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Italian Desserts from Lisa’s Italian Kitchen

Italian Desserts

The cherry on the Sunday, the sprinkle on the cookie, the almond biscotti in your Parfait (one of Lisa’s favorites!)…. that’s what dessert is for Sunday Dinner Lovers. Each menu Lisa creates for her family, friends, loved ones, and in her cookbooks, Whatever Happened to Sunday Dinner? and This is Sunday Dinner ends with a delectable Italian dessert! If you follow Lisa on social media you’ll find helpful videos that give you a behind the scenes look at how Lisa makes these Italian desserts. Here are the Italian dessert recipes! We hope they get you and every member of your family and friends with sweet tooths to the Sunday Dinner table. As Lisa says, Buon Appetito e Tutti a Tavola!

Nutella Crostata

A hit with Lisa’s children and their friends, this crostata was requested at every party after a football game in the fall. A surefire dessert hit, it packs a chocolate punch, with a whole jar of Nutella in it!

Italian Desserts


Lisa’s Pasta Frolla:

  • 1 ¼ cups all purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • Pinch of Salt
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 stick, plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cold and sliced
  • 1 egg yolk

1 33 ounce jar of Nutella or 2 16 ounce jars of Nutella


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

To make pasta frolla, combine flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the butter and the egg yolk. Knead the mixture into a soft dough, adding a few drops of ice water. This can be done by hand or in a mixer. Separate the pastry dough into 2 balls, 1 large and 1 small. Roll out the large ball and line a 9 ½ inch fluted tart pan or a pie pan with the dough. Prick the dough with a fork and chill it for 30 minutes in the refrigerator. Refrigerate the small ball of dough as well.

Spread Lisa’s pasta frolla or other type of pastry dough into a 9 1/2 inch pie plate.

Cover the dough with the 33 ounce jar of Nutella or 2 16 ounce jars of Nutella. Roll out the remaining small ball of pasta frolla and cut it into 1/4 inch strips. Layer the strips over the Nutella to form a lattice. Bake the pastry into the preheated oven for 30 minutes.

Or, try an adult alternative to Nutella Crostata – Lisa’s Crepes!

Italian Desserts


For the Crepe Batter:

  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 ½ cups whole milk
  • 2 cups unbleached flour
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • ½ teaspoon salt


For Cooking the Crepes:

  • ¼ cup canola or vegetable oil



In a blender, mix together 4 large eggs, 2 1/2 cups whole milk, 2 cups unbleached flour, 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Place 1 tablespoon of canola or vegetable oil in an 8 inch nonstick sauté pan over medium heat. Cover the bottom of the pan with a very thin coating of crepe batter. Tilt the sauté pan until the crepe batter completely covers the bottom of the sauté pan. When the edge of the crepe begins to turn light brown, in approximately 2 minutes, loosen the edge of the crepe with a rubber spatula, and quickly flip it. Cook 1 minute more.

When the crepe is cooked on both sides, transfer it to a plate. Cover the plate with plastic wrap  and continue making the crepes, stacking each one on top of the other, separated by a piece of plastic wrap.

Place Nutella, jam, powdered sugar, orange marmalade, fruit, or any other filling on the surface of the crepe. Fold the right and the left side toward the middle, overlapping slightly, roll up and serve.

Tiramisù- the Classic Version or one with Limoncello!

One of Lisa’s signature Italian desserts, the key to a successful tiramisu is making it like a pudding and not a cake. While many Italian-American restaurants and cafès, and commercial versions of this dessert you might find in the grocery store, present tiramisu as a layered cake with lady fingers, the star of tiramisu in the authentic Italian version is the mascarpone. Layer the lady fingers into the mascarpone and with every bite you’ll feel like you’re in a local trattoria in a small Northern Italian town.

Classic Tiramisù with Espresso

Italian Desserts

Watch Lisa make her classic tiramisù here!


30 ounces mascarpone cheese (about 1 ¼ cups)

9 Tablespoons sugar

6 eggs, separated

2 Tablespoons vanilla

1 ½ cups very strong black coffee (espresso)

1 cup Kahlua

36 Savoiardi (lady finger cookies)

Cocoa powder, to finish


Put 30 oz of mascarpone, 9 tablespoons of sugar, 2 tablespoons of vanilla, and 6 egg yolks in a bowl and beat well together.

In a separate bowl, beat the 6 egg whites until stiff. Fold the egg whites into the mascarpone mixture until evenly incorporated. Cover the bottom of a serving bowl with a few spoonfuls of the mascarpone mixture.

Put the coffee (you can also include Kahlua if you’d like) in a shallow dish and dip lady fingers, turning them over so they become well soaked yet retain their shape. Place in the serving bowl.

Repeat as Lisa does and sift cocoa powder over the top, then cover and chill.

Limoncello Tiramisù

Italian Desserts

Watch Lisa make the recipe here!


30 ounces mascarpone cheese

9 tablespoons sugar

4 eggs, separated

1 cup limoncello liqueur, imported from Italy

24 ladyfinger cookies (Savoiardi, imported from Italy)

2 tablespoons lemon zest


Take 32 ounces of mascarpone cheese and mix with 6 egg yolks, 9 tablespoons of sugar, 2/3 cup limoncello, and 2 teaspoons of lemon zest. Beat the 6 egg whites and beat them until they are stiff. Add the meringue to the mascarpone mixture. In a trifle bowl or a large glass bowl put 1 layer of cheese mixture on the bottom of the bowl. In a small glass dish mix 2 cups of whole milk with 2/3 cups limoncello. Mix with a spoon so the limoncello and the milk mix. Take 1 lady finger cookie at a time and dip in the milk mixture and form one layer on top of the cheese mixture. Continue the cheese mixture and lady fingers until the bowl is full. The last layer should be the cheese mixture. Top with lemon zest or powdered sugar.


