My husband has fond memories of a special breakfast meal that his mother would prepare for him. I say fondness because that’s what I see and hear on his face as he recalls the memory. But the look on his face is strange, as though hiding mixed feelings.  You know that look where one’s nose curls up in disgust yet the mouth is smiling? That look. I can’t quite figure out what feelings are behind the look and he can’t really verbalise it accurately. I do know that he is now extremely fussy when it comes to eating eggs- they now have to be cooked very well. He wonders if this extreme fussiness is because of zabaglione. (That’s my disclaimer)

Anyway, his ma would make zabaglione for breakfast sometimes. Not all the time, it was a special treat. Zabaglione is  a simple but deliciously rich, Italian dessert made of egg yolks, sugar, and Marsala wine. Espresso, champagne, sherry or wine can be used. (My mother-in-law made it with orange juice in place of the marsala) It is usually served warm, though it can be served cold, or as a sauce, or even frozen. Coupled with fruit it is truly a deliciously, rich dessert. For breakfast, it can be served with biscotti and a cappuccino. when served with biscotti and coffee, you may find you want to add a little more sugar.

However, Italian cooking is so diverse that no two recipes look the same. Every region in Italy has its own style of cooking but even further, each village has their own way of doing things as well. So every town has its own recipe for bread or sauce and zabaglione. It doesn’t mean that the recipe is wrong…it’s just a different recipe, most likely from a different region than another recipe. Italians can tell what region a person is from often by their way of cooking. My husband’s family are from a southern region of Italy: Calabria.

4 servings

  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 4 tbsp caster sugar (white will do)
  • 4 tbsp Marsala, Espresso, juice or other
  • Drop or two of vanilla essence

1) Put the egg yolks and sugar in a large heatproof bowl and whisk together until light and fluffy and approximately doubles in size.. We use an electric egg beater but be very careful to not over-beat.
When the mixture starts to thicken, place the bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water. A double-boiler can be used if you have one. Alternatively, you can use a metal or other heatproof bowl that can be suspended over simmering water. Just be sure to not let the water touch the bottom of the bowl.

2) Add vanilla, marsala, juice or espresso and whisk ( we cheat and use an electric egg beater) continuously until the mixture becomes thick, hot and foamy. The eggs need to be cooked gently so the mixture stays smooth.

3) Spoon the zabaglione into serving dishes and serve with accompaniments. (Either biscotti, cream, fresh or stewed fruit, etc)


Variations for dessert

Zabaglione with Cream
Take a tub of thickened cream and whip it until it is stiff. Once the zabaglione is cooked, very gently add most of the whipped cream to the slightly cooled zabaglione and gently fold together. Use the remaining cream to decorate after spooning the zabaglione into separate small dishes or cups.

Chocolate Zabaglione
Gently melt some chopped semi-sweet, good quality chocolate. Once zabaglione is cooked, gently fold in the melted chocolate. Decorate with shaved chocolate and fresh berries make a lovely addition to this dish.

Zabaglione with Ice Cream
Pour warm zabaglione over a good quality ice cream or gelati for a rich and beautiful dessert.

Baked or Chilled Zabaglione
Spoon the thick custard like zabaglione into individual bowls/dishes and sprinkle with chocolate or sugar. Either bake in the oven or chill in the fridge.


A few links although not too many as there are too many variations

Zabaglione at Anna Maria‘s

Simply Recipes

Cold Zabaglione by Nigella

Lydia’s Kitchen recipe

Video on youtube– cooking course 108 (this guy is verbose and one swear word)

Video on videojug

Do you have a favourite recipe for Zabaglione?



Okay so I got it wrong. John’s ma used to make his different to what I posted last night.

She didn’t cook it! She would whip up the egg yolks with the sugar and a little coffee and just keep whipping it in the electric mixer for about 7 min, till it went smooth and creamy. Ewwwwww, is it any wonder he can only eat eggs that are over cooked? No cooking, just whipping! When I suggested that this could be the reason for his aversion to properly cooked eggs he responded with,

“Nah, the Zabaglione didn’t turn me off. That was yummy! But she used to make me suck raw eggs as a nutritional food”. Ewww gross!

Just thought I’d better come back and set the record straight.