Lost Italian: Sparkle it up this New Year's with Sparkling Zabaglione
Zabaglione is one of my favorite Italian specialties and the perfect dessert to end a meal — or the year — in style.
This custard creation is traditionally made with egg yolks, sugar and sweet Marsala, a fortified Italian wine, but any wine or liqueur can be substituted to vary the flavor. Since there’s only one drink of choice for New Year’s Eve, I’m bringing a bit of sparkle to the party and making Champagne Zabaglione (z a-by-yone-ay).
Whenever we served zabaglione at Sarello’s, our former restaurant in Moorhead, our guests would ooh and aah, delighted by its beauty and elegance. I am always amazed by how three basic ingredients can be transformed into a dish that dazzles, simply by adding air into the mix. Unlike other custards, which are typically thick, rich and creamy, zabaglione has a wonderfully light and foamy quality that comes from the addition of air — lots of air.
The sugar is mixed with the egg yolks until combined, and then the wine is added (I also add a splash of pure vanilla extract for this version). Next comes the air, which is incorporated over several minutes until the custard has tripled in volume. Tony is a master at making zabaglione and uses a large whisk to whip the custard into a frothy cloud of perfection.
While he might have the strength, stamina and dedication required to diligently whisk, and whisk, and whisk for more than 10 minutes to achieve this result, I find that my electric hand-held mixer works just as well, if not better. What’s the point of all that effort if you’re too tired to eat the zabaglione?
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The zabaglione is whisked over a bain-marie to gently cook the custard and help the air work its magic. I prepare the custard in a large, heatproof bowl that I place over a medium-sized pot of lightly simmering water. It’s important to whisk the custard continuously as it cooks, and if you stop while it’s over the heat, the eggs can scramble. No one wants scrambled zabaglione, so just keep whisking.
I love the way Champagne reacts with the custard — many of the bubbles appear intact and visible, suspended within the foam. One bite and you’ll know that this is what sparkles taste like.
Zabaglione is best served within 30 minutes upon making, but you can also prepare it in advance and have it ready to serve. Once the zabaglione has cooled, simply whip one cup of heavy cream just until firm peaks form, then fold it into the custard. This will help the zabaglione stay light and airy for up to two days in the refrigerator.
We serve our zabaglione warm over fresh berries, and a Champagne goblet or martini glass is a perfect serving vessel. You’ll only need about 15 minutes to make this dessert, from start to finish, and you can even have your guests take turns with the mixer and watch their reaction as the custard transforms into zabaglione.
May you enjoy a festive New Year’s Eve filled with family, friends and the Champagne air of Sparkling Zabaglione.
6 egg yolks
½ cup sugar
2/3 cup Champagne or sparkling wine
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Fresh berries, for serving
Place the egg yolks and sugar in a large, heatproof bowl. Use a hand-held mixer on medium speed, or a large whisk, to mix until well combined, about 2 minutes. Stir in the Champagne and vanilla extract.
Fill a medium saucepan with 1 ½ inches of water and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and place the bowl with the egg mixture over so that it completely covers the pan but does not touch the water.
Use a hand-held mixer on high speed or a large whisk to whip the custard continuously until it has tripled in volume and appears light and frothy, about 8 to 10 minutes. If you need to stop whisking, remove the bowl from the heat; if left on the heat without whisking, the eggs may scramble.
When ready, the custard should appear light and foamy, and droop slightly from the beaters or whisk.
Serve warm or at room temperature over fresh berries.
If making ahead, set the custard aside to cool. In a separate bowl, whip 1 cup of heavy whipping cream just until firm peaks form. Use a spatula to gently fold the cream into the custard until fully incorporated. Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.
Recipe Time Capsule:
This week in...
- 2017: Chocolate Truffles for New Year's Eve
- 2016: Savory Crab Cheesecake
- 2015: Spicy Pork Tenderloin with Bacon Marmalade
- 2014: Grapefruit & Shrimp Winter Salad
- 2013: Astrid Axtman's Prize-Winning Spritz Cookies
- 2012: Sicilian Citrus Christmas Salad
“Home with the Lost Italian” is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owned Sarello’s in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org.