Welcome to The Storied Recipe!!! This simple recipe for the classic Italian dessert, Zabaglione was contributed by Frances P for the Christmas Desserts Around the World series. She explains that this Easy Italian Custard, made only with eggs, sugar, and sweet wine, was the recipe her husband lovingly made for her after she delivered each of their 5 children.
Zabaglione (also spelled Zabaione) is a traditional, satisfying, and simple Italian dessert enjoyed on its own or with dozens of variations. It's a creamy custard made with eggs, sugar, and alcohol - no milk, no dairy (although whipped cream is often folded in). Traditionally, it was used as a filling for tarts or pies, but now is served plain, over fresh berries, as a dipping sauce for cakes, cookies, or Panettones, and with dozens of flavors. This particular Italian Zabaglione recipe is as basic and classic as it comes.
Classic Zabaglione is made, simply and easily, from the most basic ingredients. There's a very good chance you have them in your pantry right now and can enjoy this creamy Italian custard within 20 minutes of reading this post!
Fresh Eggs - As the main ingredient in a 3-ingredient dish, the eggs matter! Fresher, the better. We're lucky to have chickens and can make a very thick, creamy, frothy Zabione with our eggs straight from the coop. However, at a different time in my life, I've made Sabayon from the cheapest grocery store eggs and it was just delicious 😉
Sugar - In Italy, home cooks would use caster sugar (super fine). But I used granulated sugar - and it was just fine!
Sweet Dessert Wine - The entire recipe is very adjustable, but this is the most adjustable part of all. While Italians often use Moscato d'Asti or Marsala wine, the options are truly endless. You can go with a liqueur, like amaretto or campari, a sweet or dry wine (some recipes even call for red wine), a port or rum - really anything that sounds delicious to you. Some even make this without any alcohol at all, most often substituting coffee or espresso for the wine.
- Frances's recipe calls for five egg yolks, ½ cup of sugar, and /3 cup sweet wine or champagne. That's exactly what I used to make the batch photographed in the pictures on this post.
- However, many traditional recipes call for a 1:1:1 meaning 1 egg yolk : 1 (half) eggshell sugar : 1 (half) eggshell wine
- Read this article in Serious Eats for an argument as to why these proportions are essential in an emulsion says important in an emulsion
- Using measuring cups, it's easiest to follow the same proportion but remember a rule of 4's
- 4 egg yolks: ¼ cup sugar: ¼ cup of liquids
Any ideas what to do with extra egg whites?
- This article for Food52 titled "Best Uses for Extra Egg Whites" shares recipes for LOTS of options including meringue cookies, angel food cake, marshmallows, macarons, souffle and pavlova among others.
Health Benefits of Zabaglione
I am the proud mother of 5 children. After each birth, my husband would whisk up a Zabaglione for me, to “fortIfy” me, he would say. This treat, full of protein and salivating taste would be made for me daily for about a week. How loved I would feel! I have made this dessert/medicinal potion at home many times but enjoy it most when it is served to me. It just reminds me of the the pampering and care showered on me all those years ago.Frances P, The Storied Recipe Community
In fact, it IS true that egg yolks are a rich source of nutrients and a wonderful thing to be consumed (safely! See below for tips) by post-partum and nursing women, children, and anyone who can benefit from the protein and nutrients packed into fresh eggs.
- Nutrient Density: Egg yolks contain vitamins such as vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin B12, and folate, as well as minerals like phosphorus, selenium, and choline.
- Protein: Egg yolks contain high-quality protein, which is important for muscle health, tissue repair, and overall body function.
- Choline: Egg yolks are one of the best dietary sources of choline, a nutrient important for brain health, liver function, and the formation of cell membranes.
- Eye Health: Egg yolks are a source of lutein and zeaxanthin, two antioxidants that are beneficial for eye health. These compounds may help reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.
- Heart Health: Egg yolks contain nutrients like phospholipids that can have a positive impact on heart health.
- Bone Health: Vitamin D, which is found in egg yolks, helps maintain strong bones.
- Mood and Energy: Egg yolks contain nutrients like vitamin B12 and folate, which are important for mood regulation and energy production.
I have made this dessert/medicinal potion at home many times but enjoy it most when it is served to me. It just reminds me of the the pampering and care showered on me all those years ago.
One must be careful not to cook the custard too long over the simmering water of your double boiler or you can wind up with sweet scrambled eggs. Lol.Frances P, The Storied Recipe Community
The instructions are as simple as the ingredients!
- Bring water in a small pot or double boiler to a simmer
- Add egg yolks to a smooth-bottomed bowl on top of the simmering water.
- Pour sugar and alcohol on top and begin whisking immediately.
- Whisk until ribbons stay on top of egg yolk mixture
- Whisk one minute longer
- Use an amount of water that doesn't touch the bowl over it.
- Constant whisking is the key to properly thickened Zabione.
