Zabaione Ice Cream


The Single Gourmet Traveller has a rule whenever in Italy: she has to eat an ice cream at least once a day. I once spent 5 weeks in Rome and managed to eat gelato each day so it was no problem managing it in Venice in the past week when I was there for just 4 days. My favourite gelateria there is Gelateria San Stae, very close to Hotel Al Ponte Mocenigo where I stay and usually it’s a first stop once I’ve dropped my bags at the hotel. One day I chose Gelato Venexiana (the Venetian dialect has a lot of ‘x’s where we’d normally expect ‘z’s). This was a glorious mix of zabaione, candied orange peel and chocolate.


The gelato was made from zabaione flavoured with citrusy bites of the candied orange peel and some melted chocolate had been dribbled on top. It was so good I tried to have another one just before I caught the 1 pm vaporetto to the airport on Friday but unforunately the gelateria doesn’t open until 2.30 pm weekdays. I was reminded that I’d said at the end of my recent Zabaione recipe post that I wanted to make the ice cream version again. I used to make it years and years ago and couldn’t quite remember what I did. I googled … but all the recipes seemed far more complicated than I remembered. In the end I found a recipe for Cold Zabaione in Claudia Roden’s brilliant book, The Food of Italy, and decided to make that and then freeze it. If you are going to serve zabaione cold or frozen you have to add some cream or the basic mixture will simply separate. Also, if the mixture is going to be frozen and cream added to the basic recipe, then it needs some extra ooomph flavourwise. I liked that Claudia had added some lemon zest and cinnamon and considerably more Marsala wine than a basic zabaione recipe (including her own in the book). This was what I’d been looking for. I remembered that I used to just add cream to the zabaione but couldn’t remember how much extra wine and sugar I’d put in. The result was rich and full-flavoured – you could taste that wine! – but really great.


First of all I made the zabione with 6 egg yolks, 10 tablespoons caster sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract,  zest of 1/2 lemon, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon and 10 tablespoons Marsala wine. Put all the ingredients in a bowl and then put the bowl over a pan of simmering water (don’t allow the bottom of the bowl to touch the water). Then whisk until the mixture turns into a light-coloured, frothy custard. I used an electric whisk on low setting. I didn’t want to whisk it up too quickly as the custard also needed to warm and cook. When it was ready, I could easily leave a trail on the back of a spoon coated with the custard – the zabaione!


I let this cool, whisking from time to time so the zabaione didn’t separate. Then I whisked 300ml whipping cream until thick but still quite sloppy. I folded this carefully into the custard. Then I transferred the mixture to a large jug as I find this easier for pouring into the ice-cream maker.


I put it in the fridge for about an hour. I’ve discovered that my little home ice-cream maker works better if I chill the custard before churning it. Then I poured it into the ice-cream maker and churned for about 20 minutes till thickening and coming together. I transferred it to a freezer container – and a small one to give to Jonathan and Lyndsey.


They then went into the freezer to finish freezing. If you make this well ahead of time, take it out of the freezer for a few minutes to soften a bit before serving. Gelato in Italy is never served hard but soft and creamy. That’s the nicest way to eat it and it tastes better too. I grated over a little chocolate – remembering the Gelateria San Stae’s chocolate topping – and served with a lingue di gatto.


Mmm. It was very good. Strong on flavour and very rich (I’m not sure how much of the Marsala’s alcohol burnt off during the custard cooking, so maybe not something for kids!). You wouldn’t want a lot but wow! You get that true zabaione hit from it but nice and cold and creamy rather than hot and frothy. And the bonus if cooking for others if you don’t have to do that last-minute cooking over a hot stove but can make it in advance and still get the zabaione experience.

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A lifelong lover of good food and travel; writer and book editor

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