Zabaione is not exactly a summer recipe, I know.
This glorious mix of eggs, sugar, and sweet wine is normally associated with autumn or even with Christmas but I have recently eaten it and now I absolutely have to write about it.
Back in June, we celebrated my husband’s birthday and picked one of our favorite restaurants for a nice dinner. The restaurant we chose mixes modern Italian cuisine and traditional food and I really like it because it is always fun to eat a contemporary recipe with a touch of the past.
For dessert, we had homemade gelato with zabaione on top. When the waitress poured the warm zabaione over the gelato, I smelled it and I was immediately brought back in time. There is nothing like a smell to evoke forgotten memories for me and this one suddenly made me feel like a little child again.
When I was a kid, I was a very picky eater and always made a fuss about the new foods my mom wanted me to try. My diet consisted of pasta al burro (pasta with butter), ham and peas, and pane e Nutella. I refused to eat any other type of food and my mom was righteously quite worried about my health.
She was worried because I was not eating enough and I was underweight. Every time the pediatrician visited me, he urged my mom to do something about my lack of appetite, so every meal was a fight with her trying to force me to eat something healthy and me screaming like crazy.
She was – and still is – a great cook, so I was missing amazing foods and recipes but was really stubborn: I was happy with my pasta and my panino con la Nutella. Thank God, things changed after I had measles: for some reason, my stomach suddenly opened and felt like enjoying all the foods the world had in store for me (something I would regret later in life, but that’s another story).
When she was struggling to make me eat something healthy and nourishing, one of the dishes that my mom kept offering me was zabaione (it was the 80s, so it was perfectly normal to give a kid something that contained wine) because they said it would help you grow and become stronger. Needless to say, I didn’t want to hear anything about it.
Unlike many other foods, I kept refusing zabaione for years. Its unique – and weird – taste was too much for me. Too sweet, too strong, I don’t know. The only thing I know is that many years later, at a family dinner, my aunt served it on top of a very simple nut cake and I was in heaven. After refusing it so many times, I fell in love. Instantly.
Now it is one of my favorite sweet foods, even if I don’t eat it that frequently – and this is why having it at dinner last month was like a madeleine for me. It brought back so many memories (lots of them involved me and my mom screaming but that’s ok) and it was a very special moment.
Days later, I told a student of mine who lives in Canada about that and she told me that one of her childhood memories is her grandma preparing zabaione for her uncle because it was really filling and nourishing. I love how Italian moms brought their traditions with them when they moved abroad! It’s a really moving thought.
After all these stories and memories, it’s high time I shared the recipe my mom uses to make zabaione. Italian moms gave it to their kids in a cup for merenda (the mid-afternoon snack) but nowadays it has become a more elegant yet still classic addition to cakes and biscuits.
Zabaione (or zabaglione)
Egg yolks, sugar, and Marsala (or another sweet wine)
For every medium-sized egg, consider a tablespoon of sugar and a tablespoon of Marsala.
Mix the yolks and the sugar in a bowl until they become pale and fluffy. Then add the wine gradually, constantly mixing, making sure it blends well into the mixture. Then place the bowl in a pot with warm water (the water must not boil), and keep mixing until thick ribbons form. Pour into serving glasses or cups and enjoy!