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Chocolate Amaretti Cake

The Best Italian Desserts for a Thanksgiving Feast

Fragole con Crema di Zabaglione

Zabaglione is a sweet egg custard that is flavored with Marsala wine and served with strawberries. It has been enjoyed in Italy for many centuries.


  • 6 egg yolks
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 3 tbsp Marsala wine
  • 2 cups of strawberries, halved


Place the egg yolks into the top pot of a double boiler and pour in the sugar. Beat vigorously with a fork until well blended. The mixture should turn whitish when properly mixed. Place the double boiler over a medium low flame. Heat evenly and lower the flame as necessary to keep the water from boiling. Stir the egg/sugar mixture gently in a clockwise direction with a wooden spoon and drizzle in the Marsala. Continue to stir until the zabaglione thickens into a light custard, with a deep golden color. Spoon the zabaglione into individual goblets and add strawberries, alternating layers until you have two layers of strawberries and three layers of zabaglione. Serve while the dessert is still warm.

Modica Dark Chocolate Cream in White Chocolate Cups

This delightful dessert will satisfy every guest’s chocolate cravings. It is even better when prepared using chocolate from Modica, Italy.


  • 8 oz Ghirardelli white chocolate chopped
  • 4 oz dark chocolate from Modica (Sicily), chopped
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3 tbsp confectioners’ sugar
  • 8 oz mascarpone cheese
  • 1 tsp grated orange peel
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • white chocolate curls, for garnish


Line 8 muffin cups with paper liners. Melt the white chocolate in a double boiler over simmering water, stirring until smooth. Spoon 1 tablespoon of melted chocolate into each paper liner. Using a pastry brush, coat the chocolate evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the liners. Freeze until the chocolate is firm, about 30 minutes. Re-melt the remainding white chocolate in the bowl. Spoon 1 tablespoon into each cup and brush over the bottom and up the sides, forming a second coat. Freeze until completely set, about 1 hour.

Melt the Modica dark chocolate in the clean double boiler over simmering water, stirring until smooth. Set it aside to cool completely. Using an electric hand mixer, beat the heavy cream and confectioners’ sugar in a large bowl until soft peaks form. Set the whipped cream aside.

Using an electric hand mixer, beat the mascarpone cheese, melted dark chocolate, orange peel and vanilla extract in a large bowl until smooth and glossy, about 30 seconds (do not overmix). Fold the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture in 2 batches.  Transfer to a pastry bag fitted with a star tip.  Pipe the mousse into the white chocolate cups. Sprinkle the white chocolate curls over the mousse and serve immediately or cover and refrigerate overnight and then let stand at room temperature one hour before serving.

Chocolate Amaretti Cake

Amaretti translate as “little bitters,” but refers to light and crunchy almond cookies. The cookies make a great addition to this yummy cake.


  • butter-flavored nonstick cooking spray
  • 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup slivered almonds
  • 1 cup baby amaretti cookies, plus 10-12 more
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp grated orange zest (from approximately 1 orange)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder, for sifting


Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a 9-inch spring-form pan with nonstick spray and refrigerate.

In a small bowl, microwave the chocolate chips, stirring every 30 seconds until melted and smooth, about 2 minutes.

In a food processor, combine the almonds and cookies and pulse until finely ground. Transfer to a bowl. Add the butter, sugar and orange zest to the processor and blend until creamy and smooth. With the machine running, add the eggs one at a time. Add the nut mixture and the melted chocolate. Pulse until blended.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until the center puffs and a tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Cool the cake in the pan for 15 minutes. Transfer to a platter, sift the cocoa powder over and add additional amaretti cookies on top.

Neapolitan Rum Babà

A traditional dessert from Naples, Rum Babà may not be the easiest dessert to prepare, but it is unquestionably one of the most memorable!


  • 1 tsp active dry yeast
  • 2 tbsp whole milk
  • 20 oz white flour, plus extra for lining the molds
  • 2 oz superfine sugar
  • 12 medium eggs, cold, lightly beaten
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 2 sticks of butter, cubed, at room temperature

For the Rum and Citrus Syrup

  • 8 cups of water
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 1 orange, zested
  • 28 oz of sugar
  • 2 cups of rum

For the glaze

  • 8 oz apricot jam, strained


Combine the yeast, milk and 1 oz of flour in a bowl. Knead the ingredients until you get a soft dough. Place the dough in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place for 30 minutes or until the mixture has doubled in volume. This type of pre-fermentation used in Italian baking is called biga or lievitino.

