Italian Food, Italian language, Life in Italy

Baking in Italy: equivalents

My first cooking challenge in Italy was not learning the new measuring system but instead finding all my staple pantry items in Italian! The problem is that if you are looking for a translation of “puffed pastry” you will not actually see on the label “gonfio pasta” which is what I thought when I first moved here, that in language all modes of saying things stayed the same. Unfortunately, it is not that easy, you have to learn how Italians word things apart from just understanding food vocabulary. I had to first translate what I needed, try to recognize it, ask people, and then finally just learn by experimenting. I did searches online for blogs with beautiful pictures of everything described for me, but never found one.

So…since Thanksgiving is nearby and this is the season for cooking I’m writing this post to help facilitate the cooking process for all those who have moved to Italy and are frustrated with rock hard cookies.

Baking Soda (Bicarbonato)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                


Baking Powder (Lievito, oftentimes they add vanilla)


Dry yeast (Lievito di birra/Lievito fresco)


Vanilla (Aroma-Vaniglia) comes in little tiny tubes like this, or you can sometimes find powdered vanilla, the one in the picture is almond


Powdered sugar (Zucchero a Velo)


Instant vanilla pudding (crema istantanea vaniglia) or pudding in general is called budino                                                                                                                                                 


Corn starch (Amido di Mais)


Cream of whatever to equate to Campbell’s canned creams (crema con asparagi in this case)


Heavy cream (panna)                                                                                                                                                                                                                        


Sweetened condensed milk (latte intero concentrato zuccherato)                                                                                                                                                                                                 


Bouillon cubes (dado per brodo)                                                                                                                                                                      


Whipped cream (panna da montare) they do not have cream already whipped besides in the spray cans, if you need a lot you have to just whip it up yourself *don’t over whip, make sure the date on the box is good, it helps to stick it in the fridge for a few minutes as well                                                                                                       


Shortening (Strutto)


Cream cheese (Formaggio Fresco) you can also find the Philadelphia brand


Corn flour to use for grits, cornbread, and such (Farina di mais)


Puffed pastry (Pasta sfoglia)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              


Tomato concentrate (concentrato di pomodoro) This also comes in tubes but it can be double concentrated, make sure to read                                                                                                                                                                                                                     


There are some pre-packaged things that you will just not find in Italy such as compact brown sugar, boxed pancake mix, sour cream and such. Take a look at my last post How to Throw Thanksgiving in Italy for a guide on how to make some of those things yourself.

My first year cooking in Italy was a disaster. I made my mother’s cinnamon rolls 6x before I got the dough to rise properly. I cracked all sorts of nuts just to find pecans and sadly realized there are none. I made rock hard cookies over and over because I didn’t have the right flour.  I didn’t know how to whip cream correctly and ended up with this flat milky substance because I whipped the heck out of it. What I can say is that I was a very unexperienced cook then, I’m definitely an experienced cook now! Italy has a way of turning people into true cooks because the convenience is often not there.

Please leave comments if you have anything to add!


18 thoughts on “Baking in Italy: equivalents”

  1. I’ve suddenly started noticing in the last few months what I think is sour cream….panna acida..on the shelves in the dairy section but I haven’t tried it yet! And I think it’s worth mentioning that often pre prepared pastry (pasta foglia) is often sweet, so no good for savoury pies!

    1. I found it in Conad. It comes from Germany and is called Suer Rohm. It’s just like the sour cream I’m used to, but is a little thinner. When I use it for a cake I make that calls for 1 pint of sour cream, I use half Suer Rohm & half plain Greek yogurt.

    2. You’re right. Panna acida is sour cream, but I haven’t been able to find it in my local Abruzzo region stores. What I buy instead, and it works fine, is creme fraiche, from Conad.

  2. I was living in southern Italy for 18 months before i found fresh yeast, it was only when i saw a guy making pizza did i ask where he bought it that he looked at me as if i was stupid!! I found traditional bread flour in Caserano and it makes wonderful bread.

  3. I get everyone I know who is coming from the States, or UK, to bring me my SAF instant yeast. Oddly enough, SAF has a factory in Italy, but they don’t sell to individuals, last time I checked.

  4. Strutto is the only form of shortening I have found in my area. Strutto, all of it, is lard (pig fat) so be aware of the cholesterol content. Anything I absolutely can’t do without I can usually find on “My American Market”.

      1. I am the queen of justification. I started making my own brown sugar and vanilla extract. I substitute McVities cookies (original variety) for graham crackers, and Mulina “Galetta” cookies for vanilla wafers. I figure I get to order molasses, for the brown sugar, and baking powder as a payback for my thrift. 🙂

  5. hi there
    heading back to Verona for Christmas and I wanted to try my hand at making Clotted Cream for my mother. Clotted Cream requires heavy / double cream. I have lived away from Italy for 20 years now and I have no idea if I will be able to find the Italian equivalent. In your very informative “Baking in Italy : Equivalents” you say that the simple PANNA is heavy cream. are we 100% sure? What’s the fat content in PANNA?
    grazie and keep writing !

    1. Hi Alberto! Panna fresca, is indeed heavy cream! In 250g of panna Fresca (a regular container) there is about 85-90g of fat. This is the cream my Italian family advises me to use for all things that require heavy cream. There is also panna da cucina which is not fresh cream, and it comes in different flavours.

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