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Vanilla semifreddo is an ultra-light, creamy frozen dessert that tastes like a soft cloud, made with ricotta, heavy cream and mascarpone cheese.
This recipe is a simplified version of Italian semifreddo that doesn’t require much fuss, and it’s beautifully easy to make.
The dessert is served frozen, and it’s a simple mixture of whipped cream, whole milk ricotta and mascarpone cheese.
It’s lightly sweetened with honey and flavored with the seeds from a whole vanilla bean.
If you’re looking for an impressive dessert to make ahead for a dinner party or just a special treat, this is one to try.
What is semifreddo?
Semifreddo is a very pretty, deliciously creamy cold Italian dessert, something like a cross between ice cream, gelato and frozen custard.
Traditional semifreddo recipes aren’t really very complicated, usually starting with a custard base (zabaglione) and a sweetened egg-white meringue.
It has to be said that Italians are masters at making the most of minimal ingredients.
Certainly, if anyone ever wants to know if even the simplest Italian food can make you cry with pleasure, I will offer up as proof a bowl of homemade gnocchi in one hand, and a serving of vanilla semifreddo in the other.
Vanilla is the softer counterpart to chocolate’s deeper, richer side.
Combined with all the creamy elements, a nice slab of vanilla-scented semifreddo is perfect with nothing more a splash of raspberry sauce and some fresh berries for a contrast of taste and color.
This recipe uses a whole vanilla bean for maximum flavor.
But the cost of vanilla has skyrocketed and whole vanilla beans can be on the pricey side. I’ve been hoarding mine, saving them for recipes where the taste of vanilla really shines.
If splurging on vanilla beans is out of the question, go ahead and substitute 2 teaspoons vanilla extract. It will be delicious!
Vanilla Semifreddo with Raspberry Sauce
- 1 pound whole milk ricotta cheese
- 4 ounces mascarpone cheese
- 1/2 cup liquid honey
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped
- 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
- Fresh berries and stone fruit for serving, optional
- Raspberry sauce:
- 2 cups raspberries, fresh or thawed frozen
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- Line the length of a loaf pan with plastic wrap so that it overlaps by 3 inches.
- Put the ricotta, mascarpone, honey, salt and vanilla bean seeds in a food processor or blender and puree until smooth.
- Whip the cream in a stand mixer with the whip attachment or handheld mixer until stiff peaks form.
- Fold the ricotta mixture into the whipped cream in 3 additions until well blended.
- Spoon into the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top. Fold the plastic over to cover. Freeze until set, at least 6 hours.
- To make the raspberry sauce, sprinkle the sugar over the raspberries, stir and let it sit for 15 minutes. Puree in a small food processor. For a smoother sauce, pour through a mesh strainer to remove the seeds.
- To serve, take the semifreddo out of the freezer and pull back the plastic wrap. Let it sit until it’s softens enough that you can lift it out of the pan (15 minutes or so, depending on the room temperature). Invert the loaf onto a board and slice with a sharp knife. Serve with raspberry sauce and fresh fruit.