Pour the remaining flour in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment; add the flour and turn the mixer on low speed (if you do not have a mixer you can knead it by hand), then incorporate the biga.

Add the sugar and eggs and let the mixer run for about 20 minutes, until the dough becomes elastic and starts to come away from the side of the bowl.

Switch to the dough hook attachment. Turn the mixer back on and add the salt. Add the butter, one cube at a time, ensuring each cube is fully incorporated before adding the next one. After you add all the butter, keep working the dough for 10 more minutes until the dough looks soft and is a pale yellow. Turn off the mixer; remove the bowl and wrap it in plastic wrap. Leave the dough to rise in a warm place for 3 hours.

While the dough rises, make the syrup. Place the water in a pot and add the lemon zest, orange zest and sugar. Place the pot over a medium flame and bring to a simmer. Once the sugar has dissolved, remove the pot from the heat; allow it to cool slightly, then add the rum. Reserve to one side.

Grease and flour the babà molds. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Knock back the dough. Take small portions, approximately 3 oz each and place a ball into each mold. Leave them to rise in a warm place until the dough grows into the mold and forms a dome on top.

Place in the oven and bake for 30–35 minutes, until deeply golden brown. Remove and allow to cool in their molds for about 10 minutes. Turn the cakes out of the molds and place them on a rack to cool.

To soak, heat the syrup until just warm. Remove from the heat and use a pair of tongs to dip each babà into the syrup, turning so they are thoroughly soaked on all sides. Gently squeeze out any excess syrup. Transfer the soaked babà to a cooling rack set over a baking sheet, turning occasionally so they soak evenly. To finish, brush the babà with apricot jam

To serve, drizzle the babà with a little more syrup. They are delicious with a dollop of mascarpone cheese and an Amarena cherry.

Torrone Semifreddo

Torrone is made with honey, egg whites, sugar and nuts. When mixed with whipped cream and honey and then frozen, it is an utterly delicious, yet wonderfully simple dessert.


  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup acacia honey
  • 1/2 pound hard hazelnut or almond torrone, finely chopped
  • Warm hot fudge sauce, for serving


In a large bowl, whip the cream with the honey until firm. Fold in the chopped torrone. Transfer the mixture to a large, deep plastic container and press a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface. Freeze until firm, at least 6 hours. Spoon the semifreddo into bowls, drizzle with hot fudge sauce and serve.

Torta di Pistacchi

This is a traditional recipe from the Sicilian town of Bronte.


  • 8 oz butter, room temperature
  • 9 oz confectioners’ sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 4 oz 00 flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 cup ground pistachios
  • 10 oz whipping cream
  • 5 oz of pistachio butter


Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare a cake tin by greasing it with butter and lining the bottom with parchment paper. To make pistachio butter, grind 4 ounces of pistachios in a food processor until very fine and mix with 1 ounce of almond oil (or canola oil). Blend until a smooth consistency is reached.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the butter with 7 ounces of the confectioners’ sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, combining well before adding the next egg.

Mix the flour and baking powder together. Add the flour mixture to the mixing bowl and incorporate well; then fold in 4 ounces of the ground pistachios and combine the ingredients.

Fill the cake tin with the pistachio mixture and bake for 30 minutes. Let the cake cool then cut in half horizontally. Use a board or cake lifter to take off the top layer of cake. Do not throw away. Meanwhile, whip the cream to soft peaks. Fold in the remaining 2 ounces of confectioners’ sugar and the pistachio butter and combine. Spread the pistachio cream on the bottom half. Put the top half of the cake back on. Sprinkle confectioners’ sugar and the remaining 2 ounces of ground pistachios over the top and serve.

Lemon Ricotta Granita

The freshness of the lemon granita pairs marvelously with ricotta cheese as a perfect digestivo.


  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2/3 cup strained fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
  • pinch salt
  • 1 lemon, for zesting


Stir the water and 3/4 cup of sugar in a medium saucepan and heat over a high flame just until the sugar dissolves. Whisk in the lemon juice. Pour the lemon mixture into an 8-inch square glass dish. Cover and freeze, stirring occasionally, until the liquid becomes slushy, about 2 hours. Using a fork, scrape the granita every 30 minutes until it is completely made up of ice crystals. The granita can be prepared up to two days ahead of serving. Cover and keep frozen, but scrape every so often so that the crystals stay loose.

Whisk the ricotta, the remaining sugar and pinch of salt in a medium bowl to blend. Spoon the granita into dessert bowls. Top with a dollop of the ricotta. Zest the lemon peel over the desserts and serve.