Zabaglione is a popular Italian dessert, made of just three ingredients – egg yolks, sugar and a sweet wine. Cooked using the baine-marie technique, the dessert is whipped to frothy perfection over a double boiler, allowing the eggs to cook slowly without scrambling. The whipping of the eggs with sugar and wine allows for the mixture to increase significantly in volume, creating something between a froth and a mousse-like consistency. The taste and the texture of this dessert is as unique as it is unforgettable.

When I was growing up, my dad’s cousin owned a small Italian restaurant, bearing his namesake, Onofrio’s. We almost never ate out at restaurants when I was younger, save family celebrations and gatherings; and many, if not most, occurred here. Though Onofrio retired long ago, I remember everything about the place. My family shared many meals with our extended family in this space, where we gathered for christenings, communions, special birthdays and repasts. There was a sign out front that read “La Vita e Bella” – life is beautiful. I remember the pay phone next to coat room right as you entered the restaurant, the red leather booths and the tables covered in crisp, white tablecloths. And the food? Well, the food ruined me. It made me the food snob I was destined to become. We devoured hot and cold antipasti, insalata mista, pasta and main courses. The kid’s meal was vitello alla parmigiana, veal fried perfectly, covered in housemade tomato sauce with mozzarella melted over the top and escaping the edges of the meat. The desserts were many, but the zabaglione was a masterpiece to be remembered.

Onofrio would prepare this dessert tableside for guests, his arm whipping the ingredients together at an almost unbelievable speed, laughing as we waited anxiously for him to finish, pouring it on top of sliced strawberries and vanilla ice cream. You could see in his eyes how he enjoyed to serve as we polished off long-stemmed glasses full of this delicious custard – the model of hospitality. In speaking with my cousin, his daughter, she was able to dig up this New York Times article about Onofrio and his zabaglione from 1977 – before he owned his own restaurant, that so aptly describes his spirit and passion for the business.

It took me many trials of different measurements to attempt to recreate the memory of this dessert and the many nights spent at the restaurant, which seem simultaneously like just yesterday and a million years ago. I’ll never forget his tableside spirit and though I know I’ll never be able to whip my eggs as fast as he used to, I hope he’ll find this version an earnest rendition.


  • Difficulty: medium
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  • 6 egg yolks from large eggs (about 100 grams)
  • 100 grams granulated sugar (about 1/2 cup)
  • 75 grams sweet marsala wine (about 1/3 cup)
  • sliced strawberries – optional


  1. Fill a heavy bottomed saucepan with about 3 inches of water. Place a heatproof bowl (I use glass) over the saucepan and ensure that the bowl fits securely into pot without touching the water (see picture below.) Place the bowl on the counter and the saucepan over medium-low heat, and allow water to come to a simmer.
  2. In the bowl, place the egg yolks and sugar. Whisk the yolks and sugar together vigorously until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture has lightened in color – about 2-4 minutes. Add the sweet marsala in slowly, while continuing to whisk. Whisk just until combined.
  3. By now, the water should be at a simmer (if boiling, reduce heat). Place the bowl snuggly into the pot and begin to whisk continuously. As the yolks cook, the mixture will increase significantly in volume and lighten color, forming a foamy consistency. Whisk on the heat for 5-7 minutes.
  4. Remove the bowl from the heat and onto a heatproof surface and continue to whisk for an additional 5-7 minutes, until the temperature has come down and the zabaglione has thickened.
  5. Spoon into decorative glasses, over sliced strawberries, if desired.

The amount of time you will need to whisk this recipe to achieve a smooth, foamy (but not liquid-y) consistency will depend heavily on how quickly you are able to whisk. You can also prepare this recipe using a hand mixer with a whisk attachment, if you can do so safely.

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