6 Italian grandma recipes

Travel from home, and cook

6 easy Italian grandma recipes

By: Lisa Rivera

You won’t be surprised to hear that I’ve been eating very well since making the move back to Italy.

From simple, yet authentic, pasta dishes, to sinfully sweet Sicilian desserts, the choice is abundant and always delicious.

However, there’s one term that has me racing to the table faster than my little legs can carry: ‘grandma’s recipe.’

Rustic-style cooking has always been my favorite, more so when I discover that they’re long-time family recipes.

Just like grandma used to make

It’s safe to say that many of us are biased when it comes to our mother’s cooking. No one can make your favorite dish quite like your mamma, especially in Italy.

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However, the only other lady that probably stands a chance of vying for your culinary affections is grandma. Nonna, as they say in Italian, stands at the hierarchy of the cooking pyramid.

While I don’t personally have an Italian nonna to hand me down her recipes, I’ve got the next best thing.

With a little help from my Italian friends and family, I’ve put together 6 authentic Italian grandma recipes. Easy to follow, and with lip-smacking results, you’ll feel as though you’ve your very own nonna at home.


  • 350g of shortcrust pastry 
  • 500g whole milk
  • 130g sugar
  • 80g pine nuts
  • 60g potato starch
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ lemon
  • Salt
  • Powdered sugar for sprinkling on top

1. Torta della Nonna

 What more fitting recipe to begin with, than the aptly named ‘Torta della Nonna’ or ‘Grandma’s Cake’.

A classic Italian cake with a pastry cream filling, it’s one that does justice to any nonna’s legacy.

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1. How to make Torta della Nonna — Italian grandma recipes

Step 1

Roll out 350g of shortcrust pastry into a disc shape. Line a cake tin and refrigerate until it’s ready to fill. Cover the remaining pastry in plastic wrapping and place it in the fridge.

Step 2

Bring the milk to a boil with half of the sugar and add a pinch of salt.

Step 3

Beat the eggs together with the sugar and add the grated lemon peel. Next, add the potato starch to the eggs and continue mixing, making sure to avoid any forming lumps.

Step 4

When the milk has boiled, remove it from the heat and, while stirring, add the egg, sugar and lemon mix. Return to the heat and cook until the mixture has thickened.

Step 5

Pour the cream into a bowl, cover with plastic wrapping and let it cool until it reaches room temperature. Meanwhile, turn on the oven to 220°C.

Take out the leftover shortcrust pastry from the fridge. Make a fairly thin disc the same size of the cake tin’s diameter.

Step 6

Remove the cake tin from the fridge and fill it with the chilled cream. Cover with the disc of shortcrust pastry. Make sure the dough reaches the edges, and cut away any excess. Finally, puncture a few holes in the dough.

Spread some pine nuts on the surface of the cake and bake for 40 to 45 minutes.

Step 7

Once cooked, remove the cake from the oven and wait for it to cool before removing the mold. Sprinkle powdered sugar on top and serve.


  • Chocolate ganache
  • 120g plain flour
  • 120g sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 vanilla bean
  • 1 lemon
  • Salt

2. Girelle

Filled with a creamy, rich chocolate ganache, girelle is one for all chocolate lovers. Perfect for ‘merenda’ (snack), a slice of girelle goes very well with an ice-cold glass of milk.

2. How to make girelle

Step 1

Turn on the oven to 220°C. Line a plate with parchment paper and prepare a clean tea towel. Sift the flour.

Step 2

In a mixer or a bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, salt, vanilla bean and the peel of half a lemon. 

Step 3

Add the flour to the bowl, making sure to mix thoroughly, and avoiding the formation of any lumps.

Step 4

Pour the combined mixture into the lined plate, level it out with a spatula and bake for 10 minutes.

Step 5

Sprinkle the tea towel with a little sugar and lay the freshly baked cake on top. Make sure that the side with the parchment paper remains on the surface.

Slowly begin to roll up the cake, using the tea towel to cover it. Wait for a few minutes to allow the humidity and heat to shape the girella and prevent it from breaking.

Step 6

After 5 to 10 minutes, unroll the girella and carefully remove the parchment paper. Allow it to cool for another 5 minutes, spread the chocolate ganache evenly and roll up. 

Step 7

Put the cake into a tray, and place it in the fridge for at least an hour before serving.


  • 200g corn flour
  • 200g plain flour
  • 200g butter (room temperature)
  • 200g sugar
  • 150g of almond flour
  • 50g toasted almonds
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • Lemon peel
  • Salt

3. Sbrisolona

A favorite cake in the north of Italy, a slice of sbrisolona makes an ideal teatime accompaniment.

Originating from the city of Mantova in Lombardy, this crunchy, nutty tart will leave you craving another slice. 

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3. How to make sbrisolona

Step 1

Before starting, grease and flour a cake tin with a diameter of 26 to 28cm. Turn on the oven to 180°C.

Step 2

Mix the butter, sugar, egg yolks, vanilla bean, grated lemon peel and a pinch of salt in a bowl.

Step 3

Add the corn and almond flour.

Step 4

Rub the ingredients together with your hands until you get a crumbly texture.

Step 5

Arrange the mixture in the tin, a small portion at a time, using your hands to shape accordingly.

Step 6

Decorate the surface with whole almonds.

