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Torrone and Pistachio Semifreddo

  • December 13, 2022

With the holidays fast approaching, it’s time to get serious about making things ahead of time to serve with little to no effort when family and friends gather. Nothing could be more welcome at dessert, especially a holiday dessert, than a semifreddo. Those of you familiar with it know it’s very similar to ice cream, but no churning is involved. Semi-freddo means half cold in Italian, and this dessert, with its flavors of pistachio and almond torrone, topped with a chocolate sauce, will have you wishing you had made a double batch (or invited fewer people). I’ve made it a couple of times in the past month for dinner parties and it was a huge hit with everyone, including my husband, who might have eaten the whole thing if other people hadn’t been present.

Semifreddo can be made with lots of different flavorings, but since I brought back some torrone (a nougat candy) and some pistachio cream from my last trip to Italy, I was itching to use them both in a semifreddo. Both can be found here in the U.S., with a minimum of searching online. Make sure to buy the HARD torrone, since you’ll be able to crush it into small pieces. The soft torrone just won’t work here. I used an almond torrone but it’s also available with hazelnuts (my favorite). It comes in a long box with a hard brick of torrone inside, made with nuts, sugar and egg whites, and sometimes citrus flavoring. I used a meat pounder to crush the hard torrone into small bits.

Like many ice cream recipes, my semifreddo calls for egg yolks and sugar to be blended together, and I always cook them over a double boiler to thicken them. Be careful though to whisk nonstop or you risk having sweetened scrambled eggs. It seems like it will take forever to get to this creamy, velvety stage, but it’s really only five or six minutes of steady whisking. Don’t leave the stove to do anything else until it’s done. Remove and let cool. When it’s cooled, I add rum to the egg yolks as a flavoring, but you can use any alcohol you like — bourbon, rye, even anisette or amaretto would be good.

After the cooked egg yolk mixture is cooled, fold in the beaten egg whites and the chopped torrone.

Then gently fold in the whipped cream.

Now divide that mixture in half and add a few tablespoons of that half to half a jar of pistachio cream. The jars are generally 7 or 8 ounces. You want to start out by blending a small portion of the mixture with the pistachio cream because the pistachio cream can have a very dense consistency and you could deflate the semifreddo mixture if you stirred vigorously to blend in the pistachio cream.

After you’ve “lightened” the pistachio cream with a small bit of the egg white and whipped cream mixture, continue to add the rest of  the half that was set aside for the pistachio mix. I sure hope I’m not confusing you, but when you’re done, you should have two bowls of mixtures — one with the pistachio cream mixed it, that’s pale green, and one without the pistachio mix, that’s beige-y or pale yellow.

Start spooning the mixtures into the loaf pan, alternating colors. Fill the entire loaf pan. My loaf pan measured 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ x 2 1/2″.

My loaf pan was beginning to overflow, so I also filled two pyrex cups for individual portions that I could also freeze (more for hubby, whose three-times-a-week tennis habit allows him to indulge with little to no guilt.) Cover with plastic wrap and freeze everything overnight.

When ready to serve, flip onto a platter and remove the parchment paper or plastic wrap. Slice and serve with chocolate sauce. This was enough for eight generous servings and there was no leftover — people were practically licking their plates.

If you don’t want to serve it as slices, you could make the entire semifreddo in individual serving sizes. I used glass pyrex cups for these. You’d probably easily get 10 to 12 individual portions using small one-cup glass pyrex containers.

The chocolate sauce is not to be skipped. It’s a cinch to make and so good I have no doubt you’ll be pouring it generously over this semifreddo or any ice cream in your freezer. Holidays will be merry when you bring this to the table. Buon Natale, Happy Hanukkah and the best of the season to all my readers.

Check out Ciao Chow Linda on Instagram here to find out what’s cooking in my kitchen each day (and more).

