Zabaglione

Zabaglione is a rich Italian dessert made with eggs, sugar, and Marsala wine. It’s a simple custard to prepare and tastes divine with fresh berries!

A parfait glass with sabayon sauce topped with cream and a strawberry.
Annika Panikker

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, as a sauce, or even frozen.

Where Does Zabaglione Come From?

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 out of print Time Life The Good Cook series’ Wine volume. The original recipe called for 3/4 cups of sugar, which in all of our opinions here was way too much.

A Lower Sugar Zabaglione Recipe

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 a double boiler set up, or a stainless steel bowl on top of, but not touching, simmering water.

Two parfait glasses with a custard dessert topped with cream and layered with strawberries.
Annika Panikker

The Difference Between Zabaglione and Sabayon

Zabaglione is often called sabayon (or zabayon). Zabaglione is an Italian dessert, and sabayon is the French version of zabaglione. Sabayon is typically served over fresh fruit; sometimes it's broiled over fruit in a dish and called a gratin.

Tips for Preparing the Custard

  • Zabaglione needs constant whisking, so that it doesn't overcook or curdle. Make sure you have all of the ingredients ready so that you don't overcook the custard.
  • Adjust the sugar. If you prefer your zabaglione sweeter, add more sugar a tablespoon at a time until you hit the right sweetness level for your taste buds.

Other Wines to Use in Zabaglione

Marsala wine is the traditional ingredient in zabaglione, but feel free to substitute it with another sweet wine, like sherry, Madeira, sparkling Moscato, or another dessert wine. Even some Grand Marnier would work.

How to Serve Zabaglione

Zabaglione is not a make-ahead dish. Leave it too long and all of your hard whisking work will be wasted once the dessert deflates over time.

It's served quite often in restaurants folded into whipped cream, which helps hold the custard chilled for several hours. You can then spoon it over a slice of cake or panettone.

Zabaglione can also be served in a bowl or dish topped with some fresh fruit, like pears, raspberries or sliced strawberries. It can be the star dessert just topped with some toasted almonds or with just a couple of biscotti.

More Classic Italian Desserts to Try!

From the Editors Of Simply Recipes

Zabaglione

Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Cooling Time 15 mins
Total Time 40 mins
Servings 6 servings

Ingredients

  • Zabaglione custard:
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • Pinch ground cinnamon
  • Drop vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup Marsala
  • Serve with:
  • 1 cup heavy cream, whipped
  • Strawberries, raspberries, or biscotti

Method

  1. Put the custard ingredients into a bowl:

    Place the egg yolks and sugar in a large, round-bottomed stainless steel or Pyrex bowl. Add the grated lemon zest, a pinch of cinnamon and a drop of vanilla extract to the yolk mixture. Pour in the Marsala.

    A glass bowl with egg yolks and ingredients for a abaglione recipe.
    Annika Panikker
  2. Prepare a double boiler:

    Fill a pot halfway with water, and bring the water to a simmer. Reduce the heat to maintain the simmer. Set the bowl containing the custard mixture over the water.

    Note: the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water.

    Glass bowl on a pot on the stove for a abaglione recipe.
    Annika Panikker
  3. Whisk the custard mixture until it thickens:

    Whisk the custard mixture, making sure that the water in the pot below is just gently boiling and not touching the bowl. This ensures a gentle, even heat thickens the mixture without curdling it. Whisking traps air in the yolks for a light, fluffy mixture.

    Continue whisking for several minutes, until the mixture triples in volume, froths up, and becomes pale.

    Whisking custard for a abaglione recipe.
    Annika Panikker
    Whisk held above a bowl of custard for a sabayon recipe.
    Annika Panikker
  4. Remove the bowl from the pot:

    When the custard 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.

    Whisking custard in a bowl to make a sabayon recipe.
    Annika Panikker
  5. Serve warm or cooled:

    Serve the custard while still warm, or, if you want to serve it cool, set it aside for about 15 minutes.

    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.

    Whisking whipped cream in a white bowl for a custard dessert.
    Annika Panikker
    Whisking custard into whipped cream in a large glass bowl to make a custard dessert.
    Annika Panikker
    Whisking custard into whipped cream in a large glass bowl to make a custard dessert.
    Annika Panikker
    A parfait glass with sabayon sauce topped with cream and a strawberry.
    Annika Panikker