Step 7

Put the cake into a tray, and place it in the fridge for at least an hour before serving. Cook for about an hour until the sbrisolona is golden and dry.

You can also prepare this recipe in single portions, using molds as opposed to a larger tin.


  • 500g milk
  • 100g sugar
  • 90g semolina (for desserts)
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup of seed oil
  • 2 egg yolks
  • Seed oil for frying
  • Breadcrumbs
  • Salt

4. Crema fritta

Literally translated as ‘fried cream’, these golden cubes of creamy custard are sinfully spectacular.

You can find crema fritta in different regions across Italy. Marche is well known for making this fried creamy treat, where they eat it alongside savory fried items.

Crema fritta is also popular during carnival month in Venice. Unlike in Marche, in Veneto, it’s strictly eaten for dessert.

4. How to make crema fritta

Step 1

Bring the milk to a boil, and add a pinch of salt and 2 tablespoons of sugar. Pour in the semolina, and continue to stir to avoid any lumps forming. Boil for 15 minutes.

Step 2

In the meantime, beat together the egg yolks with the remaining sugar in a mixer. Add it to the still hot semolina and mix the ingredients well.

Step 3

Pour the mixture into a moist container, making sure that the cream reaches a height of about 3cm. Allow it to cool before placing in the fridge for about 4 to 5 hours.

Step 4

After the time has passed, add some seed oil to a pan. An ideal temperature is 175°C.

Step 5

Take out the cream from the fridge and cut into cubes about 4cm each side.

Step 6

Pour some breadcrumbs onto a separate plate and thoroughly coat the cubes of cream.

Step 7

When the oil has reached the ideal temperature, carefully add the cubes. Fry them until they’re slightly golden. Don’t overcook it as the cream can break. Serve the crema fritta hot.


  • 250g plain flour
  • 100g sugar
  • 5 apples
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup of seed oil
  • A sachet of baking powder
  • A pinch of salt
  • Seed oil for frying
  • Lemon peel

5. Torta di mele

No list of Italian grandma recipes would be complete without having a traditional apple cake. More commonly known in the west as apple pie, this Italian version is aromatic and has a softer consistency.

Easy to make, and a dessert that the entire family will enjoy, this is Italian comfort food at its finest.

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5. How to make torta di mele

Step 1

Before starting, grease and flour a cake tin, 25cm in diameter. Turn the oven on to 180°C.

Step 2

Peel the apples and cut them into bite-sized chunks.

Step 3

Lightly beat together the eggs and sugar in a mixer or a bowl.

Step 4

Slowly add the seed oil, salt, lemon peel and yeast, making sure to mix well. At this point, the mixture will be quite thick.

Step 5

Add the chopped apples. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin and bake for about 45 minutes.

Step 6

You’ll know when the cake is cooked, as the top will have turned a radiant amber color. Take it out of the oven and leave it to cool.

Step 7

After a sufficient amount of time, you can move the torta di mele to a serving plate. Sprinkle some powdered sugar on top if you wish.

You can also prepare this recipe in single portions using baking cups.


  • 300g dry cookies (any of your choosing) 
  • 140g melted butter
  • 80 to 100g of sugar
  • 80g of dark chocolate
  • 70g of almonds cut into small pieces
  • A splash of whole milk
  • 3 to 4 tbsp of cocoa powder

6. Salame di cioccolato

A chocolate cookie in the shape of a sausage, salame di cioccolato is something you’ve to try for yourself.

As its name suggests, the dessert takes on the cylinder shape of a salami (salame). Similar to the meat version, the pieces of almonds and broken cookies almost resemble the fat content in a salami.

To make your salame di cioccolato an adults’ only version, you can add a splash of rum, maraschino or limoncello.

None of my Italian friends seem to know the story behind the inspiration for the chocolate salami. What I can tell you is, that it’s unique, costs little to make and is a very easy recipe to follow.

Before starting, break up the biscuits into different sized crumbs. Then, coarsely chop the almonds and dark chocolate. Make sure the butter is at room temperature so it’s soft and ready for the mixture. Cut a rectangle of parchment paper, about 40cm long, for the cake tin.

6. How to make salame di cioccolato

Step 1

In a bowl, mix together the butter and sugar, and then add the crumbed cookies.

Step 2

Add the cocoa powder, almonds and pieces of chocolate.

Step 3

Begin to slowly add a splash of milk. You need enough to soften the mixture. But, be careful not to overdo it, as you don’t want it to be too soft.

Step 4

Next, arrange the mixture on the parchment paper, using your hands to create a cylinder shape.

Step 5

Wrap it in the paper and roll it up. Seal both sides of the salami as you would do a candy wrapper.

Step 6

Refrigerate the salame di cioccolato for a few hours. Once ready, slice it accordingly and enjoy. 

Step 7

If you can wait 1 day, the consistency and flavor will be richer and more intense.

Which of these Italian grandma recipes do you like best? Would you be keen to try one out? Leave me a comment below. 

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Lisa Rivera

Lisa Rivera



Welcome to my site! I'm Lisa, founder of Following the Rivera. I write primarily for a ‘flashpacker’ audience, a demographic (late 20s onward) that enjoys glamping over camping and staying at boutique/luxury boutique hotels. Flashpackers also like to indulge in the local food and wine, cultural activities, as well as a spot of wellness on their travels. Want to know more? Read on....



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