Zabaglione

Zabaglione is a simple Italian dessert made of egg yolks, sugar, and Marsala wine. It is usually served warm, though it can be served cold, or as a sauce, or even frozen. The Gourmet Sleuth writes,”Zabaglione is said to have been invented in the 16th Century in Florence, Italy in the court of the Medici. This dessert is classified as a “caudle” rather than a custard. A “caudle” is a sauce used as a custard to fill pies or tarts. The original pre-sixteenth century version was a drink made or wine or ale thickened with egg yolks.

I found the original recipe for zabaglione in the (1982) Time Life series The Good Cook Wine volume (out of print, only available on eBay). The original recipe called for 3/4 cups of sugar, which in all of our opinions here was way too much. I have since found similar recipes calling for half as much sugar. So I would suggest 1/3 to 1/2 a cup, depending on taste. This is actually quite easy to make; you just need to have a double boiler set up, or a stainless steel bowl on top of, but not touching, simmering water.

Zabaglione Recipe

  • Yield: Serves 6.

Ingredients

  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup Marsala wine
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
  • Ground cinnamon
  • Vanilla extract
  • 1 cup heavy cream, whipped
  • Strawberries, raspberries, or biscotti

Method

1 Place egg yolks, and sugar in a large, round-bottomed stainless steel bowl. Add grated lemon peel and a pinch of cinnamon and a drop of vanilla extract to the yolk mixture. Pour in the Marsala wine. You can use sweet Vermouth as a substitute for the Marsala.

custard_double_boiler.jpg

2 Half-fill a pot with water, bring the water to a simmer and reduce the heat to low. Set the pan or bowl containing the custard mixture over the water; the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water. Whisk the custard mixture, making sure that the water does not boil. This ensures that a gentle, even heat thickens the mixture without curdling it. Whisking traps air in the yolks for a light, fluffy mixture.

3 Continue whisking for about 10 minutes, until the mixture triples in volume, froths up and becomes pale. When it reaches the desired consistency, take the container of custard out of the pot. Slightly thickened, the custard can be used as a sauce. Longer cooking will thicken the custard further, giving it the texture of mousse. Continue whisking for a minute or two to prevent the custard from sticking to its container.

4 Serve the custard while still warm, or, if you want to serve it cool, set it aside for about 15 minutes. Whisk heavy cream until it forms soft peaks; add the whipped cream to the cooled custard and use a whisk to gently fold them together. Reserve some of the whipped cream to serve on top.

Ladle the zabaglione into individual dishes. Serve with whipped cream, berries, and/or cookies such as biscotti.

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Sabayon from David Lebovitz

24 Comments

  1. Donna in Harrsiburg

    I’ve never had Zabaglione, but your make it sound so easy… not to mention delicious! And I thought Marsala wine was just for Chicken! Excellent!!

  2. Mik

    This is my all-time favorite Italian dessert..yum…I like it made with Amaretto too

  3. hoozy

    I enjoy using a good tawny port in this, also–it imparts a very warm flavor!

  4. Narnia

    In my country, this dessert is called “Sambayón” and the wine of choice is not Marsala but Port. We usually use 1/2 cup of sugar, and add some spoonfuls of cream.

  5. El Cocinero Loco

    Try your zabaglione with a shot of expresso &amp marsala. Just remember to recalculate your ratios.

    A great way to use zabaglione is to pour it over a bed of fruits. After letting it coagulate some give it to the broiler for a few moments and and toast the surface.

  6. Elise

    Dear El Cocinero – you tease me with your comments, but never leave an email address! Please write to me so I can thank you personally. recipes {at] elise *dot* com.

  7. Cecile in Quebec, Canada

    Hi Elise – just found your BLOG and love it !! I have already copied several of the recipes.
    Very happy that I found a recipe for Zabaglione. When we lived in Europe, a Beligium friend made it for us. She called it “Sabayon” and didn’t need a recipe but she did show me how she did it. Now I can make it for myself.

  8. Arthur

    This is a great recipe!

  9. giulia tosi

    In Italian is not written zabaglione but zabaione…just a quick note because I love your site and I love to eat what I cook after reading your recipes..big hug from italy
    Giulia

  10. Joanne

    I tried cooking this the other day.. I think I over cooked it…. the contents of the bottom of the pan was stiff (still full of air).

    Is it supposed to taste a bit eggy? Does that mean its under cooked? (I have never found it in a resturant to try)

    Thanks!

  11. Anne Castioni

    I tried this recipe several times. The flavors are superb, but I could not get the right consistency. I used a wire wisk and heated it as instructed but it never thickened. I also tried it with an electric hand mixer and it got frothy but still not thick.

