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What is Zabaglione?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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Zabaglione is an Italian custard traditionally made with Marsala wine. The custard can be used to fill various desserts like pies and wafer cookies, it can be served plain, or it can be served with fresh fruits and syrup. When well made, it is light, fluffy, and extremely flavorful, with a full, rich taste which some people find quite enjoyable. Some Italian markets sell zabaglione, and it is also often on offer at restaurants. It can also be made at home surprisingly easily, for people who want to experiment a bit with the recipe.

This dish appears to have evolved from a family of beverages known as caudles. Caudles were traditionally cooked with eggs, sugar, and alcohol, and they tended to be very rich and nourishing. Many Europeans made caudles for invalids, or as special treats during the cold winter months. The earliest form of zabaglione specifically seems to date to around the 16th century, and the dish is also known to the French, who call it sabayon.

Depending on how long zabaglione is cooked, it can be very thin and runny, more like a sauce or drink, or much more dense. It can also be mixed with ingredients such as whipped cream or mascarpone cheese for an especially rich flavor, in which case it may be served in small dessert glasses topped with fresh fruit and syrup. The custard can also be used as an unusual cake or eclair filling.

To make zabaglione, you will need a double boiler and a whisk. Combine six egg yolks, a half cup sugar, three quarters of a cup of Marsala, a teaspoon of grated orange or lemon rind, a pinch of grated nutmeg or cinnamon, and one quarter teaspoon of vanilla extract. Cook the ingredients over the double boiler on low heat, whisking constantly to incorporate lots of air. As you whisk, the zabaglione will start to fluff up and become dense; remove when it has reached the desired texture, and pour it into dessert molds or pipe it into cookies or pies.

For extra richness, fold in one and one half cups of whipped heavy cream or mascarpone. You can serve this dish hot or cold with whatever toppings seem most suitable to you. It pairs well with rich dessert wines, or it can be consumed without liquid accompaniment.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By BarinaCraft — On Dec 31, 2016

Zabaglione actually dates back to early in the last half of the fifteenth century and has lots of colorful theories about its historical origins and namesakes.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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