Italian Easter dessert recipes are a mixture of tradition, symbolism, light textures and rich tastes. Each region in Italy has its own specialty desserts, so you would have to travel the country to understand the entire array of Easter desserts available in Italy.

Italian Easter Cookies

At Easter-time in Italy, cookies made of light and airy meringues are very popular. For an added after dinner touch, try a chocolate-espresso. Almond biscotti, a twice baked cookie, for dipping in after-dinner-drinks are also popular.

Italian Easter Pastries

Pastries abound in Italian desserts–for Easter, too! — including the well known cannoli and the layered chocolate, liquor and cake pastry known as tiramisu. For most Italians though, Italian sponge cake is preferred for a light finish to a large meal, especially when topped with fruit and flavored syrup.

Italian Easter Fruits, Nuts, and Grains

Fresh fruit is a popular dessert any time of year in Italy. But it can also be found in tarts, fried pies or served whole with Italian cheeses.

Rice even makes an appearance in Italian Easter dessert recipes. Black Easter Rice is made by mixing rice with milk, dark chocolate, cocoa, candied fruit, orange zest and spices.

Italian cooking uses almonds and nuts as additions to cake batters, pastry toppings and fillings.

Neapolitan Easter Pie (Pastiera)

No Easter celebration in southern Italy would be complete without a slice of sweet ricotta pie. Each region has its own version.

In Naples, the ricotta pie is called “pastiera” and it is thickened with softened wheat berries.

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups wheat berries
  • 1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for the pan
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 8 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 5 large eggs, divided
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 pounds fresh ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup candied citrus
  • 1 teaspoon orange extract
  • 1 orange
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon

Directions:

Cover wheat berries with 2 cups water in a bowl; soak, changing water daily, for 3 days. Drain and boil in a pot of fresh water for 15 minutes; drain.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour and the 2 tablespoons sugar. Blend in butter with a pastry blender or your fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal.

Add 1 whole egg and stir with a fork until just combined. Turn out dough onto a work surface.

Knead just until well combined, then form into a disk.

Chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, until firm, at least 1 hour.

While dough is chilling, cut a 1-inch-wide strip of zest from the lemon, avoiding the white pith.

In a large saucepan, combine milk and zest; bring to boil. Add wheat berries, reduce heat to low and cook until liquid is absorbed, about 45 minutes.

Spread wheat berries on a plate and cool; discard zest.

Heat oven to 375°F.

Separate the remaining 4 eggs.

In a large bowl stir together wheat berries, ricotta, remaining cup sugar, candied citrus, egg yolks, orange extract, finely grated zest from the orange, 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest and cinnamon.

Beat egg whites in another bowl to soft peaks and fold into ricotta mixture.

Grease a 9-inch springform pan; dust with flour.

Divide dough into 2 pieces, one larger than the other (three-quarters and one-quarter).

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the larger piece into a 15-inch round with a floured rolling pin.

Fit dough into prepared pan, leaving a 1/4-inch overhang. Chill for 10 minutes.

Roll out remaining dough into a 9-inch round. Using a pastry wheel or pizza cutter, cut 3/4-inch-wide strips.

Spoon filling into crust. Arrange strips over filling to form a diagonal lattice.

Crimp edges of crust. Bake until filling is set and crust is golden, about 1 hour. Transfer to a rack to cool.

Run a thin knife around edge of the pie and remove the side of the pan. Chill cake at least 2 hours. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Italian Easter CookiesItalian Lemon Ring Cookies

Dough

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 4½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons lemon extract

Icing

  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 3-4 teaspoons milk
  • 2 teaspoons lemon extract
  • Sugar Sprinkles, if desired

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325ºF. Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In large mixing bowl, beat the eggs, oil, milk and lemon extract on low speed until well blended. Stir in the flour mixture until dough is formed. Let rest, covered for 20 minutes.

Break off small pieces of the dough and roll into pencil thin strips 4 inches long. Twist dough pieces to make circles or braids. Place on parchment-lined cookie sheets and bake for 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove cookies from cookie sheet and allow to cool on wire racks.

Icing: Mix together the confectioners’ sugar, milk and lemon extract until smooth. Add more milk, if necessary. Using a metal spatula, frost the tops of the cookies. The frosting will drip down the sides and coat the cookies. Return to wire racks for frosting to set. Sprinkle with multi-colored sprinkles, if desired, before frosting is set. Store in an airtight container. Makes 36.

Pinza Goriziana (Traditional Easter Cake)

A soft and light dessert from Italy’s Friuli region.

