Blood Orange Semifreddo – a delicious Italian dessert perfect for Keto

In my novel, Missing in Firenze, this Arancia Rosso Semifreddo is served to Antonio and his family at a celebratory dinner in Enzo’s Trattoria, owned by a friend. Semifreddo, which translates “half-cold”, is a rich and creamy, semi-frozen dessert reminiscent of a frozen mousse. Originally from the north-central region of Emilia-Romagna, it has become popular throughout Italy. Though made with heavy cream and egg yolks, the orange zest and juice give it a light and refreshing character. This dessert works perfectly with Keto diets also. All you have to do is use a sugar substitute.

You’ll notice I always start with mis en place, the French term for all in place. Then, I zested one of the blood oranges and then squeezed about a half cup of the juice.

Next, I prepared what the Italians call Zabaglione, an Italian custard. I separated the yolks from ten large eggs and put them in a bowl which will fit into a pan of simmering water to create a double-boiler. Add sugar, or your favorite sugar-substitute, a pinch of salt, zest, juice, and liqueur if you choose to add it.

To create a double-boiler, place an inch of water in a large saucepan. Bring to a simmer over low heat. Place the bowl atop simmering water. Using a whisk or hand mixer, whisk the egg mixture until thick and creamy.

Check periodically with a thermometer inserted until the mixture registers 160º F (about 6-8 minutes). Set the bowl of custard into a bowl of ice water to cool completely. You’ll notice the temperature goes up quickly at first, but the last ten degrees come slowly as the mixture becomes light and airy.

The idea of whisking the egg yolks over simmering water is to produce a light, airy custard—but also to ensure the raw eggs are safe for consumption. It is critical that you cool this thoroughly before mixing with the whipped cream.

While the zabaglione is cooling, in another large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the heavy cream until peaks form. Gently fold the whipped cream into the custard using a large rubber spatula.

Spoon the mixture into the loaf pan. Cover with the overhanging plastic wrap and freeze until fully hardened (a minimum of 8 hours or up to 3 days).

I chose to garnish mine with candied blood orange slices and pomegranate seeds. Some other delicious alternatives to the pomegranate seeds would be crushed amaretti cookies, almonds (slivered or sliced), pistachios nuts or macadamia nuts. To candy the orange slices, dissolve sugar or your favorite sugar-substitute in simmering water. Add orange slices. Simmer for about 45 minutes. Cool on a wire rack or metal tray if you have one.

When ready to serve, unfold the plastic wrap and using the wrap like handles, lift the semifreddo out of the pan and invert onto a platter (if it does not want to come out, dip the pan briefly in warm water).

Gently peel off plastic wrap. Cut into 10 or 12 slices. Garnish with half slices of candied orange and pomegranate seeds or alternative.

Sit back and enjoy and soak up the praises which will be heaped upon you. You deserve it!



Serves 10-12
3/4 cup sugar or sugar substitute
10 large egg yolks
zest of one medium blood orange
1/2 cup fresh squeezed blood orange juice
1/4 cup orange flavored liqueur such as Cointreau or Grand Marnier (optional)
Pinch of salt
2 cups heavy cream
Pomegranate seeds for garnish (optional)
Candied Blood Orange Slices:
6 or more Blood Orange slices
2 cups water
1 cup sugar or sugar substitute
Procedure for Orange Slices: Dissolve sugar in simmering water. Add orange slices. Simmer for 45 minutes.

  1. Spray a 9×5 inch loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray. Line the pan with plastic wrap, allowing enough to hang over the sides with which to cover the top after filling pan.
  2. To create a double-boiler, place an inch of water in a large saucepan. Bring to a simmer over low heat.
  3. Place the sugar, egg yolks, zest, juice, liqueur, and salt in a large metal mixing bowl.
  4. Place the bowl atop simmering water. Using a whisk or hand mixer, whisk the egg mixture until thick and creamy; and a thermometer inserted into the mixture registers 160º F (about 6-8 minutes). Set the bowl of custard into a bowl of ice water to cool completely.
  5. In another large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the heavy cream until peaks form. Gently fold the whipped cream into the custard using a large rubber spatula.
  6. Spoon the mixture into the loaf pan. Cover with the overhanging plastic wrap and freeze until fully hardened (a minimum of 8 hours or up to 3 days).
  7. When ready to serve, unfold the plastic wrap and using the wrap like handles, lift the semifreddo out of the pan and invert onto a platter (if it does not want to come out, dip the pan briefly in warm water).
  8. Gently peel off plastic wrap. Cut into 10 or 12 slices. Garnish with half slices of candied orange (and pomegranate seeds if desired (or alternatives below).

