Zabaglione is a traditional Italian dessert made with egg yolks, sugar and Marsala wine also known as zabaione or zabajone. Some sources suggest that it may have originated in Venice where honey was used instead of sugar, but most likely it came from Piedmont.
Zabaglione is somewhat similar to eggnog, but unlike this drink it does not have any milk and instead has a thick, custard-like texture. It is a quick and easy recipe to make and was often given to growing children because it is rich in protein and other important nutrients. It is also very popular because of its creamy goodness and the amount of ways it can be personalized with cookies, fresh fruit, chocolate and more! Keep reading to learn how to make this recipe for zabaglione that calls for just three ingredients and can be prepared in about 15 minutes.
What kitchen items do you need to make zabaglione?
You don’t need many ingredients for this zabaglione recipe, but there are a few things to get out to use in the kitchen. You will need:
several medium sized bowls
a whisk (you could also use an electric whisk at the beginning but we don’t recommend it because it isn’t necessary and you won’t be able to use it with the bain marie).
a small sauce pan or pot
bain marie (or a system that works the same having a pot/bowl that sits on top of another pot of simmering water without touching the water)
several small cups, martini glasses or other cute single-serving dishes to serve zabaglione
From start to finish it will only take you about 15 minutes to make this recipe! Be sure to get out everything you need ahead of time, because once the zabaglione is cooking, you will need to whisk constantly.
Ingredients that go into making zabaglione
Zabaglione has just a few ingredients, so be sure to get the freshest eggs and a good quality Marsala or sweet white wine so that your zabaglione dessert is a hit. Also be sure to plan ahead for any special extras you want to add like fresh strawberries or chocolate shavings.
Egg yolks (5) – the only way to go is of course large, fresh, organic eggs. A well-fed chicken produces eggs that have more of the nutrients needed in your daily diet and they also have deep, yellow-orange egg yolks that will make this recipe a beautiful golden color.
Granulated sugar (4.17 tbsp | 50 grams) – while the recipe only calls for 50 grams of white sugar, you can feel free to add a little more sugar if you like your custard sweet.
Sweet Sicilian Marsala wine (2.54 floz | 75 ml) – splurge on a good quality Marsala wine, which will up your game when making Italian desserts. If you don’t like Marsala, you can substitute with Vin Santo or your favorite sweeter wine or liqueur.
Nutmeg (tiny pinch) – of course freshly grated is great, but powder is fine too. This is strictly optional, as most recipes don’t call for it.
Making zabaglione step by step
Follow our simple instructions to make a delicious zabaglione traditional Italian dessert.
Prepare a bowl with lots of ice and put it in the freezer for later.
Poor the Marsala wine into a small sauce pan or pot and add half the sugar. Cook over low heat just until the sugar dissolves.
Heat water in the lower half of the bain-marie (without the top portion) until simmering.
In the top portion of the bain-marie, before you place it over the heat, add the egg yolks and the remaining sugar and mix together with a whisk photo 1. Now add a ladle of the hot wine and mix again with the whisk.
Now put the top portion of the bain-marie over the bottom portion and add the remaining wine, while continuing to whisk.
Continue whisking and the cream will begin to turn thick and start to look smooth instead of frothy photo 3. If desired, you can add a tiny pinch of freshly grated nutmeg photo 2.
Remove the bowl with ice from the freezer and place another clean bowl inside it. Pour the egg custard into the empty bowl and stir gently with a spatula for several minutes until the custard cools slightly so that a film will not form on top photo 4.
Pour the warm custard mixture into fun single-serving dishes and serve with fresh fruit (strawberries or figs for example), chocolate shavings or cookies and serve immediately while still warm.
Expert tips for making the perfect zabaglione
Don’t scramble the eggs. Prepare zabaglione in a bain-marie or use a simple double boiler with a heatproof bowl suspended above the water and simmer extremely gently to avoid “scrambling” the eggs, i.e. overcooking them. It will take a little while over low heat, but the creamy (not eggy) light custard result is worth it.