Ingredients

  • 7 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup milk
  • 5 oz butter, melted
  • 2 eggs, divided
  • 9 egg yolks, divided
  • 2 tablespoons instant yeast
  • 1 tablespoon rum
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon oil
  • Pinch salt
  • Powdered Sugar, optional

Mix together 4 cups flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, yeast and 1/3 cup milk in an electric mixer bowl. Knead until the dough is smooth and uniform, then let it rise for 30 minutes.

Once the dough has risen, knead it again, adding half of the remaining flour (1 ¾ cups), all of the remaining sugar, half (2 ½ oz.) of the butter (melted and allowed to cool), 1 egg, 6 egg yolks, half of the remaining milk (1/3 cup) and a pinch of salt. Mix together until you have a soft dough and let rise for another hour.

After the dough has risen a second time, add the remaining flour, 3 egg yolks, the remaining milk, the other half of the melted butter, the lemon oil and rum. Mix together until smooth and uniform, then shape the dough into a ball. Let rise for another hour.

Place the dough in a round baking dish lined with parchment paper. Whisk the remaining egg and brush it onto the dough. Bake the “Pinza Goriziana” in a 320° F oven for 40 minutes.

Sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired, when cool.

Easter Knot Cookies

These are  traditional cookies from Italy flavored with vanilla and almond extracts. They are tied in loose knots and baked, then frosted.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 5 teaspoons baking powder

Icing

  • 4 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • Multi-colored sprinkles, if desired

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease cookie sheets.

In a large bowl, cream together 1/2 cup butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy.

Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1 teaspoon almond extract, 1/4 cup milk and oil.

Combine the flour and baking powder and stir into the sugar mixture.

Roll dough into 1 inch balls. On a lightly floured surface, roll the balls out into ropes about 5 inches long.

Tie into loose knots and place cookies 1 inch apart onto the prepared cookie sheets.

Bake for 5 minutes on the bottom shelf and 5 minutes on the top shelf of the preheated oven, until the bottoms of the cookies are light golden brown.

When cookies are cool, dip them into the icing and sprinkle with multi-colored sprinkles, if desired

To make the icing: cream together the confectioners’ sugar, 1/2 cup butter, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1 teaspoon almond extract.

Beat in 3 tablespoons milk, one tablespoon at a time.

 

Italian Easter Egg Basket (Pupa Cu L’ova)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 16 tablespoons butter
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons anise extract
  • 6 cups flour
  • 6 teaspoons baking powder
  • 6 eggs, uncooked and dyed in Easter egg colors

Directions

Combine butter and sugar until light and fluffy in an electric mixer. Add eggs one at a time and beat thoroughly after each. Add the anise extract, mix thoroughly.

Combine flour and baking powder and add to bowl. Mix until a dough forms.

Take a small amount of dough, roll into a ball, flatten it to make a 4-inch round and place on a baking sheet. Place a colored egg in the center.

Pinch another piece of dough, roll into a “rope” 1/4 inch in diameter and cut into 2 pieces, each long enough to crisscross over the egg. (See photo above.)

Seal the edges to the round by pressing firmly. Repeat until all the dough is used up.

Bake at 350 degrees F. for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.

 Barbara Lucchi's Ciambella Romagnola

Italian Ring Cake

A traditional cake that is easy to make. It’s usually eaten for breakfast, dipped into warm milk or caffè latte. It’s also served at the end of a meal, either with a glass of dessert wine or with the slices drizzled with zabaione or  fruit sauce.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, melted over a double boiler or in the microwave and allowed to cool
  • 4 1/8 cups unbleached flour
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup milk, plus a little more at the end
  • 6 teaspoons baking powder
  • Coarse sugar, optional

Directions:

Put the sugar into the electric mixer bowl and crack the eggs into it. Beat with the mixer set to low/medium for 3-4 minutes, or until the mixture is a creamy yellow.

Add about a third of the flour to the egg and sugar mixture and beat the batter for about a minute. Add another third of the flour and beat for a minute more.

Add the melted butter and beat for another 30-40 seconds. Next, add the lemon zest.

Beat in half of the milk and half of the remaining flour. Then beat in the rest of the milk and the rest of the flour.

Add the baking powder and beat until creamy.

Butter a 10 inch tube pan and then flour it, tapping it upside down to remove excess flour.

Pour the batter into the pan. Give the filled pan a couple of quick shakes and tap it once or twice against your countertop to level the batter.

Sprinkle the top with coarse sugar, if desired.

Bake the cake on a low rack for 40-45 minutes. Cool before removing from the pan.

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