You can find a Limoncello version of this dessert in my cookbook, Frankie at Home in the Kitchen, available on Amazon, or …

click on the image to the left to order autographed copies on my website.

I hope you’ll enjoy this recipe. It really is delicious! Buon appetito!

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Announcing the re-release of my cookbook “Frankie at Home in the Kitchen”

Five years ago, I sold the last copy of my cookbook, two days before the closing of our restaurant. Now, thanks to Amazon’s print-on-demand option the book is back in all its glory!



Beautifully photographed and complemented with wine-pairing recommendations, this cooking compendium offers more than 120 recipes for Italian dishes inspired by the famous Washington State restaurant, Frankie’s Pizza and Pasta. Numerous delectable ideas for pizza, pasta, and antipasti are presented as well as tasty tips on soups, salads, sandwiches, beverages, and desserts. Memorable images of the famed restaurant itself are also featured along with a photographic jaunt through the author’s vegetable garden and travels to Italy. Ensuring each recipe is well tested and easy to follow, this collection is a wonderful guide for those who want to lure friends and family to the table with handcrafted Italian entrées.

Check out some photos below of the amazing dishes you’ll find in the book.

Buon appetito!

Chocolate-Hazelnut Gelato to die for!

I’ve posted a couple of gelato recipes in the last year.  I hope you’re not tired of them because I recently made this for a catering and it was so good I had to share.  I used the same method I’ve used before of creating a custard base.  I then looked at a variety of recipes before creating my own flavor version.  I doubt if you will find a better recipe.

Why it’s so good:  This fabulous gelato gets a triple hit of chocolate from cocoa powder, melted dark chocolate, and chocolate-hazelnut spread (such as Nutella). It also gets a triple dose of hazelnut from the Nutella, chopped hazelnuts, and hazelnut liqueur such as Frangelico if you choose to use it (if not you can substitute vanilla). And I’ve given it a touch more salt than most recipes which I think really kicks up the flavor.

About the process:  As with with my previous gelato recipes you want to make the custard base in advance and let it ‘fully’ cool before freezing it in you ice cream maker. I suggest making it in the morning, or even a day ahead.

To make the custard you mix egg yolks with some of the sugar until it becomes a pale yellow color and and thick enough to fall in ribbons from the beaters.

For this recipe you next stir in some cocoa powder.  Mine got a bit clumpy so in the future I will use a sifter to sift the cocoa powder into the custard.

Meanwhile, you heat your milk, cream and remaining sugar in a medium saucepan set over medium heat. Heat to 175 F, stirring often to dissolve the sugar.

Once the milk mixture reaches 175 F, turn the heat to low.  Then temper the egg mixture by slowly whisking 1/2 cup of the hot milk mixture into egg mixture to thin it and raise it’s temperature gradually. Then slowly whisk the egg mixture into the milk mixture.

Next, keeping the heat on low, heat the custard, stirring constantly, until a temperature of 180 degrees is reached. The custard should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

While the custard was heating, I melted my chocolate on low in the microwave and stirred into the custard. Then add hazelnut spread and salt.

When 180 F is reached, turn off heat and whisk in hazelnut liqueur (or vanilla).
If you see any chunks of curdled egg, pour the custard through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl or container.  If you tempered the egg mixture properly you may not need to do this (I did not).

At this point you want to place the bowl into a larger bowl of ice water, whisking occasionally, to bring the custard to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate until the custard is 40 F or lower. This can take 4-8 hours

About the Hazelnuts:  

If you bought un-toasted (or roasted) hazelnuts, you’ll want to do that yourself.  If you’ve never done it there are many info sources online. I found skinned and roasted hazelnuts at Trader Joe’s. I then chopped them roughly in my food processor.