    What am I doing wrong?

  12. Eric Martz

    Anne,

    You might want to try whipping the egg yolks and sugar separately before adding the other ingredients. They should double to triple in volume and become very pale.

    Another dessert variation is to add an equal volume of fresh, whipped heavy cream to the above recipe and freeze. The result is a rich, fluffy custard type ice cream great with fresh fruit or a warm cookie.

  13. fiona

    I did it just now, and it is delicious, sumptuous and really special.

    From now on my favorite dessert. I used strawberries alternating layers of strawberries and layers of zabaglione and used a biscoti at the top. I even took pictures of it.

    Thanks for all the steps, history and everything.

  14. Rufus McDufus

    The lemon peel, cinnamon and fruit are unnecessary and probably not good because the peel bits will spoil the silky smoothness of this dessert and the cinnamon will add a foreign and distracting flavour. The vanilla is OK – it is a subtle flavour and will complement rather than fight with the egg. The fruit simply has no place in this dessert. Sorry.

    As well as biscotti, I have had it with amaretti.

  15. Jennifer

    I have to disagree with the person who said fruit doesn’t has a place in this recipe! I’ve been making Zabaglione for years and am always looking for recipe variations to try. I LOVE it over a slice of pound cake or angel food cake, topped with berries! YUM! As to the “disagree” part – have it with whatever floats YOUR boat! I said how I like it, but its certainly not *the* way! Its *a* way! PS – I use Amaretto in place of the wine, and usually macerate strawberries/mixed berries in Amaretto overnight and spoon them over the custard! VERY YUM!

  16. Michelle

    ahh, this recipe makes me sad. Because I had it in a gelato, and loved it, but when I tried to make it- it was a disaster! I think my plastic whisk didn’t do its job, the heavy cream wouldn’t fluff, and then the mixture was also very bitter from the wine, overpowering! I’m not sure what I did wrong . . . *sigh*. maybe it’s too hard for me or the wine was low quality. :(

  17. lisa j

    I have made zabaglione (pronounced “zabayon”) for years. I’m no cook, but this is my go-to dessert recipe because it’s unique and once you know what result you’re looking for, easy.

    @ Joanne: remember, the main ingredient is egg. If you have stiff, solid product at the bottom of the pan, that means you overheated and underwhisked. Half the trick with this recipe is to maintain a strong whisk throughout to cook evenly and maintain a froth. I skip the whisk and use electric mixers right over the stove on a low/medium heat until the liquid is a pale yellow and there are little bubbles. You mainly want to get it from a yellow mustard hue to more of a dijon.

    @ Rufus: I don’t use any of those ingredients either. I only use the egg, sugar, and marsala because I like to keep things simple! I disagree about the fruit though. I think nothing complements the warm zabaglione better than a cup of fresh blackberries or chopped strawberries.

  18. JimG

    Just one question? Is the alcohol absolutely necessary? Or will the recipe be ruined without alcohol? Any input, advice or substitutions would be greatly appreciated.

  19. Greg Walker

    I love the zabaglione! I first had it at Aldo’s restaurant in Sacramento when I was a wee lad, and it has remained one of my very favorite desserts.

  20. Ernie

    Good dessert but too much Marsala. Try it with less or change to lighter liquer.

  21. Kohlia

    My personal taste totally disagrees with the author’s comment that the “original” had too much sugar… to me, the altered version has WAYYYYYY too much wine and not near enough sugar, but I’ve always liked my zabaglione to have equal parts sugar/wine (or sometimes even a little more sugar than wine if I have a particularly sweet tooth or if I’m pairing it with something a little tart). I also happen to drop the cinnamon because I dislike it, but I like the added lemon zest for a fresh alternative!

  22. michael uttaro

    my grandmother used an italian custard for her conolis could this be It. If not any Ideas I have never had custard like hers. as a little boy all i remember is the doub;e boiler metal wisk and lemon zest.

  23. Frank arena

    In 1955, (age 26), while under doctor’s orders to only non- animal foods, my mother
    ( a Sicilian immigrant) gave me Simple “plain egg yolk & Marsala wine” for my health!….Wasn’t seriously ill again until 2008.
    My point? Zabaglione is more tha just a dessert..
    Good health,
    Veritas

  24. Xavier

    Xavier

    I was first introduced to this desert when I was busing tables at a resturant by the name of leaning tower when I was a kid with a apatite for deserts . And now twenty years later I am a J.C and am doing a remodel on the place and find my self craving it . So thanks for info I will try it.

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