Italian Dessert Week – Zabaglione


02 Oct Italian Dessert Week – Zabaglione


This dessert furthers my theory that Italians like to keep their hands busy. Zabaglione is no make-ahead time saver. You’re frothing like a mad fiend right up to the moment of serving. And it takes a good 10 to 15 minutes of uninterrupted whipping to get the eggs to set. No meandering back to the dining room to chat with guests between steps.

While researching, I learned the traditional method involves a copper bowl and a wire whisk. I’ve no time to polish copper and a wrist that dislocates at the thought of hard labour, so I substituted a stainless steel bowl and an electric hand mixer. Turned out just fine.

Providing you like marsala.

For the record, reactions were split down the middle. My sister Allison and I liked this very much. She liked the airy texture. I liked how the wine burst out of nowhere. My husband? He just shrugged and made a noise that’s hard to put into text. “Mmmnttpht,” is the closest I can get. And my mother, a dessert hound with a sweet tooth that rivals my own? Without so much as trying a spoonful, she shook her head and announced, “No thanks! I don’t like it!” I’ll give her credit. She tasted my creation when she saw the disappointment shimmer in my tear-filled eyes. But it didn’t change her mind. She just doesn’t like marsala.

So… Zabaglione! Fun to say, a pain to make and worth the effort for a select few. Since I’m one of the select few, I’m posting the recipe. For others? Pass the Baci Brownies, a dig into a platter of cheese or just nibble on the lady fingers.

Printable recipe

Serves 4

While some variations call for gelatin (huh!?!) or whipped cream, true Zabaglione is just egg yolks, sugar and wine (usually marsala, but I’ve seen recipes call for amaretto or muscatel). The ratio varies little and instructions always warn you to serve immediately since the dessert will separate within minutes. Serve in a fancy dish with lady fingers. The mint and miniature roses in my photo is just window dressing. Ignore them.


  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup superfine sugar
  • 1/2 cup Marsala
  • innocuous biscuit of choice


  1. Fill a large pot halfway with water and bring to a simmer.
  2. Meanwhile, beat yolks and sugar in a heatproof bowl until pale and creamy. I used an electric hand mixer but purists use a whisk.
  3. Place the bowl of yolks over the hot water and gradually beat in the wine. Continue whipping until the mixture is very thick, like soft meringue, and has doubled in volume. This takes between 10 and 15 minutes.
  4. Spoon into a stemmed glass.
  5. Garnish with a biscuit.

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  • Dana McCauley
    Posted at 08:41h, 02 October Reply

    Ah! Memories! When I was a fresh faced chef school apprentice I worked at Pronto where I had to make zabaglione to order over and over and each evening. I used a stainless steel bowl, too but a whisk, not a mixer.

    Although we offered this light and airy dessert made with marsala, we also made a champagne version which was very popular served over fresh strawberries. Maybe your family would like that version better?

  • Laura
    Posted at 09:33h, 02 October Reply

    This brought back memories for me too…When I was a kid, we used to eat zabaglione for breakfast. We made it with whole eggs, not just yolks, and no wine. Oh, and we used a hand mixer too.

  • cheryl
    Posted at 12:06h, 02 October Reply

    I love the story about your mom. Harsh! At least you don’t have to wonder what she’s thinking.

  • Christie's Corner
    Posted at 13:03h, 02 October Reply

    Dana, my wrist aches just thinking about it. I love the idea of champagne and strawberries. My mom loves champagne and might like this variation.

    Laura, glad you clarified the breakfast version was without wine. But Dana’s champagne version might be a great way to start the day…

    Cheryl, my mother is wonderfully straight forward. And I will never serve her anything with marsala again!

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