The Final Step: Freezing the Gelato

When properly chilled, stir together the custard and hazelnuts.

Blend in your ice cream or gelato maker. You can eat immediately or freeze for a couple of hours or longer.  In most cases the latter makes more sense.  But ideally gelato is served slightly warmer than ice cream, so I pull it out and let it sit 10-20 minutes prior to serving.

Buon appetite!

Buona sera.  May God bless your table abundantly with joy, laughter, and his amazing love!


Strawberries in Moscato wine… easiest dessert ever, and so delicious!

Talk about a simple, yet delicious dessert! I’ll give this one the prize.

BEST WITH FRESH SEASONAL BERRIES!  Strawberry season is upon us.  You can get very good berries in the stores… even better in the farmer’s markets… and even better if you grow them yourself or go to a u-pick farm and pick them yourself!  Strawberries bought outside of season lack the sweet, juicy flavors of high-season berries.  But also be aware that there are types of strawberries which ripen later in the summer.  These can often be found in your local farmer’s market.



Strawberries at Redmond Saturday Market

I RECOMMEND ORGANIC BERRIES:  I like to know that my strawberries are either organic or that they are grown without pesticides.  The reason is little critters love strawberries too so pesticides are often sprayed directly on the berries, and do not wash off easily.  This is why they are listed #1 in the Dirty Dozen list… fruits and vegetables which should not be eaten unless they are organically grown.

Strawberries ripening in Frankie’s garden

MOSCATO D’ASTI is a sweet, sparkling, low-alcohol wine from the area of Asti in Piedmont. It is made from the Moscato (Muscat) grape and is wonderful for an apéritif or a “not too sweet” dessert wine. Pour it over some fresh sliced strawberries and top with whipped cream and anybody will be impressed!



  • If you like your whipped cream even a little richer and firmer, try adding some mascarpone cheese to it (that’s what I did here). It makes a good thing taste even better.
  • I left the traditional vanilla out of my whipped cream so as not to compete with the Moscato flavors.

Below is the recipe.  If you’d prefer the recipe in a PDF click here… Strawberries in Moscato Recipe

Buon appetito!  May God bless your table with good health and his abundant love!



Crema al Limone Gelato from Cinque Terre

I had to eat some before I took the photo… yum!

I have a rule when I go to Italy.  I eat gelato every day!  And if I miss a day I should have it twice the next.

I’ve had gelato all over Italy. But the best I ever had was discovered on the waterfront in the town of Monterosso al Mare in Cinque Terre in a shop called “Slurp… Gelato Artigianale”.  It was here and only here I found a flavor known as Crema al Limone made with the fresh local lemons and fresh cream. Other lemon gelatos I saw throughout Italy were not creamy but more like a sorbetto. This creamy version was so amazing I knew I had to learn how to make it and I nailed it on my first try!

The owner of the shop was super friendly.  I forgot to find out his name.  When I took his picture his friend had to get in it.

Owner of Slurp and his friend

The key to this gelato is the double whammy of freshly squeezed lemon juice (don’t use the bottled stuff!), and fresh lemon zest.  Feel free to sub some limoncello for some of the lemon juice for a different twist.

My beautiful wife and granddaughter

Gelato is not any more difficult than ice cream to make. First you make a custard with the dairy and egg yolks.  Then, once cooled you freeze it just like ice cream.  Ice cream makers mix in a little more air than is ideal for gelato.  If you want to make gelato all of the time you can buy a gelato maker but I find the results satisfactory with my ice cream maker.

I served this gelato at a dinner with some chef friends recently and everyone raved about it.  We had just finished a six-course dinner so we were pretty full, but this lemon gelato topped us off perfectly.

Train station in Monterosso

If you’ve never been to Cinque Terre this will give you one more reason to go.  But even if you can’t make the trip, this amazing gelato will transport you there.

KETO OPTION: If you are on a Keto diet this recipe is super easy to modify. Just use a sugar substitute such as Swerve instead of sugar.

Scroll down for the recipe or if you would like it in PDF format click here… Crema al Limone Recipe PDF

Buon appetito!

My version of Crema al Limone

The view from the tables across from Slurp

Finally! A successful Gelato recipe … Pistachio!

