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Southern Italian Desserts: Rediscovering the Sweet Traditions of Calabria, Campania, Basilicata, Puglia, and Sicily

Southern Italian Desserts: Rediscovering the Sweet Traditions of Calabria, Campania, Basilicata, Puglia, and Sicily

5.0 2
by Rosetta Costantino, Jennie Schacht

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An authentic guide to the festive, mouthwatering sweets of Southern Italy, including regional specialties that are virtually unknown in this country as well as variations on more popular desserts such as cannoli, biscotti, and gelato. 

In Southern Italian Desserts, author of the acclaimed My Calabria, Rosetta Costantino, collects seventy


An authentic guide to the festive, mouthwatering sweets of Southern Italy, including regional specialties that are virtually unknown in this country as well as variations on more popular desserts such as cannoli, biscotti, and gelato. 

In Southern Italian Desserts, author of the acclaimed My Calabria, Rosetta Costantino, collects seventy-five favorite recipes from the regions of Calabria, Campania, Basilicata, Puglia, and Sicily. These picturesque areas have a rich history of beautiful desserts, many of them tied to holidays and festivals. For example, Zeppole di San Giuseppe are doughnut-like pastries topped with cream and cherries, traditionally made in Campania for the celebration of Father’s Day. And the Sicilian chilled watermelon pudding Gelo di Mellone is a refreshing dish served in summer for the festival of Palermo’s patron saint, Rosalia. Other desserts such as persimmon gelato, chocolate-dipped figs stuffed with almonds and candied orange peel, and chocolate-hazelnut cake rolls celebrate Southern Italy’s local bounty and traditional foods. With recipes for more familiar Italian desserts such as cannoli and gelato, as well as deliciously obscure sweets such as rich cassatas, almond-flecked cookies, and flaky cream-filled sfogliatelle pastries, Southern Italian Desserts features a treat for every occasion.
     In addition to explaining the regional history, symbolism, and lore behind the desserts, Costantino teaches you how to stock your dessert pantry and provides all of the foundational recipes you need to embark on a sweet tour of the Italian south from your kitchen. This delightful confection of a cookbook will expand your dessert repertoire and leave you dreaming of Italy. Buon appetito!

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Rosetta has given us a sweet and soulful taste of the land and culture of Southern Italy-flavors and fragrances practically leap off the page. From the simplest three-ingredient walnut cookies (that you will want to jump up and make immediately, as I did) to more elaborate celebration desserts-all are made doable with well-written recipes and beautiful photos. Fig syrup and dolci di noci now have a permanent place in my repertoire.”
—Alice Medrich, author of Bittersweet and Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts
“I’ve been chasing down Southern Italian dessert recipes for thirty years, and my dear friend Rosetta just saved me another decade.  She is truly one of the best Italian cooks I know!”
—Michael Chiarello, chef and owner of Bottega and Coqueta
“Reading this book, I pictured Rosetta moving between bakeries and homes throughout Southern Italy, her impeccable sweet tooth and culinary knowledge  guiding her to the special sweets of each village. Brava to Rosetta for creating a book that’s original, tantalizing, and embodies the culture and spirit of her region.”  
—Carol Field, author of The Italian Baker
Library Journal
With this stunning collection, author and cooking instructor Constantino (My Calabria) seeks to preserve the history and craft of Southern Italian pastries. In five regional chapters, she shares recipes for popular and lesser-known desserts such as cannoli Siciliani, la pastiera Napoletana (Easter pie), and crostata al gelo di mellone (watermelon pudding tart). Though Constantino claims otherwise, many recipes will be too challenging for novices. Pastry enthusiasts and fans of Gina DePalma's Dolce Italiano: Desserts from the Babbo Kitchen and Francine Segan's Dolci: Italy's Sweets, however, will want to start cooking immediately. VERDICT A notable addition to Italian dessert cookbooks. Highly recommended.

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Read an Excerpt

About This Book
I have organized the desserts of Southern Italy by region, with each chapter showcasing my favorites from among the area’s typical desserts and, occasionally, modern interpretations now found there. Representing the broad expanse of what you would find traveling through Sicily, Campania, Calabria, Puglia, and Basilicata, the recipes range from simple home desserts to the cutting-edge creations of Southern Italy’s finest restaurants and pastry shops. I’ve included desserts already well known and loved in America, such as gelato and cannoli, as well as regional specialties virtually unknown in this country and rarely, if ever, found in books, magazines, or online. The almond cookies filled with cherry preserves called Biscotti di Ceglie, a typical sweet in one of Puglia’s oldest towns, or the ricotta and semolina cake made for Carnevale in Naples called Il Migliaccio may be found in Italian cookbooks and on Italian websites, but to my knowledge these have not been heretofore available in English. Others, such as the Biscotti Eureka, Africano, and Foglie da Te’, I found in pastry shops while traveling through the region, returning to decipher cryptic advice from pastry chefs to reproduce them. These have been some of my favorites to develop, crowned by the satisfaction of creating something that looks and tastes utterly authentic, or even better than the original.

