THE LOST ITALIAN: Zabaglione a light, heavenly dessert

Earlier this year, during the Seemingly Endless Winter, Tony, Gio and I were sitting around, musing about what we looked forward to doing most once summer arrived. When it was our 9-year-old son Gio's turn, he didn't skip a beat: "Picking raspber...


Earlier this year, during the Seemingly Endless Winter, Tony, Gio and I were sitting around, musing about what we looked forward to doing most once summer arrived.

When it was our 9-year-old son Gio’s turn, he didn’t skip a beat: “Picking raspberries with you, Mom,” he said. “And all of us together, getting Lost on the Prairie.”

He was referring to the bountiful raspberry patch in our backyard and the family adventure we began two summers ago, when we traveled to a different part of North Dakota every weekend.


We fell in love with North Dakota that summer in a way I never expected to happen, and came away with a deeper appreciation of where we come from. Tony and I have traveled to all seven continents, and have had some pretty amazing experiences along the way, but that summer coursing through North Dakota was one of the best travel experiences of our lives.

Maybe it was because we were sharing the experience together as a family with a goal to learn as much as we could about North Dakota in one summer. Maybe it was discovering the wonderful diversity of North Dakota’s terrain: from the flatlands of the Red River Valley to the gently sloping hills of the Turtle Mountains, or the way the endless miles of open prairie suddenly transform into the sheer, rugged beauty of the Badlands.

Or maybe it was because, after logging thousands of miles of car travel, we all still liked each other at summer’s end.

Whatever the reason, that summer ignited a passion within all three of us to continue our exploration of North Dakota, and this weekend we’ll be doing just that at one of our new favorite places on the prairie, the Coteau des Prairies Lodge.

Located in southeast North Dakota just outside the town of Rutland, the lodge is perched dramatically at the northern end of the Coteau nearly 200 feet above the surrounding prairie, with cattle grazing freely in the pasture below.

We’ll be there for a special, sold-out dinner event called “Italy on the Prairie,” where Tony, Gio and I will be partnering with the Breker family to produce an unforgettable feast of Italian food and wine. We had the opportunity to visit the lodge last spring, and were blown away by the stark beauty of the area as well as the amazing hospitality and luxuriously rustic accommodations.

The Brekers have been farming in this area for generations, and they have infused the lodge with a strong sense of place, tradition and family. We are eager to leave our mark on this special place, and have created a six-course menu with some of our favorite Italian specialties, including antipasti, insalata Caprese, Tony’s homemade gnocchi, watermelon balsamico and pollo tricolore.

For the grand finale, we will be pairing our Nasello Limoncello with one of our favorite Italian desserts – zabaglione. Zabaglione (pronounced zah-bul-yoh-nee) is a frothy, custard-like sauce that originated somewhere in southern Italy. Simple and inexpensive to make with just a few staple ingredients, zabaglione is light, heavenly and elegant, or as Tony says, an Italian gift to the world.


Zabaglione is traditionally flavored with Sicilian sweet Marsala wine, but we’re using Grand Marnier for this occasion, and you can add any flavors you like, even chocolate. It is great when used as a sauce or filling for cake, but we prefer to serve ours in a martini glass over fresh berries, garnished with a little orange zest and a heaping of freshly picked, home-grown raspberries.  

Grand Marnier Zabaglione

Serves 4 to 6


5 egg yolks

¼ cup white wine

½ cup Grand Marnier (or any orange liqueur)


⅓ cup orange juice

4 ounce sugar

⅓ cup heavy cream, whipped into soft peaks – only necessary if making in advance


Combine the egg yolks, white wine, orange liqueur, orange juice and sugar in a large stainless steel bowl and use a whisk or handheld electric mixer to mix them well. Then create a water bath on low to medium heat, and place the stainless steel bowl over the bath.

Continue to whisk the mixture rapidly to incorporate as much air as possible. If you need to stop whisking, remove the bowl from the heat. If left on the heat without whisking, the eggs will cook and scramble.

Whisk vigorously until the mixture triples in volume and is light and fluffy, about 10 minutes. Serve immediately over fresh berries in a martini glass or goblet. Top with more berries and a bit of orange zest.


Tony’s Tips

While zabaglione is traditionally served warm, it is often served chilled without compromising the dish’s integrity. This enables the cook to prepare the dessert in advance and refrigerate until ready to use.

The signature of a well-made zabaglione is its “airy” quality, so the more you can whisk the custard, the better. The custard should be thick and frothy, and pale in color.

To store and serve later: After the mixture has been whisked until tripled in size, set it aside to cool. In a separate bowl, use a whisk or handheld mixer to whisk the heavy cream until it forms soft peaks; use a spatula to gently fold the whipped cream into the cooled custard until fully incorporated. This will ensure that your custard stays light and airy while being stored. Cover the bowl and store in the refrigerator for up to three days before serving. When ready to serve, pour into serving dish over fresh berries, or use as a sauce or filling for cake.

Home with the Lost Italian is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple own Sarello’s restaurant in Moorhead, Minn., and live in Fargo with their 9-year-old son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at . All previous recipes can be found at .


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The ingredients are whisked together for Grand Marnier Zabaglione. Carrie Snyder / The Forum

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