The most beautiful part of this dessert is how it symbolizes and reflects, in the pattern of the pound cake, the dome of Santa Maria del Fiore in the centro storico of Florence, Italy. Every time I make it, I remember the days of raising my children in Florence and walking with them down Via de’ Bardi to cross the Ponte Vecchio as part of our daily passeggiata to Piazza del Duomo.

Italian Desserts

Watch Lisa make her Zuccotto here!


2 pound cakes

¼ cup Brandy

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted

2 cups heavy cream

¼ cup confectioners’ sugar


Line a large glass or stainless steel bowl with plastic wrap (the bowl should hold 4 quarts). Slice two pound cakes in 1/2 inch slices in the shape of triangles. Line the bowl so all the triangles touch like a windmill. Brush the cake with brandy or Grand Marnier liquer. Melt eight ounces of bittersweet chocolate and, when cooled, add 3/4 cup of whipped cream unsweetened. Pour on to the pound cake. Whip one cup of whipping cream and add 1/4 of powdered sugar and pour on top of chocolate mixture. Place the remaining triangles of cake on top of the whipping cream. Brush with brandy. Refrigerate 3-4 hours. To serve flip the bowl onto a platter. Lift the bowl and sprinkle with chocolate cocoa powder. 

Italian Desserts

Spumoni Bombé

Italian Desserts

Actually an Italian-American classic, you won’t find Spumoni in an Italian gelateria. A staple at Italian-American festivals and at Italian-American tables, some of the colors of Spumoni (green for pistachio, pink for strawberry) approximate the Italian flag, while others (chocolate and, in Lisa’s favorite version, rum!) might have some connection to the Neapolitan tradition, where Spumoni is said to have originated in the early 20th century. While Spumoni looks and tastes delicious coming out of a regular ice cream carton, in this recipe almond biscotti are added to the Spumoni to make an Italian-American version of an ice cream cake. A sure hit with children and adults alike!

Watch Lisa’s Video on How to Make Spumoni Bombé here!


1 gallon Spumoni gelato

8 ounces biscotti or cantuccini, chopped into small pieces

Whipped Cream

Soften 1/2 gallon spumoni ice cream and spread it into a 2 quart aluminum bowl which is lined with saran or plastic wrap. Crush 1 pound of Italian biscotti and spread on top of the spumoni in the bowl (to form the crust). Freeze for 30-45 minutes. Remove from the freezer, flip the bowl onto a platter. Remove aluminum bowl and saran wrap. Slice and serve with toppings of your choice (whipped cream, sprinkles, pistachio nuts or maraschino cherries).

Ricotta Cake  

My grandmother, Catherine Lione, emigrated to the United States from Sicily at age 12. Quarantined for a time on Ellis Island due to illness, she went through many challenges as an immigrant to New York but always looked at the glass as half full. My Nana was so positive and with a constant smile that you couldn’t help but be happy in her presence! She made all her grandchildren, especially me, feel so special. Perhaps that’s why we all loved going to her house! My Nana’s home was, in fact, a constant gathering place for her five children, her 28 grandchildren, and her multiple great-grandchildren. People were always visiting unexpectedly, and my Nana always had to be prepared for guests. I often remember her saying, as soon as she heard people were coming, “I’ll make Lasagne and my Ricotta Cake!”  And that’s the key reason that my Nana taught me to use a yellow cake mix in this recipe- you can always have a yellow cake mix on the shelf, and always be prepared to feed your guests a delicious dessert if you just add a bit of ricotta!

Watch Lisa make her Nana’s Ricotta Cake here!

Italian Desserts


2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1 cup almond biscotti, crushed very fine

15 ounces of Ricotta (whole milk)

½ cup sugar

2 large eggs

½ cup heavy whipping cream


Mix one box yellow cake mix, three eggs, one stick of butter, 3/4 cup water. Mix well. In a separate bowl mix 1 3/4 cups whole milk ricotta, 3 eggs, 3/4 cup granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla. Grease a 9×13 glass baking dish. Pour in the cake mixture. Pour the ricotta mixture over the cake mixture. Bake at 350 for 1 hour until golden brown.


  • Lisa Caponigri

    Lisa Caponigri is the author of This is Sunday Dinner and Whatever Happened to Sunday Dinner?, published by Sterling Epicure. Both of Lisa's cookbooks brim with her memories of living in Italy, both as a child and as an adult raising her own family, anecdotes about her family, regional and seasonal Italian specialties, and all the advice needed to get a spectacular Sunday Dinner on the table, every Sunday of the year. She has developed a line of prepared foods and sauces called Lisa’s Italian Kitchen. Lisa debuted on HSN and has appeared on QVC. She has also appeared on a variety of television programs, including Seattle's New Day Northwest, Good Morning Toronto, Chicago's WGNLunchbreak, and New England Cooks, to name a few. Lisa is frequently consulted as an expert in Italian lifestyle and food. Lisa Caponigri lives in South Bend, IN and travels frequently to Italy to research the latest in "la dolce vita". Visit to learn more about Lisa!

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