5 Italian desserts that are perfect for Thanksgiving

5 Italian desserts Image licensed under Shutterstock

You may be one of the many people who picked up baking to get through the pandemic and now plan to make your own confections from scratch when Nov. 26 rolls around. While we all know the usual suspects for Thanksgiving dessert — apple pie, pumpkin pie, pecan pie and sweet potato pie — we’d like to suggest a dessert table with an Italian twist.

Italian desserts can offer the same richness and sweet kick we expect from Thanksgiving desserts. When infused with fall flavors like cinnamon and pumpkin, you’ll wonder why you haven’t thought of mixing things up before.

Here are five Italian desserts that are perfect for the harvest feast.


Semifreddo means “half-frozen” in Italian, and that is exactly what you get with this creamy concoction. The Spruce Eats has an excellent description of how to make the base of your semifreddo by mixing almost-frozen whipped cream with custard.

The appeal of a semifreddo is that you can top it with almost anything you please. You can even infuse the heavy whipping cream or the custard with seasonal flavors by warming up the cream with some aromatic herbs and spices, then letting it cool before proceeding.


This dessert is so famous, we haven’t come across an Italian restaurant that doesn’t serve it. Italians often end a meal with an espresso, and what better way to have your espresso than to eat it, too?

The delightful treat provides a strong punch of coffee and cocoa contrasted by layers of rich cream. If you don’t want to pick up our signature tiramisu from the Doris Bakery, you can try your hand with our recipe for Doris’ Decadent Tiramisu. We also like this pumpkin tiramisu from Food & Wine.

Panna cotta

What we love most about panna cotta is that it can be made in advance. Like semifreddo, it can be infused with almost any flavor. This simple recipe from Epicurious can get you started. We like the idea of celebrating local produce that’s in season, and nothing says Florida more than oranges.

Oranges add splash of brightness to a dish featuring cranberries — a star this time of year. Try toping your panna cotta with an sweetened orange-cranberry sauce. If you’re feeling even more adventurous, this recipe from Delicious calls for infusing the panna cotta with chamomile and topping with spiced apples.


Gelato has less fat and less air than ice cream, which makes it the perfect delivery system for flavors. Even though it’s still warm in South Florida, there will be no mistaking it’s fall when you taste the cinnamon in this simple gelato recipe from Leite’s Culinaria. It stands on its own, but we think it would be amazing topped with some poached or roasted apples.

Ricotta pie

Ricotta pie is known as pastiera Napoletana in Italy, and it’s typically reserved for Easter celebrations. It has a lighter texture than cheesecake, contains way less sugar and has a hint of citrus. If you have a sweet tooth or want to experiment with different flavors, ricotta pie pairs well with just about anything you’d put on a cheesecake.

King Arthur Flour has a recipe that calls for a graham cracker crust, but we also like this recipe from Epicurious calling for a more traditional pie crust.

Of course, you can always make things slightly easier on yourself and drop by the Doris Bakery for a fresh, made-from-scratch pie or some sweet Italian treat.

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