Tiramisu- Classic and Rome Rustic Style

A piece cut from the completed tiramisu
Remember Sleepless in Seattle, the classic love story by Nora Ephron with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan?  Tom Hanks fearfully wants to start dating again and thinks tiramisu is a new technique to use in bed. He is so nervous and asks Rob Riener, “Some woman is gonna want me to do it to her and I’m not gonna know what it is what tiramisu is.”  In his dry witty humor, Riener says, “You’ll love it.”

In reality, tiramisu translates to “pick-me-up.” The history of tiramisu is rich and colorful, but Clara and Gigi Padovani have literally written the book on the subject. Their book titled, Tiramisu: History, Curiosity, Interpretations of the Most Loved Italian Dessert,  gives the true history of the dessert in addition to 17 original tiramisu recipes from around Italy. Originally created in Friuli-Venezia Giulia at the resturant Al Vetturino di Pieris, it was popularized and spread around the world from Venezia, the region of Venice.  The Padovanis have coined March 21 as Tiramisu day. because they thought it was a perfect way to usher in the spring.

At the beginning of October, Scott and I spent a whirlwind 4 days in Rome. We even managed to fit in a tiramisu cooking class between visiting stunning fountains, domes, remnants of civilizations and Slow Food restaurants. In Italy, it really is all about the food.

We stayed in Trastevere, which is on the other side of the tracks, so to speak. This area is a bit more rustic than Rome’s city center. In Italian, tra means across, Tevere means Tiber, so it is literally “across the Tiber River. From Trastevere you can walk to places like the Pantheon and Spanish Steps, but it has its own tantalizing personality and is full of lively activity and locals.

Along the Tiber river in Rome and Trastevere

The tiramisu cooking class was in a cute restaurant called Il Maritozzo Rosso Bistrot run by Edoardo Fraioli and Francesca Cappelli. They are two very creative chefs who are well known in Rome for their original recipes using the maritozzo, a sweet Roman roll much like the French brioche. You could easily walk right by the restaurant without noticing; it is a perfect hidden treasure.

Rustic spoon ready to measure the sugar

We met Francesca in the restaurant at 10:00 am. She took us through the step-by-step process for making tiramisu using the maritozzo roll. Typically tiramisu is made with ladyfinger cookies dipped in espresso, but here, Francesca poured the coffee directly onto the open maritozzo roll and then slathered on the mascarpone cream to create this lovely variation. Heaven.
A rustic tiramisu made in Rome
I have provided you with both versions of tiramisu; the classic with lady fingers, and the variation using a sweet roll like the maritozzo. Perhaps you can find a brioche or other sweet roll at your bakery or supermarket.

When is the best time to eat tiramisu?

One of the charming aspects of traveling around Italy are the quiet afternoons. Most stores and restaurants close between about 2:00 – 5:00 pm. It takes a bit of getting used to, but once you get in the rhythm, the day takes on a perfect ebb and flow of activity. Just when our bio-rhythms have slowed down, so does the town. Then, after a few hours of downtime, starting around 5:00 pm, little by little, the streets begin to come alive again. NOW is the perfect time for tiramisu! What is better than an aperitif and a hunk of tiramisu, with its sugar and caffeine high, to get you ready for the night ahead? Eating tiramisu at 5:00 pm is the perfect solution for those of us who like to eat dessert first. Another perk? We have time to burn it off before bedtime. It is win-win!

First, classic tiramisu:

Classic Tiramisu

  • Servings: 4-6
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The perfect late afternoon pick-me-up.

Makes 1 – 8 x 8 inch pan of tiramisu


  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 shots espresso or 1/2 cup strong coffee
  • 1 Tablespoon brandy (or Limoncello)
  • 2 eggs -separated into whites and yolks
  • 6 ounces mascarpone
  • 12 ladyfingers
  • 2 Tablespoons ground cocoa powder for garnish


1. In a shallow bowl, mix coffee, sugar, and brandy. Stir to dissolve sugar and set aside.
2. In another bowl, with an electric mixer, beat egg whites to stiff peaks.
3. In a separate bowl, mix mascarpone with yolks and stir well. Next, gently fold in egg whites until incorporated.
4. For the first layer, dip the ladyfingers in the coffee mixture. All it takes is a very quick dip; lady fingers soak up the coffee quickly and you don’t want them to be soggy after they have soaked in the cream.
Lady fingers dipped in espresso

5. Place half of the coffee-soaked ladyfingers in the bottom of the glass pan, forming the bottom layer. Spoon half of the cream over the top of the cookies and spread evenly. Put another layer of coffee soaked cookies on top and spread on the rest of the cream.
6. Lastly, sprinkle the cocoa powder over the top of the tiramisu so you don’t see the white of the cream underneath.
Once your tiramisu is complete, refrigerate for 2-4 hours or overnight before serving. It will keep for 2 days in the fridge. Freezing is not recommended.

And now… the Rustic Roman Style Tiramisu  (Scott likes this one best)

Tiramisu Roman Rustic Style

  • Servings: 4
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Try using a sweet maritozzo or brioche.


Complete steps 1 – 3 from the recipe above to make your Italian cream. Next, using 6 sweet rolls, slice it down the middle and press gently to open – just like cutting a baked potato.

Spoon Italian cream inside each sweet roll, then pour some of the coffee mixture over the top, just enough to soak into the roll. Lastly, sprinkle generously with cocoa powder. Eat with a fork or pick it up and eat with your fingers.

Wait until 5:00 and then enjoy with a little aperitif, such as Campari or Prosecco.

Your comments are always welcome!