I love gelato!  At least I adore the gelato I have in Italy.  I have a strict personal policy… when in Italy, I must eat gelato every day!  And if I miss a day, I must have it twice the next day.  Now that is a rule I can live by.

I’ve always desired to have great gelato here at home, but until now I’d never had any as good as what I have had in Italy.  I’ve wondered if it is the magic of the place that makes it so good?  This may be partly true.  But I’ve also become convinced that nobody in my part of the world makes it as good.  This was true across the board… whether I purchased it in a gelato shop, a grocery store, or an attempt to make it at home.  I’ve tried making gelato a few times and it never came out like the wonderful stuff I’ve had in Italy … until now! YES!

I took this recipe from a couple of different sources.  The custard base was adapted from the Best Recipe Italian Classics cookbook published by the editors of Cook’s Illustrated magazine.  These people always test their recipes thoroughly.  The pistachio cream recipe I got elsewhere, and when I put the two together, well it was like magic happened.

This base must be cooked ahead of time and thoroughly chilled before churning. It takes a little time but is well worth the effort. There was a lot of science and testing behind the procedures and temperatures for cooking the custard. I cannot explain all of those here but please follow them as carefully as you can.

A gelato maker would be ideal for churning this, but I used my Cuisinart ice cream maker and was very satisfied with the results. What is the difference, you ask?  Well, a gelato maker only mixes in about half as much air as an ice cream maker, giving a denser consistency. I don’t yet have a gelato maker. I hope to one of these days, but they cost over $200 so it’s hard to justify unless I know I’m going to use it frequently.

Gelato is often viewed as a healthy alternative to ice cream due to its lower calorie content. This is because gelato is generally made with whole milk, or even 2% milk rather than cream. The lower butterfat is one reason it has more flavor, partly because the flavors are not coated over by fat.

Gelato also has a greater density and therefore you can eat less quantity and still be satisfied. So, for those who are watching their waistlines, take heart, gelato may soon become your new midnight snack!

The other thing about gelato is the intensity of its flavors.  This recipe calls for making your own Pistachio Cream.  You can buy Pistachio Cream in some specialty grocery stores, but this was easy to make.  It would not have been easy if I’d had to shell all of the pistachios, but luckily, I found raw, unsalted, shelled pistachios at my local Trader Joe’s.  With those in hand, it was easy.  I made mine in my blender, but I think it would be easier in a food processor.  I’ll find out next time.  Either way, get the cream as smooth as you can.  Then if you like you can add a few pistachios on top of the gelato when serving.

Keto Option: The nice thing about gelato is that it is easy to make a Keto version. All you must do is use a sugar substitute such as Swerve or Truvia and you have a high-fat, low-carb dessert.     

I hope you enjoy this wonderful recipe! Buon appetito!

Panforte… better than fruitcake!

Panforte.  A wonderful Christmas recipe!

I grew up eating fruitcake.  And I actually like the stuff.  Not sure what that says about me… but yes, I’ve been accused of being one. My Mom would make fruitcakes and place them in the refrigerator, and cover them with a Brandy soaked cloth.  When I was young that was a bit strong for me but as I grew up I came to like it more and more.

Well the people of the ancient city of Siena in Tuscany have a dessert called Panforte. Though sometimes called an Italian fruitcake, it shares little resemblance to the version of fruit cake so many of you despise. I first made it when doing my cookbook and it was sooo good that of course it made the cut.

Panforte is a traditional dessert–really more of a gooey confectionary–originating from the ancient city of Siena many centuries ago, but now popular all over Italy. Panforte’s main ingredients are honey, sugar, almonds, hazelnuts, candied citrus peel. Some versions have dried (not candied) fruits. It also has many of the spices you would find in a traditional spice cake. I’ve made this for the holidays. Its so rich that its hard to eat a lot at once, but I couldn’t keep from snacking on it several times per day.

A fun option is to make a number of mini Panforte to give away as gifts. To do so, double the recipe and cook in a 9×13 baking pan. Then using an oiled circular cutter, cut into mini Panforte.  Wrap each in wax paper and tie with colored string. You then have all the yummy leftover scraps to eat yourself.

Buon appetito!  And an early Buon Natale!

Panforte Recipe