Serve warm. Some recipes call for chilling the zabaglione, but we prefer the traditional way of serving zabaglione immediately while still warm with some fruit, chocolate shavings or cookies.
Whisk by hand. Some people recommend using an electric whisk or mixer for the egg yolks, but we have found that the recipe comes out much better when whisked by hand the entire time. It is especially important not to try to use an electric whisk once it is over the hot water.
Zabaglione recipe variations
Substitute Marsala wine. You can substitute it with another sweet fortified wine such as Vin Santo or a lighter wine like Moscato d’Asti, or even a flavored liqueur like Grand Marnier. You can even substitute it with orange juice for an alcohol-free version.
Top it with something yummy. Looking for the perfect zabaglione combination? Try various fruits and berries, chocolate chips or shavings, crushed or whole cookies like amaretti or ladyfingers, you really can’t go wrong! We love filling the bottom of small glasses with cut strawberries and then pouring the zabaglione over them, topping it with some whipped cream… of course served warm.
How do you store cooked zabaglione? How long will zabaglione last?
The zabaglione should be covered completely with plastic wrap and can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days. If you stored in a large container with more than one portion, then before serving you will need to bring the zabaglione up to room temperature and stir or whisk again before serving in smaller dishes. Even better, we recommend pouring directly into single serving size dishes when preparing the recipe so that you can avoid having to stir the zabaglione and risk having a messy or chunky look.
Does zabaglione dessert have alcohol in it?
Yes, the egg cream will have an alcohol content that varies depending on the strength of the wine or liqueur you used. If you want a lower alcohol content, then use a sweet wine with a lower alcohol content and definitely stay away from higher alcohol liqueurs. You can also let some of the alcohol evaporate by cooking it off for a few seconds. If you want to avoid alcohol completely, you can also substitute the wine in the zabaglione recipe with same amount of orange juice.
Does zabaglione have raw eggs?
The original zabaglione recipe had raw egg yolks that were then never cooked. However now, because of the fear of salmonella, zabaglione is prepared using a bain-marie to avoid the risk of problems associated with consuming uncooked eggs.
Where did zabaglione come from?
Some historians believe that this delicious, bright yellow Italian dessert dates back to 1471, when Captain Baglioni, who was short of food, managed to round up only eggs, sugar and wine, with which he invented this creamy concoction. But more likely it dates back to the sixteenth century, when it is said to have been created in honor of St. Pasqual Baylón, the patron saint of cooks and pastry chefs, who recommended that wives give it to their “tired” husbands.
Zabaglione Italian Sweet Custard
This custard recipe is so very tasty and easy to prepare, it's basically just egg yolks and sugar and some Marsala or other sweet wine.
Prepare a bowl with ice and place it in the freezer for later.
Poor the Marsala wine into a sauce pan and add half the sugar. Cook over low heat just until the sugar melts.
Heat water in the lower half of the bain-marie (without the top portion) until boiling.
In the top portion, before you place it over the bottom, add the egg yolks and the remaining sugar and mix together well with a whisk. Now add a ladle of the hot sweet wine and mix again.
Now place the top portion over the bottom portion (so it is over simmering water) and add the remaining wine, while whisking continuously.
Continue whisking and the cream will begin to thicken and start to look smooth instead of frothy. If desired, you can add a tiny pinch of freshly grated nutmeg at this point.
Keep whisking until the mixture is a pale yellow and has doubled in volume (or more!) and the egg cream remains in the whisk when lifted. Remove from heat.
Remove the bowl with ice from the freezer and place another clean bowl inside. Pour the egg cream into the empty bowl and stir gently with a spatula for several minutes until the egg cream cools a little so that a film will not form on top.
Pour the mixture into four martini glasses or other fun single-serving dishes and serve with fresh fruit (like fresh strawberries or other fresh berries) or cookies (like amaretti cookies or ladyfingers) and serve immediately while still warm.
Serve your zabaglione classic Italian dessert with crushed amaretti cookies on top to match the style of the picture above. Some do recommend this dessert be served cold, and while this isn’t our preference you can try it and see what you prefer.Top with whipped cream, or fresh fruit.