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 English, tiramisu means “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 eating delicious meals. 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 funky and rustic than Rome’s city center. In Italian, tra means across, Tevere means Tiber, so it is literally “across the Tiber River. Trastevere is a short walk to places like the Pantheon and Spanish Steps, but it has its own tantalizing personality and is full of lively activity and lots of 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 lady finger cookies dipped in espresso, but here, Francesca poured the coffee directly onto the open maritozzo roll and then slathered on the mascarpone cream. Heaven. It is a lovely variation.
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 best and most challenging 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. After a few hours of down time, 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 (I like to use heaving whipping cream instead of raw egg whites, and I cook the egg yolks over a double-boiler much like making zabaglione. making sure it reaches 160 degrees F during cooking. It gives me peace of mind and it still tastes amazing.) Once your tiramisu is complete, refrigerate for 2-4 hours before serving. Tiramisu should be served the day it is prepared and will keep for 2 days in the fridge. Freezing is not recommended.


  • 4 eggs
  • 4 Tablespoons sugar
  • 8 ounces mascarpone
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 shots espresso or 1/2 cup strong coffee
  • 1 package ladyfingers
  • ground cocoa powder for garnish


1. Separate the eggs. We will only be using the yolks, so put the whites aside for Italian Flourless Chocolate Cookies or another favorite recipe.
2. Place the yolks and sugar in a medium metal mixing bowl and beat with electric mixer until light and creamy, about 2 minutes.
3. Place a large saucepan on the stove and fill about halfway with water. Heat to boiling. Now, hold the metal bowl with the egg/sugar mixture over the boiling water and whisk continuously for 5 minutes until creamy and frothy. Don’t let the bottom of the bowl touch the boiling water. You are creating a double boiler here. The idea is to heat the egg mixture to 160 degrees F. This temperature ensures that the egg yolks will be safe to consume and will give them a nice, creamy texture.
4. Using a rubber scraper, immediately transfer the egg mixture to a clean bowl and refrigerate.
5. Next, put the mascarpone in a mixing bowl and stir a bit to break it up. Set aside.
6. Using an electric beater or stand mixer, whip the heavy cream in a mixing bowl until it is the consistency of whipped cream.
7. Fold the whipped cream into the mascarpone until just mixed. Now, fold the egg/sugar mixture into the mascarpone mixture and stir until uniform. Here is your Italian cream!
8. Lastly, dip the lady fingers in the coffee. 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

Now you have the Italian cream and soaked lady fingers. Let’s put it all together.

9. Place half of the coffee-soaked lady finger cookies 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.
10. Very generously, sprinkle the cocoa powder over the top of the tiramisu so you don’t see the white of the cream underneath.
Refrigerate overnight or 4 hours before serving.

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

Tiramisu Roman Rustic Style

  • Servings: 4
  • Print

Try using a sweet maritozzo or brioche.


  • 4 eggs
  • 4 Tablespoons sugar
  • 8 ounces mascarpone
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 shots espresso or 1/2 cup strong coffee
  • 2-3 sweet maritozzo or brioche rolls
  • ground cocoa powder for garnish


Complete steps 1 – 7 from the recipe above to make your Italian cream. Next, slice each sweet roll down the middle and press gently to open – just like cutting a baked potato.

Spoon Italian cream inside each sweet roll and sprinkle generously with cocoa powder.

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

Your comments are always welcome!