Quite appropriately, “tiramisu” translates to something along the lines of “pick me up.”
And that’s exactly what it is—a sweet pick-me-up that’s well worth saving space for, no matter how much carbonara or cacio e pepe you may have already eaten. Coffee-dipped ladyfinger cookies and sweet, fluffy mascarpone come together in a beautiful symphony of flavors and textures in this heavenly dessert.
While savoring tiramisu after a meal at a Roman trattoria is a must at least once in your lifetime, there’s no need to deprive yourself until you make it back to Italy. This traditional Italian tiramisu recipe will do wonders to hold you over until then.
SEE ALSO: Where to Eat the Best Tiramisù in Rome
The history of tiramisu
According to the Accademia del Tiramisù, a gastronomic and cultural association dedicated to preserving and promoting Italy’s most iconic dessert, the restaurant Beccherie in Treviso gets credit for creating first “official” iteration of tiramisu in the 1970s.
Though this was the first time a formal recipe for the dessert had been put together, the roots of tiramisù can be traced back nearly 200 years earlier. Legend says that the madam who ran a brothel in Treviso in the early 1800s would prepare the dessert for clients heading home at the end of the night. While this version of the story has been buried throughout history in favor of a more family-friendly version, there’s evidence to support that it does have its roots in Treviso around that time.
In the 1980s, tiramisu’s popularity exploded throughout the rest of the world, particularly in Italian-American restaurants in the United States. Today, it’s arguably the most famous Italian dessert in the world (except for possibly gelato) and enjoyed up and down the boot-shaped peninsula where it was born.
Today, there are nearly as many versions of tiramisu in Italy as there are nonnas. Each restaurant and home cook gives it their own twist: some include chocolate or Nutella, others brighten up the flavor with fresh fruit, and still others use gelato instead of the mascarpone-based custard.
But this Italian tiramisu recipe comes from the Devour family: Abbie, our operations manager and first guide here at Devour Rome, got it from her Roman mother-in-law, Franca. Her secret: mini chocolate chips and a dusting of cocoa powder over the surface to sweeten the deal with just a touch of chocolate.
Italian tiramisu recipe
- 3 eggs, separated
- ½ cup (50 grams) powdered sugar
- 10.5 ounces (300 grams) mascarpone cheese
- 6 shots of espresso, cooled (made in either a Moka pot or an espresso machine)
- 1 tablespoon Cognac or Marsala wine (optional)
- 9 ounces (250 grams) savoiardi (ladyfinger) cookies
- Mini dark chocolate chips or chocolate savings, to taste (optional)
- Raspberries to taste (optional)
- Cocoa powder, for dusting
- Beat the egg yolks with the powdered sugar. Stir in the mascarpone and mix until smooth.
- In a separate bowl, add a pinch of salt to the egg whites and beat until the mixture forms stiff peaks. Fold the whites into the mascarpone mixture.
- Add the Cognac or Marsala wine into the cooled espresso (if using the alcohol).
- Begin to assemble the tiramisu in a large baking dish. One at a time, dip the ladyfinger cookies into the coffee mixture until soaked through. Line the bottom of the baking dish with a layer of them.
- Cover the ladyfingers with a layer of the mascarpone mixture. Sprinkle with chocolate chips or raspberries.
- Repeat the layering process until you reach the top of the baking dish. Dust the surface with a layer of cocoa powder.
- Put in the fridge and let set at least three hours. Serve chilled.