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Torrone and Pistachio Semifreddo
 
Ingredients
  • 6 eggs
  • 6 T. sugar
  • 1 T. rum
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup chopped up almond or hazelnut torrone (the hard, crunchy kind, typically sold in a long box usually about 5.3 ounces. I used about half the box.)
  • ½ jar of pistachio cream (jars are usually 7 or 8 ounces)
Instructions
  1. Break up the torrone into small pieces.
  2. (I used a meat pounder and placed the torrore between clean dish towels so it wouldn't spew all over the kitchen.)
  3. Separate the eggs, but you will only need four of the egg whites.
  4. Save the other two egg whites for another use.
  5. In a double boiler, place the egg yolks and the sugar.
  6. Whisk over warm water until you get a velvety, thick mass.
  7. (Don’t move away from this or you could end up with scrambled eggs.)
  8. Some recipes call for using raw eggs, but I like to err on the side of caution and cook my egg yolks.
  9. Let it cool slightly, then add the rum, whisking it in.
  10. Place it to the side or in the refrigerator, but if you let it chill too long, it will become hard to work with.
  11. Whip the four egg whites until they form stiff peaks.
  12. Add the chopped torrone and the cooled egg yolk mixture to the whipped egg whites, folding everything together.
  13. Beat the cream until stiff.
  14. Fold the egg yolk, whipped egg whites and torrone mixture thoroughly with the whipped cream.
  15. Remove half of this mixture to a separate bowl and set aside.
  16. The pistachio cream can be quite dense, so if you put it all into the mixture from the jar all at once, you risk deflating it too much.
  17. Instead put tthe pistachio mixture into a bowl and mix into it only a few tablespoons of the egg white, egg yolk and whipped cream mixture to "lighten it up."
  18. Then add the rest of the other half of tthe mixture to the pistachio cream and fold in thoroughly.
  19. You should now have two bowls, one that's beige with the torrone in it, and one that's pale green with the torrone and pistachio cream mixture.
  20. Line a loaf pan (8½" x 4½" x 2½") with parchment paper.
  21. Using a large serving spoon, place alterrnating spoonfuls of the beige torrrone mixture with the pistachio mixture.
  22. Continue layering until you reach the top of the pan.
  23. Place a piece of plastic wrap or aluminum foil on top and freeze overnight.
  24. When ready to serve, run a knife around the edge,and flip it over onto a serving platter, removing the parchment paper.
  25. If it doesn't want to come loose, let the pan soak for a few seconds in hot water, then flip it onto a platter.
  26. Serve with chocolate sauce
  27. CHOCOLATE SAUCE:
  28. /2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  29. cup granulated sugar
  30. /8 teaspoon kosher salt
  31. /2 cup cold water
  32. /2 teaspoons vanilla
  33. In a saucepan, whisk together the cocoa, sugar and salt.
  34. Add the cold water and bring to a boil.
  35. Let it simmer for a couple of minutes, making sure all the lumps are dissolved.
  36. Remove from heat and add the vanilla.
  37. The sauce will be quite runny when it's hot so let it sit at room temperature for several hours before using it, or place in the refrigerator to thicken in a shorter time.
 

 

Coffee Semifreddo in Trieste

  • July 22, 2014

 I ate well on my visit to Trieste last month – very well in fact – including the coffee semifreddo above (recipe at the end of the post.) I owe my culinary good fortune there to these two people – Chiara Giglio and Furio Baldassi. Chiara is a food blogger who lives in Trieste and writes “La Voglia Matta” and Furio is a journalist with Trieste’s daily newspaper, “Il Piccolo.” In addition to writing news stories, Furio is also a restaurant reviewer and knows all the best places to eat in town, while Chiara acted as our own personal tour guide. The enthusiasm she holds for her hometown was contagious, but then again it’s easy to love Trieste, with its great food, historic caffés and beautiful sights. 

 

The night we arrived we were in luck. It was the first night of a wine tasting for Vitovska wines (see this blog post here for more info about those wines) The tasting was held in the Salone Degli Incanti, along the waterfront.

The huge hall was once the site of a fish market, and was also used as a stand-in for Ellis Island in the Godfather 2 movie.

 

In addition to wines, we sampled lots of different foods, including these mussels resting on a bed of sweet and sour anchovy puree.
 You can’t visit Trieste without stopping at Miramare, the 19th century home built for Austrian Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian and his wife, Charlotte of Belgium.  Unfortunately, he lived only briefly in the castle before being assigned to reign as emperor of Mexico, where he was executed in 1867.

