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Pasta Grannies: Mara's tiramisu

BY Vicky Bennison

13th Sep 2022 Recipes

Pasta Grannies: Mara's tiramisu
Author of Pasta Grannies: Comfort Cooking Vicky Bennison shares this childhood favourite among Italian nonne, a delicious homemade tiramisu recipe 
Mara was taught how to make tiramisù by the chef of a restaurant called Le Beccherie in Treviso, which is where the dessert was invented according to one explanation (although in fact it was another restaurant in Friuli). As is often the case with these origin stories where a restaurant invents a dish, there are humbler, home-cooking habits and traditions which pre-date them.
As Mara explained when she made this tiramisù. "I remember as children, when we were over-tired and didn’t want to eat anything good for us, our grandmother would make us a zabaione, but not the cooked version; it was just egg yolks and sugar beaten together. And it was a treat, a pick-me-up to give us energy." In fact, when Mara’s video was posted online, people wrote in from all over Italy to say their grandmothers did this too. It was a popular breakfast, some added milk, others coffee, and one or two nonne even put a drop of Marsala into the mix. 
"People wrote in from all over Italy to say their grandmothers did this too"
With this recipe, the eggs are not cooked, so please make sure they are free-range and from a reputable producer. Mara adds sambuca, an anise-flavoured liqueur, because she says it takes away the eggy smell. A more usual addition is Marsala, but you can experiment with any liqueur you have in your drinks cupboard. Or leave it out completely. Start making this the day before you want to eat it. 
Homemade tiramisu
Prep: 30 minutes plus overnight chilling
Serves: 6–8


  • 3 eggs 
  • 60g (2oz) caster (superfine) sugar 
  • 300g (10½oz) mascarpone 
  • 2 packets Savoiardi or lady fingers biscuits (exactly how many you need will depend on your dish) 
  • 2tbsp sambuca or other liqueur 
  • 500ml (17 fl oz/generous 2 cups) freshly brewed strong coffee, cooled 
  • 25g (1oz) bitter unsweetened cocoa powder, for sprinkling 


  1. Separate the eggs into two large mixing bowls. Add the sugar to the egg yolks and beat with an electric hand-held whisk until light and creamy. Stir through the mascarpone until you have a cream. Beat the egg whites with a balloon whisk until they are stiff and when you lift the whisk from them, they hold their "peaks". Using a metal serving spoon, gently fold the whites into the cream. 
  2. Dollop a couple of tablespoons of the mixture into the bottom of a pie dish roughly 23cmx20cm (9inx8in) and smear it evenly across the base. 
  3. Add your chosen liqueur to the cooled coffee. 
  4. Mara stipulates the biscuits should not be soggy with coffee, so arrange a layer of them, sugar side up, in the pie base, then use a teaspoon and carefully dribble coffee along each biscuit. Make sure you keep half for the next layer. Cover this layer of biscuits with half of the remaining mascarpone mix. Repeat with the biscuits and coffee, then add the rest of the mascarpone. Chill this overnight. 
  5. When you are ready to eat it, sprinkle the top with the cocoa powder. It should be nice and thick. Serve with some Prosecco
PASTA GRANNIES: Comfort Cooking by Vicky Bennison (Hardie Grant, £22) Photography: Lizzie Mayson

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