Bomboloni, Cannoli and Sfogliatelle are three of the most famous Italian pastries.
I think the best way to start the day is with the rich aroma of coffee and something sweet. It’s a very genuine thing, as many Italians normally will have sweet things for breakfast. Did you know that the Italian word for breakfast pastries is the same as the most famous Italian dish? We call them “paste”, plural for pasta!
As Italians make such good coffee and pastries, Italian coffee shops have opened all around the world. And if you too want to start the day the true Italian way, here is my list of 3 famous Italian pastries.
Bomboloni, or Bombe, are round pastries, deep-fried and soft, similar to doughnuts. They are a delicacy perfect for breakfast accompanying a good frothy cappuccino. They have a creamy heart, which can be pastry cream, chocolate or jam. A dreamily soft dough combined with this delicious filling. This pastry is popular among both young and old. Unmissable on every patisserie and coffee shop counter.
The name literally translates as “bombs”, perhaps referred to their round look. They can be baked in the oven, but I can assure you that they are much better deep-fried. They will transform every breakfast in a truly sensational occasion.
Not to be confused with cannelloni or cannellini (respectively pasta and beans!). They are a staple of Sicilian cuisine. They can range in size from no bigger than a finger -called “cannolicchi”- to as big as a fist, typically found south of Palermo. Whilst in English the word cannoli refers to a singular pastry, in Italian that is the plural of the word “cannolo”, meaning “little tube”. Sicilian cannoli were originally consumed around Carnevale but were so beloved that they became the most widespread and appreciated Sicilian pastry all year round.
Cannoli are a cylindrical shell of deep-fried pastry dough, aromatic and crisp. The filling is a sweet cream made of sheep’s ricotta, sometimes with the addition of chocolate chips and candied fruits. Sicilian cannoli are so popular that in 2014, with the approval from Italian authorities, three amateur scientists launched a replica of this famous Italian pastry into space.
Eat your cannoli with a good sprinkling of powdered sugar and with maraschino cherries. Or also candied orange peels or crushed pistachios, which are another Sicilian staple ingredient. And, did you know that for my Lavolio confectionery we, in fact, use pistachios from Bronte, in Sicily, some of the most famous pistachios in the world? They are delicious in our confectionery gift boxes, with vanilla in Nutty Forest and with chocolate and chilli in Decadent Spiced.
The name sfogliatella literally translates as “thin pastry layer/ leaf”. And, it’s a delicious pastry native to the Southern Italian region of Campania. Their creation was a little bit of an accident in the monastery of St Rosa da Lima. Then, in 1818, the pastry chef Pasquale Pintauro finds the recipe and starts producing sfogliatelle in his sweets shop in Naples. However, he modifies the recipe slightly, making it what we know and love today.
It can be of two varieties, based of the preparation of the pastry shell: puff pastry or shortcrust pastry. And while they are both delicious, I highly advise the puff pastry type: sfogliatella Napoletana, from the city of Naples. It requires an exceptional technique, in order to create the overlapping, incredibly thin pastry layers, which form the traditional seashell shape and become wonderfully crispy during cooking.
The filling -you might have noticed by now that Italians are passionate about filled pastries!- today is semolina, ricotta cheese, eggs and sugar, and flavoured with candied fruits, orange blossom water, vanilla or cinnamon. You can also find it filled with chocolate, pastry cream, jam or chantilly cream. But I think the contrast between the original creamy, aromatic filling and thin, crispy pastry is what makes this Neapolitan classic so heavenly.
You’ll have to try them and let me know which one is your favourite. This wonderful culinary creation shares a lot with my Lavolio sweets: a thin and crisp outer shell enveloping a creamy, smooth filling. No better way to experience traditional Italian confectionery, and no better gift for your foodie friends and loved ones.