 

Another beautiful castle to visit is Duino, built in the 14th century. Unlike Miramare, it’s still inhabited by the owners, who open up many of the rooms to visitors. The elegant staircase was designed by Palladio, and you can also view the piano played by Liszt here.
Right across the way from Duino are the ruins of an even earlier castle that dates back to the 11th century.
 Both Miramare and Duino are located on the rocky cliffs overlooking the Gulf of Trieste, where the waters were clear and inviting.
 Trieste’s port is a busy one, for shipping as well as a mooring spot for cruise liners. Standing guard at the water’s edge are the statues of two seamstresses, or “sartine.”
 Trieste’s Piazza d’Unità is the largest seaside piazza in Europe and is flanked by elegant buildings on three sides, and the Gulf of Trieste at the other.

 

Sunsets can be spectacular as you look out to the Adriatic from Piazza D’Unità.

 

 While it’s hard to tear yourself away from the water’s edge, there’s so much else to see in Trieste, including a stop at the castello San Giusto, named for the city’s patron saint —
 And the cathedral of the same name, dating back to the 1300s.
 Roman influences are evident throughout the city, including this arch, and remains of a Roman amphitheater.
The Irish poet and novelist James Joyce also lived here for a while, and the city has honored him with a statue by its Grand Canal.
 Trieste is also known for its coffee (Illy coffee was founded and is still based here) and its historic caffés, including this one — the elegant caffé Tommaseo.

But just because you’re at a caffé doesn’t mean you have to order coffee. A glass of prosecco, which was born in this region of Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, is always welcome, and comes with a selection of munchies – a common occurrence at bars in Italy.
 And speaking of food, Furio directed us to a restaurant called Ego, where we enjoyed an exquisite meal, including a first course of these homemade orecchiette with the tiniest, most delicate squid I’d ever eaten.
Another day we ate at “Trattoria Dei No,” – again recommended by Furio. This dish of mixed seafood atop panzanella is a sample of the delicious food that awaits diners there.

 

 

 The seafood is great in Trieste, but so is the meat, since the city has long been a crossroads of Slavic and Italian culture. One place you’ll find the Slavic culinary influence is the much beloved Buffet de Pepi, a 100-year-old restaurant featuring all things pork, including this platter of mixed cuts. It’s not the way I normally eat, but it’s an experience not to be missed.
 Back at home, I had to try to recreate the coffee semifreddo I ate at “Trattoria Del No.” It may not be the same as enjoying it in Trieste, but until I get back to this beautiful city on the Adriatic, this will do just fine.
Coffee Semifreddo
4 egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
3 – 4 Tbsp. instant espresso mixed with 1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup coffee liqueur or rum or amaretto
1/4 cup chocolate covered candies or chocolate covered espresso beans, crushed
amaretti cookies, crushed, for sprinkling on top.
Beat egg yolks and sugar until thick and light yellow in color. Mix the instant espresso with the milk, then combine with the egg yolks. Place the mixture in a pot and cook over low heat, stirring all the while until it increases in volume to nearly double.
Remove from the heat and add the liqueur.  Pour into a bowl and place in the refrigerator until it cools. Once it’s cool, whip the cream until it holds its shape. Fold into the cooled egg mixture, then stir in the crushed chocolate covered candies or espresso beans. Pour into individual molds or a rectangular loaf pan. Place it in the freezer at least six hours and preferably overnight.
To unmold, take a hot washcloth and place it on the bottom of the mold for a minute or two. Make sure you have a dish on the underside, so the semifreddo doesn’t slip onto the counter. Don’t keep the washcloth on too long, or you’ll melt the semifreddo. Take a knife and run it around the inside rim of the container, and the semifreddo should slide out of the mold. Serve surrounded by more coffee, and with amaretti cookie crumbs on top. Sprinkle a little instant espresso powder on the rim of the serving dish.