- For that reason, you'll want to prep all your ingredients in advance
- Once you add sugar to the eggs, you must start whisking immediately or the sugar can harden the eggs.
- Whisk in an up-and-over action that will aerate the mixture as much as possible.
Variations & Ways to Serve
A delightful light custard which can be served as a topping on a dessert or ice cream or just straight up!from Frances P
If you're not serving Zabaglione plain, here are the most popular ways to serve it:
Over Fresh Fruit
- Warm, over fresh berries: strawberries, raspberries, blueberries
- With sliced bananas, topped with a little whipped cream and Nilla wafers, as a high end Banana pudding in a cup!
- Cold with fresh macerated strawberries
- Peach Zabaglione: Stew the peaches for a few minutes with your alcohol of choice and top with the Zabaione.
- Rhubarb and Ginger Zabaglione - Chop rhubarb and make a compote with ginger, sugar, and lemon juice
Espresso Zabaglione: Rather than adding wine or liquor, add coffee or espresso
Chocolate Zabaglione: Make a sauce with whipped cream and chocolate chips, then fold into the Zabaglione. Top with chocolate shavings.
Citrus Zabaglione: Use Limoncello as the liqueur and top with orange, lemon, grapefruit or lime zest (or candied peels)
Which is the best wine to use? Wine, Liquors, and Liqueur Options:
- Sweet white wines: Riesling, Moscates, Moscato d'Asti, Sauternes
- Dessert wines
- Amaretto, Champagne, Grand Marnier, Prosecco, Pecorino, Pisco, Port, Rum are all variations you'll find online - choose your own!
Use to Make Other Desserts
- Traditional Tiramisu (uses Zabaione with mascarpone cheese)
- Berry and Ladyfinger Trifle (uses Zabaione with Whipped Cream folded in)
- Venetian Cake
- Strawberry shortcake with Zabaione and Whipped Cream Filling
- Amaretti cookies
- Coffee Raspberry Zabaglione Semifreddo
Served Over Cookies or Cakes
- Ladys Fingers
- Amaretti Cookies
- Pound cake
- Anginetti biscuits
- Lady's Fingers or Savoiardi biscuit (in Italian)
- Apple cake
Other Flavors: Drizzle fresh honey on top, flavor with vanilla extract or vanilla bean seeds, sprinkle cinnamon on top
When dealing with egg yolks, safety is always a concern. Here why this Zabaglione recipe is safe:
- Salmonella bacteria is killed when eggs reach 140 degrees for more than 3 minutes. For the custard to thicken, it will necessarily reach that temperature for that amount of time.
- Because the danger can re-emerge in the "danger zone" temperatures of XX TO YY, you may want to immediately place your bowl of Zabione in a bath of ice water to cool it to 40 degrees.
You can use a double boiler, but its not necessary.
Works just as well to put a metal mixing bowl over a pot of water. You'll want a mixing bowl that is smooth on the bottom so none of the Zabaglione will get stuck in a groove.
A cobber bowl is the absolute best option when it comes to whisking eggs and in this case also, for their qualities of heat conduction and smooth round base.
A candy thermometer can help ensure the custard doesn't exceed 185 degrees F (85 C).
Pretty clear dessert cups or small bowls
Can you freeze custard and how long does it last in the fridge?
- Some recipes say the Zabaglione can last in the fridge up to 2 days, as long as you re-whisk it for a minute or more before serving.
- If you prefer Zabaglione on the runnier side, and you are only using it as a dip or topping, perhaps, this may work well for you.
- However, if you're serving Zabaglione on its own, or as the star of the dish, I strongly recommend preparing it fresh at the last minute before serving.
- Do not freeze and defrost the Zabaglione. The alcohol will separate and keep the mixture from freezing.
Is Zabaglione a custard?
- Actually, no. (Even though I used the name in the post title.) Traditionally, custards use milk. Because Zabaglione is made dairy-free, it is technicaly a caudle used to fill tarts or pies
Zabaglione vs. Eggnog
- made on the less thick side, very similar
- drink added
Zabaglione vs Panna Cotta
Zabaglione/Zabione vs Sabayon?
- They're very similar but not quite the same.YES, subset of Sabayon
- zabaione pronounced
- Main difference Sabayon does not always have alcohol
- Also Sabayon is French
How to pronounce Zabaglione?
Zabaione: Italian pronunciation [dzabaˈjoːne])
Zabaglione (UK: /ˌzæbəlˈjoʊni/, US: /ˌzɑːb-/, Italian: [dzabaʎˈʎoːne])
More About Frances
I married a very traditional, off the boat Italian and was whisked away into a rich culture I knew nothing about. I learned about their history, their traditions, idiosyncrasies as well as their huge and delicious cuisine.
Now I just look forward to this wonderful indulgence with a cup of frothy cappuccino whenever I go to our favorite Italian restaurant in NY. Unfortunately not all restaurants serve Zabaglione, but I always ask. I immersed myself in the kitchen and 62 years later, still enjoy searching out new recipes.