I have shared here only a small sample of the thousands of recipes enjoyed in Southern Italy. My dearest hope is that not only will you make and enjoy them in your home, but that you might consider visiting and falling in love with this magical area that offers my most cherished sweets (and savory foods, as well). The desserts found in homes, pastry shops, gelaterie, and restaurants still surprise and delight me, and I find something both comforting and familiar, yet new and exciting, each time I return. This book is meant to bring these desserts-many of which are found in the United States primarily among Italian populations, if at all-into our common lexicon, preserving them for future generations. It is my invitation to you to share in the sweetness of my favorite desserts.

Pasticcini di Mandorla
-soft almond cookies

Makes about 36 small cookies
Gluten Free

These little almond cookies are found all over Sicily and often in other parts of Southern Italy as well. They are pretty piped with a star tip into rosettes or into “S” shapes, but you needn’t be adept at piping; more often they are simply formed into balls and rolled either in confectioners’ sugar or chopped nuts before baking, as I have done here.

1 2/3 cups (250 g) blanched almonds (page 189)
1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
2 large egg whites
2 tablespoons mild-flavored honey, such as clover or orange blossom
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
Confectioners’ sugar, finely chopped pistachios or hazelnuts, sliced almonds, or whole pine nuts, for coating 

Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C) with a rack in the center of the oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

Combine the almonds and granulated sugar in a food processor and process until they have the texture of fine meal, scraping the bowl down occasionally to evenly grind the nuts. Transfer the almonds to a bowl and use a spatula to mix in the egg whites, honey, and almond extract until evenly combined.

You can coat the cookies all in confectioners’ sugar or a single type of nut, or make an assortment by using several different coatings. Whichever you choose, place each coating in a separate shallow bowl.

Use a tablespoon measure to scoop out level tablespoons of the dough, making thirty-six cookies in total. Roll each dough piece between your palms to form a ball.
To coat the cookies, roll one ball in a topping (confectioners’ sugar or nuts), firmly pressing the nuts into the dough with your hands. Continue to coat all the cookies, transferring them to the prepared baking sheet as you form them, allowing 1 inch all around each cookie for spreading.

Bake the cookies until they are light golden and still soft to the touch, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer the sheet to a wire rack and let the cookies cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Meet the Author

Born and raised in Verbicaro, Calabria, ROSETTA COSTANTINO moved to Oakland, California, with her parents at the age of fourteen. She earned a chemical engineering degree at the University of California, Berkeley, and spent twenty years working in Silicon Valley. Now, often assisted by her mother, Maria, she shares the techniques and tastes of the traditional Calabrian kitchen in her popular cooking classes. She is the author (with Janet Fletcher) of My Calabria: Rustic Family Cooking from Italy’s Undiscovered South, which was nominated for an IACP award in 2011. Rosetta lives in Oakland with her husband and two children. Learn more at cookingwithrosetta.com
JENNIE SCHACHT is a culinary writer and consultant based in Oakland, California. She is the author of i scream SANDWICH! and Farmers’ Market Desserts, and co-author of The Wine Lover’s Dessert Cookbook, Without Reservations, Sweet & Skinny, and several other works. Her culinary and health care consulting company, Schacht & Associates, has raised over $135 million for public and not-for-profit organizations. Learn more at jennieschacht.com

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Southern Italian Desserts: Rediscovering the Sweet Traditions of Calabria, Campania, Basilicata, Puglia, and Sicily 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
InspirationalAngel531 More than 1 year ago
Title: Southern Italian Desserts: Rediscovering the Sweet Traditions of Calabria, Campania, Basilicata, Puglia, and Sicily Author: Rosetta Costantino, Jennie Schacht Publisher: Random House LLC Published: 10-8-2013 ISBN-10: 1607744023 ISBN-13: 978-1607744023 E-Book ASIN: B00CCPIL70 Pages: 224 Genre: Food & Wine Tags: Cooking, Regional More than just a cookbook, Southern Italian Desserts takes you through a brief history of the deserts from the Italian region. The different equipment you will need are listed. Items you will want to keep in your pantry so that you will be prepared. Then we get to the part everyone is looking for - recipes. The authors have been kind enough to divide the the recipes into the various regions of Italy so that you can enjoy the subtle differences in taste and style from each area. Each southern region begins with a brief description of the region and how the individual dishes developed. The recipes are in plain easy to follow directions and are at a skill level for those who are new to cooking to those who have years of experience as a professional chef. It you have a sweet tooth like I do then you will want this on your shelf because you will be hard pressed to find a more fine collections of sweet desserts and other Italian recipes. Don't miss a chance to enjoy these recipes from around Italy today.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fantastic book on several levels. Everyone always says the Italians don't eat desserts - just cheese and fruits. Not true from the south. Some of these are ones I kind of remember seeing when I was a kid. The pics are GREAT and the historical information is invaluable. Book is about perfect!!!