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Zabaione: the sweet taste of nostalgia

  • Apr 10, 2021

Zabaione is a delicious Italian treat that is known both as a dessert cream and a bottled liqueur. 

For many generations, zabaglione is one of those recipes from the memory of simplicity and wonder, made by grandmothers who - without electric whisks and without the alcohol - transformed eggs and sugar into soft foam under the astonished gaze of the young members of the family.

From breakfast to a snack, for our Cesarine, zabaglione means closely guarded childhood memories, a delicious, freshly-made dessert that touches on the most beautiful emotions.

Cesarina Gabriella from Turin tells us: 'Every morning, my Nonna Giovanna used to take me with her to collect eggs from the henhouse. When we got back to the kitchen, she would start beating the freshly collected eggs with sugar by hand until she obtained a soft, intensely coloured froth. I, standing on the stool, would watch her in wonder as she told me that for her and her brothers, Zabaione was just for a festive occasions, a Sunday treat'.

Cesarina Marisa from Mantua tells us that for her, Zabaione was not just a snack but the base of her favourite dessert: 'my family has been from Mantua for generations and I remember my grandmother and my mother preparing the Zabaione for the torta di Ostiglia, a now-forgotten dessert made of two egg-white and almond wafers with a Zabaione and almond filling. It was my birthday cake and the one we made for special occasions."

How to use Zabaione in the kitchen

As well as drinking it as a digestif at the end of a meal, ice cold in summer and at room temperature in winter, the Cesarine have lots of ideas for using your Zabaione. 

  • To drizzle over gelato, a perfect combination with fiordilatte, vanilla, stracciatella and cream-based flavours in general.
  • As an accompaniment to dry homemade biscuits such as 'lingue di gatto' and polenta cookies. 
  • To enrich cakes made with dried fruit such as walnuts and hazelnuts.

Zabaione can also be used in the preparation of other dessert recipes such as semifreddo, mousses and Bavarian cream. By adding cornflour we can obtain a thicker and more enveloping zabaione cream, and by diluting it with milk we can reduce the percentage of alcohol and create a versatile custard. 

Which wines are used for making Zabaione? 

The original recipe calls for Marsala, a Sicilian fortified wine, but each family has its own preferences. Our Cesarine suggest to keep the proportions - so 1/3 of wine compared to the ingredients - but they are in favour of using any wine, possibly dry white and with a good acidity. Even a Moscato or Passito wine can be good alternatives, with the only trick being to reduce the amount of sugar used to avoid a cloying taste.

Did you know?

There are many legends that see the Zabaione as a protagonist in the Italian cuisine. One of the first testimonies, which dates back to 1471, places it in Emilia, when the mercenary captain Giovanni Baglione camped in the town of Reggio Emilia with his troops. Here, being short of provisions, the soldiers looted the local farms but found only eggs, sugar and flasks of wine. From the combination of these simple ingredients and in honour of the captain, the 'zambajoun' was born, later transformed into 'zabajone' (the spelling varies, from Zabaione to Zabaglione).

Another legend sees its origin in Piedmont, in Turin, in the 16th century by a Franciscan monk, Pasquale Baylón. The monk was unable to whip the eggs with sugar, so he added a sweet wine. The recipe was so successful in the convent that the delicious cream became known as St Baylon's cream and, after his canonisation in 1690, St Pasquale Baylon became the patron saint of chefs and pastry chefs.

Finally, it seems that a drink similar to Zabaione was known in 1533 at the court of Catherine de' Medici. In this case, the cream made from eggs, sugar and wine was served chilled.

Unleash your creativity and add our zabaione to your desserts or enjoy it at the end of a meal.

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