Italian foods are normally served for lunch or dinner, but what about an Italian breakfast? Italian breakfasts tend to be very light and, well, dessert-like compared to other Western nations. Common breakfast foods for Italians include bread and jam, cookies, croissant-like cornetti, and pastries. but the specific foods served vary by region.
An Italian-style breakfast is often served with milky drinks like coffee, tea, or hot chocolate. Like Americans, Italians love their lattes and cappuccinos, but they also drink juice and a barley drink called Orzo.
Here are some of the most delicious Italian breakfast foods. It’s not a complete list, of course; I had to limit it to only seventeen dishes that will bring the Mediterranean right to your home.
17 Delicious Italian Breakfast Foods
Frittata is a bit like an omelet or scrambled eggs. The word translates approximately to “Fried,” and it’s an accurate name. They are either cooked on a skillet or baked.
The difference between a frittata and an omelet is that the eggs have a custard-like consistency, cooked slowly at a lower temperature. Unlike omelets, frittatas don’t have to be served hot but can be brought out at almost room temperature for larger groups.
The Italian answer to crepes or pancakes, crespelle tends to take after crepes more than anything else. They’re thin, easily folded, and can be made for sweet and savory meals.
You can make crespelle from home, especially since they’re basically pancakes. You can also fill them with, among other things, ricotta, spinach, or chicken to add to the experience.
The essential companion for coffee might seem like an odd choice for breakfast food, but Italians don’t usually eat heavy breakfasts. Biscotti, also known as cantucci, are stiff cookies that are perfect for a hot drink.
In Italy, biscotti normally contain almonds and are served with other kinds of drinks, rather than just coffee. They’re easy to make and can make a good party into a great one.
Something of a cross between a fruitcake and bread, panettone is a sweet bread with raisins, candied fruit, and lemon flavoring. It can be topped with chocolate, sugar, or almonds.
Panettone is usually served on holidays; in fact, it’s usually found in American supermarkets around Christmas. It can be paired with jelly or jam, but if you want something different you can try Nutella or an Italian type of cream cheese called Mascarpone cream.
Cornetto is the Italian version of a croissant, but softer, not as flaky, and made with less butter. They can be made plain or filled with jam, custard, or cream.
In some parts of Italy, a cornetto is called a brioche, but not all brioches are cornettos. The difference is mainly in the shape. Cornettos are wrapped up like croissants, while traditional brioches are more like traditional bread.
Neccio, known in the plural as necci, is something like a pancake that comes in plain form or rolled up and stuffed with a filling like ricotta cheese. It’s also considered a desert food in addition to breakfast food.
A traditional neccio is made from chestnut flour, so it’s gluten-free. Chestnut flour doesn’t rise like other types of flour, making the neccio’s flat shape.
7. Fette Biscottate
Also known as zwieback cookies, Fette biscottate are hardened cookie-like pieces of bread. They’re like biscotti in that they’re most commonly served with a milk-based drink like coffee.
Fette biscottate can be made at home in a couple of hours. They go well with jelly, jam, Nutella, or butter and they are one of the most popular breakfast foods in Italy.
8. Ricotta & Nutella Crostata
“Crostata” means “tart”, as in a pastry rather than how it tastes. This sweet pastry comes from Sicily and is easy to make at home.
It takes a couple of hours to prepare a crostata, so plan accordingly. It’s rich and decadent, and maybe not for everyone, but a lot of people like it.
Another Italian pastry, sfogliatella or sfogliatelle translates to “thin leaf”. It got that name because the thin flaky layers look a little like a bunch of leaves stacked on top of each other.
Sfogliatella is traditionally filled with a mixture of ricotta and semolina, but you can change it up a bit if you want to try something different.
10. Breakfast Bruschetta
This one is for anyone who likes toast. Bruschetta is popular enough that there are many recipes found online, but the main ingredients are garlic, olive oil, and salt on toasted bread.
For a breakfast version, you can add ham, bacon, scrambled eggs, and cheese to the toast. This creates a tasty mix that will have people asking for more.
Granita is an icy dish like a sorbet or Italian ice. It’s made from fruit and water, blended and frozen, then shredded with a fork and frozen again.
This sweet treat is created with almost any kind of fruit, as well as coffee. It can also be served with coffee or a warm brioche for contrast in temperature and texture.
Cannoli is a kind of fried pastry dough wrapped around a sugary center of ricotta or mascarpone. It’s generally considered a dessert but did you know it’s also a traditional Italian breakfast food? It sure is!
You can make cannoli from scratch in under two hours. They can also be bought at any bakery or supermarket if you need your cannoli right away.
Also known as ferratelle, cancelle, or Italian waffles, Pizzelle are a kind of cookie that I used to eat when I was very young. They’re a flat, waffle-like wafer about as big as a hand.
If you have a waffle maker, you can make pizzelle at home. One variant of the original recipe is to roll them up and turn them into a kind of cannoli.
Zeppole, or Italian donuts, are pastries consisting of balls of fried dough with powdered sugar on top. These balls can be filled with custard, ricotta, or any other sweet filling.
It’s easy to make zeppole since they’re pretty much donuts. They are finished in around an hour, and ready to serve right out of the stove.
15. Eggs in Purgatory
Let’s take a break from the sweet stuff and take a look at something more savory. Eggs in purgatory, a dish consisting of eggs poached in tomato sauce and then placed on toast, is a recipe that has seen a lot of variations between different countries over the years.
The Italian version is called “Uova in Purgatorio.” It’s spicier compared to other countries, but it’s just as tasty and filling as any of them.
Maritozzi are also called Italian sweet buns or Roman buns. As that last name says, they come from Rome, a kind of pastry that’s traditionally filled with whipped cream and topped with powdered sugar.
Marritozzo translates roughly to “almost-husband.” It got its name from an old legend that men would give them to the women they loved as a marriage proposal. It’s a story that is as sweet as the buns themselves.
17. Polenta Cereal
What breakfast list would be complete without a cereal? Polenta, which comes from cornmeal, is gluten-free and vegetarian friendly. In addition to being low-calorie, it also originated in Italy.
Polenta cereal can be made hot or cold and combined with brown sugar, blueberries, apricots, or other fruits for a sweet tasty dish that won’t fill you up.
And that’s it, seventeen mouth-watering Italian breakfast foods. Italians tend to like their breakfasts sweet, quick, and non-filling, which is why so many of these foods would be considered desserts elsewhere.
Are there any foods that you think I missed? Do you have the best family recipe to share? Let me know and I’d be happy to try them out!