbles but still want to get your hands all dusty with flour, have a go at one of these incredible Italian baking recipes. All of the dishes below are guaranteed to wow at any dinner party or get-together, and if you’re feeling particularly confident about your baking skills, anyone who manages to make the panettone from scratch should be awarded a medal. Mangia bene!

1. Sfogliatelle

Up for a challenge? These Neapolitan delicacies might be tricky to produce, but the results are incredible. Originally created by an Italian nun, sfogliatelle are supposed to resemble lobster tails, and the many layers – when laminated properly – crisp up into a beautiful, rustling shell that holds the rich citrus and vanilla filling, thickened with semolina and ricotta. You’ll need a pasta machine to get the dough thin enough, before rolling it up into a tight sausage to achieve all those beautiful layers.

2. Panettone

Once you’ve mastered the sfogliatelle, move onto something even more spectacular – a homemade panettone. Sure, it’s easy to just pop into the shop and buy one ready-made, but you can only truly appreciate this festive sweet bread when it’s baked at home. Make sure you put enough time aside, however – it takes two full days to create from start to finish, and you have to leave it hanging upside-down for twelve hours (using knitting needles!) before serving. However, that first bite will make it all worth it.

3. Torta della nonna

Tuscany is where some of Italy’s most famous bakes originate, and the torta della nonna is one of the most indulgent. A lemon and vanilla custard filling is wholly encased in sweet pastry, with some pine nuts scattered over the top for extra crunch. If the two recipes above are a little too advanced for your Italian baking skills, give this a try instead.

4. Cheese and tomato pizza

Ah, pizza. Probably the world’s favourite Italian culinary export. Creating one at home from scratch isn’t as easy as it sounds, however – the key is to get your dough perfect for the base, keep the toppings simple and cook it at the highest setting your oven can reach. Franco Pepe is known as the world’s best pizza chef, so his recipe – for both the dough and the topping – is a good place to start.

5. Cannoli

They look beautiful and taste even better – cannoli are the shining star in Sicily’s culinary canon. Dough (made thin with the help of a pasta machine) is curled into a cylinder before being deep-fried until crisp, with characteristic bubbles appearing on the surface. They’re then piped full of sweetened ricotta and flavoured with anything from chocolate and pistachios to candied peel and rum. They make a wonderful snack alongside a cup of espresso, or try presenting them on a tray at the end of a meal for some real wow factor.

6. Biscotti

A brilliant bake that can be enjoyed at breakfast, as a snack or after dinner, biscotti are incredibly simple to make and keep well in an airtight container. They’re baked twice, resulting in a biscuit that sets hard and crunchy, studded with nuts for a little extra flavour and texture. Served with a coffee, they can be dunked to soften them slightly, but part of their appeal is the solid crunch when you bite into one.