It Sure Ain't Pretty....

... But it tastes great! That is tiramisu in a nutshell.

In order to make tiramisu attractive, I spent years seeking out the perfect little single-serving dishes (think: oblong ramekins) to make individual portions that would look pretty when you served them. Who wants to serve a pile of slop on a plate to guests?

But, after a while, I came to my senses. Tiramisu is not supposed to be pretty, even though it is served in all the finest restaurants in the U.S. and Italy - and everywhere else! And they do their best to make it pretty by stiffening the cream, so that it can be cut in cake-like slices. To me that takes away from the wonderful texture of a great tiramisu. At home, it isn't necessary to make it look perfect, but tasting perfect is required.

Tiramisu is said, by some, to be the offspring of zuppa inglese, which makes sense. They both basically come down to the layering of pastry cream and cookies/biscuits soaked in alcohol. Different biscuits, different alcohol, different flavor results. How bad could any version be?

Whether it originated in Siena, or in the Veneto or or some Nonna's kitchen in Liguria, the important thing is that it tastes good.

Mark and I disagree on the proper consistency for Tiramisu. The one I make is dense; the mascarpone is melted into a zabaglione, layered with the biscuits soaked in coffee and Kahlua, then topped with cocoa powder. This produces a very dense and satisfying cake. His preferred version has the mascarpone being whipped to a frenzy then folded into whipped cream for a light and fluffy version. We will never agree on this.

Today, you are getting neither his nor my version. This is a horse of a different color. It is as different from tiramisu as tiramisu is from zuppa inglese. All the basic ingredients are there, though: cookies soaked in alcohol and mascarpone cream.

What makes this version different is that the cookies are amaretti, and the alcohol is sweet, red vermouth. Since bringing this version into our lives, it has become both Mark's and my favorite.

Still, no matter what you do, no matter what you call it, it is still basically a tiramisu and it still ain't pretty when served. But no one will complain...

Buon appetito!

- David

Dolce all'Amaretti

6 large fresh eggs*, separated
4 tablespoons sugar
2 cups mascarpone cheese (about 1 pound), drained of any excess liquid
1 cup sweet (red) vermouth
2 7-ounce packages amaretti cookies

In a medium bowl, beat the egg yolks with 3 tablespoons of the sugar until foamy and pale. Beat in the mascarpone until smooth. Stir in the egg yolks and set aside.

In a large bowl, using a standing or hand-held mixer, whip the egg whites until frothy. Add the remaining tablespoon of sugar and beat until they hold soft peaks. Fold the mascarpone mixture into the egg whites. Set aside.

Pour the vermouth into a small bowl. Reserve five amaretti cookies to crumble and sprinkle over the top of the dessert. One at a time, dip the remaining amaretti cookies into the vermouth for 3-4 seconds. Place the soaked amaretti in one snug layer on the bottom of a 9-inch ceramic dish or pie plate. Evenly spread half of the mascarpone mixture over the amaretti. Place another layer of soaked cookies over the mascarpone. Repeat the layering, spreading the remaining mascarpone mixture, then ending with a layer of soaked cookies; this layer should be loosely arranged so that the cream mixture below is visible. Sprinkle with the crumbled dry amaretti. Refrigerate to set for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Serves 8-10.

* As in many tiramisu recipes, the eggs do not get cooked so it is imperative that you use the freshest eggs possible. Women who are pregnant, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems should refrain from eating this.


  1. Even if it may look like slop on a plate (not that yours does) it's still pretty, in my eyes. I prefer mine on the firmer side, rather than too sloppy. I've never had it with Vermouth either!

  2. I've not made Tiramisu yet. On my list to do. Sometimes a rustic look actually IS the appeal...especially when the great taste supercedes the looks.

    Looks great. Love those bowls. :)


  3. John - while not officially a tiramisu, you should definitely try this! Maybe I will try making a firmer version!

    Carmen - glad you enjoy the bowls - I love finding pretty things I can use for the posts! ope you enjoy this version!

  4. I´m with you here, there should be egg yolks, it´s a different flavor. For years I would order tiramisu every time I saw it in a restaurant, it was extremely popular in the 90´s. When the flavor is right you don´t care at all how it looks! The vermouth version is totally new to me and I just love amarettis. By the way, I see you didn´t show a plated portion... ja

  5. Paula - you have that right! No plated version shown! :) You have to wonder how something like tiramisu got so popular so quickly! I think you will like this version!

  6. I am partial to a light and fluffy tirimisu and strong on the coffee! I do love this version, especially the use of vermouth. I really want to try this!

  7. Anna - you should try this one and not think of it as a tiramisu! It is very tasty...

  8. I want to have a spoon and dig into the tiramisu! Look great!

  9. Anh - I have done just that! I regretted it in the morning, but it was great going down!


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