Zabaglione with strawberry compote

Zabaglione (pronounced zsah-bah-yoh-nee), is an Italian dessert that dates back to the mid 1500's. The zabaglione recipe was found in a cookbook known as Cuoco Napoletano which not only details the ingredients and method of making this treat, but also noted that zabaglione should be "served at night before going to sleep, and it stimulates the brain". This view of food effecting the body and mind seems congruent with cooks and philosophers during this era and reminds me of the book I read, "Da Vinci's Kitchen: A secret history of Italian Cuisine" by Dave Dewitt. {See post on Da Vinci's Salad Dressing}. This custard-like dessert was served to the Medici's, the royal family in Florence, Italy during this time period. The zabaglione was also served as a drink, similar to eggnog made with wine or ale, unless you were pregnant or ill, then the dessert was made with chicken stock or water.

Currently, zabaglione is eaten as a warm or chilled dessert with strawberry and biscotti, or it can be used as a pie/tart filling. It is typically made with Marsala wine, but the French version (Sabayon) is made with white wine. I have a lot of Marsala wine left over from making Sicilian Cannoli, so I'm happy to use some of it up.

This is a very quick and easy dessert. There is very little prep (separate egg yolks from whites and boiling water) and a short cooking time, only 8 to 10 minutes. So, there is no reason not to make a dessert fit for royalty! Here's to good food and gladness!

Ingredients for Zabaglione with Strawberry Compote

  • 6 egg yolks, room temperature

  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar

  • 1/2 cup Marsala wine

  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest

  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

  • 1 drop pure vanilla extract

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream

  • 6-8 medium strawberries, small dice

  • 1 tbsp jelly (any berry flavor)

  • 1 tsp lemon juice

  • pinch of salt

Directions for Zabaglione with Strawberry Compote

  1. Separate egg yolks from whites, set aside.

  2. In a saucepan (3.5 Qt), fill with water about 1/4 of the way full. Bring water to a simmer, then reduce heat to low.

  3. In a large metal bowl, place egg yolks, sugar, lemon peel, cinnamon, vanilla, and Marsala wine. Place bowl over the saucepan. The bowl should NOT touch the water. Using a whisk or electric hand mixer, whisk the custard mixture while over low heat. Mixture should thicken, but not curdle. (If your eggs begin to curdle/scramble remove from the heat and continue to whisk. If it doesn't incorporate, you have to start all over again.) Whisk for 8 to 10 minutes. Mixture should triple in volume and become a pale yellow color and should have an airy, fluffy texture.

  4. Remove bowl from heat source, and mix for additional 1-2 minutes.

  5. Serve custard warm with biscotti, or if you prefer, allow to cool in the fridge for 15 minutes.

  6. With clean, dry beaters, whip 1 cup of the whipping cream until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the whipped cream into the cooled custard using a spatula. Spoon into serving dishes or champagne glasses. Place in refrigerator until ready to serve.

  7. Strawberry Compote: in a small saucepan (1.5 cups) place diced strawberries, jelly, lemon juice and a pinch of salt. Heat over medium-low heat and stir occasionally so that the berries soften and jelly turns to liquid, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Allow to cool 5-10 minutes. Immediately prior to serving zabaglione, top with the strawberry compote.