Simple Italian Desserts

Italy wants us to save room for dessert! Here are recipes for Vanilla Amaretti Custard and an Amaretti Chocolate Pear Tart.
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Simple Italian Desserts

Italy wants us to save room for dessert! Here are recipes for Vanilla Amaretti Custard and an Amaretti Chocolate Pear Tart. 

-Francine Segan, recipes courtesy of Dolce Italia

Vanilla Amaretti Custard

Italy, famous for its amazing food, also has thousands of delicious desserts: gelato, cannoli, colomba Easter cake, and much more. Although this is the country that brought us the “Slow Food Movement” with pasta sauces that need to simmer for two days, Italy also offers many quick-to-prepare desserts.

Part of the secret is to start with basic ready-made Italian cookies or cakes. Two classic cookies in particular—savoiardi and amaretti—are the key ingredients in hundreds of recipes. Created in Italy’s northern Piedmont region in the 1700s, both cookies are so important to Italian culinary traditions that their recipe is officially regulated and their names protected by Italian legislation.

Amaretti, which mean ‘little bitters,’ are small, round crisp almond cookies that can be eaten plain, but are mostly used as the base for hundreds of desserts. Amaretti are a traditional Italian topping for fruit. Crush a few over grilled peaches or baked apple slices or mix some into a fresh fruit salad.

Ladyfingers—known in Italy as ‘savoiardi’—are also a supermarket staple. Very versatile, they are part of many no-bake desserts like trifle and of course, the famous tiramisu, one of Italy’s best known treats.

Here are two recipes featuring these Italian treats:

Vanilla Amaretti Custard
-Courtesy of, pictured above (photo courtesy of Food Editore, Vicenzi)

This recipe looks very impressive, but it is simple to make.

Makes 4 Servings


3 egg yolks

1/3 cup sugar

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 cups milk

Zest of 1 lemon


7 ounces amaretti, crumbled, plus more as garnish


1. Beat the yolks and sugar until creamy in a medium saucepan. Then beat in the flour, milk, zest, and a pinch of salt until smooth.

2. Heat to a low over medium heat. Reduce the heat and simmer for 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly.  Remove the custard from heat and cool.

3. Stir 3/4 of the crumbled amaretti into the cooled custard.

4. To serve as individual servings, pour a little of the custard into 4 cups or glasses. Top with more crushed amaretti, then top with more custard. Top with the remaining crumbled or whole amaretti.

Go to the next page for an Amaretti Chocolate Pear Tart…

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