Strawberry tiramisu with Marsala

Strawberry tiramisu with Marsala

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  • 6–8
  • Easy
  • 4 hours setting time

"Embarrassingly, for too many years I was convinced tiramisu is a Roman dessert — a belief that was shattered when I visited Padua in the Veneto region and was told of its origin there. I excitedly shared this on social media — to the immediate outrage of the Friuliani (from the Friuli–Venezia Giulia region), who also claim to have invented this beloved dessert.

Although its recipe didn’t appear in cookbooks until the 1960s, the word play on tirami su — ‘pick me up’ — slightly reminds us of the experiments of Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, the poet and founder of the Futurist movement. In the early twentieth century, he made some unfortunate attempts to Italianise the names of some foods, coming up with words such as pranzoalsole for picnic (lunch in the sun), or traidue for sandwich (between two).

I must confess I like the strawberry tiramisu better than the classic one because it has a hint of acidity. The classic coffee tiramisu shouldn’t be too wet and soggy, so make sure you dip only the sugary side of the biscuit in the coffee, then lay them down on the smooth side, so that the coffee slowly bathes all the biscuit with a little help from gravity. The paradox is that the strawberry one is nicer when the cookies are properly wet. If you feel creative, you could substitute the biscuits with sponge cake, or other spongy, cookie-like things that would suck up liquid. Some even substitute mascarpone with other cream cheese, or ricotta — but for me, honestly, the whole point of tiramisu is to have an excuse to eat mascarpone cream by the spoonful, with some other nice bits in between." – Saghar Setareh


  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 4 T sugar
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 400 g mascarpone
  • approx 16 savoiardi (ladyfinger biscuits)
  • For the strawberries:
  • 500 g strawberries
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 3 T sweet Marsala
  • 3 T sugar

Cooking Instructions

1. Hull the strawberries, then cut into quarters and place in a bowl. Dress with the lemon juice, Marsala and sugar. Cover and leave to macerate for at least 2 hours — or better still, overnight in the fridge — until the strawberries are sitting in a pool of sweet, slightly tangy crimson liquid.

2. Strain the strawberry liquid into a deep dish large enough to roll the biscuits in, and set the strawberries aside.

3. Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar and lemon zest using an electric mixer until pale and fluffy. No sugar grains should be felt if you rub the creamy mixture between your fingers. Gently mix in the mascarpone until smooth.

4. Using a clean whisk and a very clean bowl, whip the egg whites until white and stiff; adding a tablespoon of something acidic like lemon juice helps. In a circular movement, very delicately fold the egg whites into the mascarpone cream.

5. Set out six to eight nice-looking cups, or fancy little glasses. Add a dollop of the mascarpone cream into the bottom of each cup, then spoon in some strawberries. Roll a biscuit a few times in the strawberry juice and let it suck in the liquid at its leisure (unlike the method used with the coffee in the classic tiramisu above).

6. Break the biscuit into pieces so that it fits in the cup, pushing down a bit to fill any gaps. Add more strawberries, then a good dollop of mascarpone cream, and repeat. Before finishing with one last layer of mascarpone cream, gently tap each cup on your work surface to settle the ingredients, so that empty spaces are not left in the middle.

7. Cover each cup loosely with foil and chill in the fridge for about 4 hours before serving, so that the mascarpone cream sets. They are then best served straight away.

Cook's note: Note: The simple ratio for this recipe is 4 eggs, 4 tablespoons sugar and 400 g mascarpone.

This is an extract from Pomegranates + Artichokes: Recipes and memories of a journey from Iran to Italy by Saghar Setareh (Murdoch Books). Photography by Saghar Setareh.

Find more berry recipes here. 

Saghar Setareh Recipe by: Saghar Setareh
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Saghar Setareh is a food photographer, writer and cookbook author. She shares stories and recipes from her life as an Iranian immigrant in Italy. Her book is called Pomegranates + Artichokes: Recipes and memories of a journey from Iran to Italy.

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