We Interrupt This Blog For A Semifreddo break

  • July 23, 2011
While temperatures soar to more than 100 degrees here in New Jersey and many parts of the U.S., I’m giving the oven a respite and thinking about cold foods – and of course gelato is one everybody’s favorites. You may not be able to whip up gelato in your kitchen, but you can make its close cousin – semifreddo.  But first a small tour of my gelato debauchery in Italy.
My favorite shop in Rome – Giorgiagel – is no longer in business. But I found a new place that has won my heart, even if it’s a little farther from the neighborhoods where I normally roam. More about that later. This cone is from Corona – at Largo Argentina – and it’s a winner – a rich, dark chocolate, a dulce de leche that’s loaded with caramel, and a creamy ricotta gelato – all topped with whipped cream.
Here’s a cup of dark chocolate and coconut (my standard order) from Fior de Luna, a consistently reliable place on Viale Trastevere.
This year I’d been hearing a lot of buzz about I Caruso, located a tad northwest of the Piazza Repubblica, on Via Collina 13, in a neighborhood that’s a little off the beaten tourist path. You’ll see businessmen as well as young mothers lined up outside the store, including this man holding a cone of dark chocolate and stracciatella (chocolate chip) ice cream.
The gelato is made right before your eyes.
I ordered the dark chocolate and pistachio. By the way, anytime you see pistachio or mint chocolate chip gelato or ice cream that’s bright green, steer clear of that store. Pistachio may have a slight green tinge if it’s made without artificial colorings, but it should never be the color of grass. The ice cream cone I ate at I Caruso was transcendent. I was enraptured with the creamy richness of my cone that tasted like smooth, frozen chocolate pudding. It was so good, I forgot to snap a picture until it was almost too late.
Here’s a real cutie caught in the act in the Tuscan town of Castellina in Chianti. This shop – Le Volte – was located in a vaulted medieval passageway and a little off the main drag, but definitely worth searching out. I think this little fellow agrees.
I ordered the stracciatella and a flavor that was a combo of pistachio, almond and hazelnut gelato.

 

If you don’t have a trip to Italy planned in the next week, or even if you don’t have an ice cream maker, you can beat the heat and feel a little Italian with this semifreddo recipe – “semifreddo” by the way, translates to “half cold.” Let’s hope it helps keep you a little cooler too.
Start by cooking the egg yolks with some sugar over a double boiler. Make sure you continue to whisk or you might end up with scrambled eggs. It’s ready when it makes ribbons like this.
Crush some amaretti cookies in the food processor and break up some chocolate into small bits.
Blend the egg yolk mixture, the chocolate and the amaretti cookies together with whipped cream, then fold in the whipped egg whites.
Line a loaf pan with parchment paper or plastic wrap and put some of the crushed amaretti cookies on the bottom.
Pour in the semifreddo mixture, cover and freeze.
When you unmold it, it will look like this, with the cookies all flattened on top. I think it looks prettier if it has some texture on top, so I save some of the cookies to sprinkle on top before serving.
Doesn’t that look better?
You can make it for company ahead of time and keep it in your freezer.
…..or not.
Amaretti and Chocolate Chip Semifreddo
 
This recipe is also delicious using torrone candy instead of the amaretti cookies. The torrone has to be the rock-hard kind, since it needs to get crushed in the food processor to small bits. The soft torrone that’s sold in small packages and seen everywhere at Christmas won’t work for this. I was all set to make this semifreddo with hard torrone I had bought a few months ago when I realized that the package had softened with the summer’s heat and humidity. Thus, amaretti and chocolate chip semifreddo was born.
  • 1 1/2 cups crushed amaretti cookies
  • 6 eggs
  • 6 T. sugar
  • 1 T. rum, Amaretto, marsala or other liqueur
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup good dark chocolate or chocolate bits, chopped roughly
  1. Place the cookies in a food processor and pulse until they are large crumbs.
  2. Separate the eggs, but you will only need four of the egg whites. Save the other two egg whitess for another use.
  3. In a double boiler, place the egg yolks and the sugar. Whisk over warm water until you get a velvety, thick mass. (Don’t move away from this or you could end up with scrambled eggs. Some recipes call for using raw eggs, but I like to err on the side of caution and cook my egg yolks.) Let it cool slightly, then add the rum, whisking all the while. Place it to the side or in the refrigerator, but if you let it chill too long, it will become hard to work with.
  4. Beat the cream until stiff. Add the egg yolk mixture, 1 1/4 cups of the amaretti cookies, and the chocolate bits to the whipped cream, folding everything together.
  5. Whip the four egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Fold the egg yolk, whipped cream and amaretti mixture into the egg whites.
  6. Line a loaf pan with plastic wrap or parchment paper. Sprinkle half of the remaining 1/4 cup of amaretti crumbs on the bottom, then pour the mixture on top.
  7. Place a piece of plastic wrap or aluminum foil on top and freeze overnight.
  8. When ready to serve, run a knife around the edge, let the pan soak for a few seconds in hot water, and flip onto a platter. Pull off the parchment or plastic wrap and sprinkle the remaining amaretti crumbs on top. Slice and serve with chocolate sauce, if desired.