Have you ever tried a sweet, salty, savoury, flakey, tubular, pie-shaped, puff, filo, or some other forms of Italian pastries filled with cream or topped with cheese. Whether it's cannoli, zeppole, sfogliatella, struffoli, bombolone or pizelle for breakfast, an afternoon espresso break or an after dinner dessert - pastries in Italy are simple yet luxurious. With just a little flour, yeast, egg, salt, sugar and lots of kneading, rolling, flattening, baking or frying you can have an incredibly tasty Italian delight.
Is it the pastry shell or is it the cream filling that makes a cannoli an Italian favourite that is known and loved well, around the world. A comforting little tube of goodness, cannoli is a traditionally Sicilian, hard-shell, pastry shaped into a tube, flavoured with marsala or amaretto, filled with sweet, creamy ricotta, lemon, and orange. The pastry shell is fried so that it becomes a hard-shell, solid vehicle for the most delicious creamy treat inside. Cannoli is clearly, a dessert pastry dusted with an icing-sugar finish because just a little more sweetness can’t be wrong.
This Neapolitan treat is a sort of doughnut made by rolling a flattened puff pastry dough that has been coated in butter and then rolled into layers. There is a curled variety is most common and the dough is baked until ridges form and the little pocket can be filled – most commonly with lemon zest, sweet orange ricotta, cream, almond paste or candied fruit and often decorated with a sweet cherry.
Struffoli is yet another Neopolitan favourite – a little ¾ inch sweet honey ball of fried dough, common at celebrations of all kinds in the north of Italy. Zeppoli is a much bigger honey ball of fried dough at a cool 10 inches in diameter. It is the much bigger cousin of Struffoli originating from Sardinia. Perhaps also a cousin to cannoli, zeppoli is filled with sweet cream and adorned with a candied cherry rather than the powdered sugar common to the Zeppoli.
Popular in Rome and the region of Tuscany the bombolone is a sweet, soft, yeast donut similar to a jelly-filled or Boston cream because of its gooey and sweet filling. A bombolone is a tasty little calorie bomb that got its name from its appearance – resembling a bomb or a grenade. You might find these top-filled doughnuts at the beach in Tuscany – filled with chocolate, cream or marmalade. For a gooey bombolone hot from the oven, join the Florentines who have made this the way to do it when it comes to bombolone – they like it hot.
Truly a cookie, made with pastry dough batter, this crisp, round wheel of sweetness is made in an iron, held over a hot burner. It is a traditional food in high celebrations such as Christmas, Easter, and weddings and can often be seen, in its birthplace – Southern Italy - eaten as a dessert sandwich, filled with cannoli cream.
Eat it for breakfast, enjoy it as a mid-morning treat with a latte or as an after-dinner dessert, Italian pastries and very tasty and plentiful here, and you can enjoy them every day or at special celebrations all over the country and finding the real thing is worth the journey.