Beat the Heat Italian Style: Easy Pistachio Semifreddo

Pistachio Semifreddo |

Buona estate a tutti!! Happy summer! The summer heat is upon us and if you are like me, you are always searching for that easy refreshing summer dessert that keeps you out of the kitchen and in the pool. Cue the beach music. Enter the Italian dessert ‘semifreddo’.

Semifreddo’ is one dessert that you are probably not making but should. It is the laid back cousin of glorious gelato and its preparation requires little making it an ideal ‘go to’ treat for lazy, hot summer days. It’s name translates to ‘semi-cold’ and unlike its colder cousin, this soft, velvety dessert is super simple to make and can be made in advance. No special equipment is required. No churning. No detailed prep. In fact, some versions do not even require you to turn on a stove.

Semifreddo has long been a tradition in Italy but for reasons beyond my comprehension, is rarely given its due. This chilly concoction is akin to a frozen mousse. It sometimes involves beaten egg yolks which is bit more work to make but it can also be as simple as a velvety combination of beaten egg whites folded together with airy whipped cream, as with this recipe. It can be flavored with nuts, cookies, fruit and then simply poured into a loaf pan (or any other shape for that matter) and frozen.

The egg yolk version requires cooking a custard or zabaglione precisely and removing from the heat prior to the egg yolks curdling. Although I am sure this version is delicious, why do all that work when (almost) the same frosty result can be had with just egg whites and cream? Seriously! Join me – take the easy way out.

For this recipe, I have used ground pistachios for texture and crunch. Beaten egg whites are gently incorporated into whipped cream along with the nuts and boom. Done. Pour into any handy mold and freeze. Then go take in the summer day. Go take a swim. Pour a glass of crisp vino. Wallow in lazy. By dinner, your dessert will be ready to impress your guests.

When dinner is done, simply pull it from the freezer (with a bit of flair). Flip onto a serving platter. Unmold and peel off the plastic wrap. Wait for the oohs and ahhs as you slice onto a plate. For added flair, shower your slice with additional chopped pistachios. Dramatically shave some dark chocolate on top. Your guests will be duly impressed.

(Or alternatively, simply scoop into bowls or glasses and follow on with chopped nuts and chocolate. This tends to be my preferred method after the guests have gone and I remember there is some remaining in the freezer.) Tip: Chill your bowls or plates in summer weather to keep everything chilling just a bit longer when you serve your frosty treat!

So with summer upon us, semifreddo away.  You will thank me as you glide around the pool on your little floaty for a few extra precious rays.

Buona estate! Happy Summer!



Pistachio Semifreddo |

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Pistachio Semifreddo |

Pistachio Semifreddo

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Semifreddo – a super, simple Italian frozen dessert that will help you beat the summer heat!


  • About 1½ cups shelled pistachios, plus more for sprinkling on top
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 6 large egg whites
  • 2 cups very cold heavy cream
  • Piece of dark chocolate for shaving on top (optional)


  1. Line a standard loaf pan (8 ½ by 4) with plastic wrap, leaving about a 2-inch overhang on all sides. Set aside.
  2. Place 1 cup of the pistachios in a food processor with ½ cup sugar and pulse until very finely ground. Toss in the remaining ½ cup pistachios and pulse to coarsely grind. (You want the texture of both finely and coarsely ground nuts for the semifreddo.)
  3. Beat the egg whites in a chilled bowl with an electric mixer with chilled beaters. (This keeps everything smooth and creamy.) Beat just until stiff soft peaks form.
  4. Whip the cream, adding the remaining ¼ cup sugar a little at a time. Continue whipping until still peaks form. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the pistachio nut mixture until incorporated.
  5. Fold in the egg white mixture next, stirring gently but thoroughly, until incorporated.
  6. Pour the mixture into the prepared loaf pan. Cover and freeze until firm, about 5 hours.
  7. To serve, unmold onto a plate. Peel off the plastic wrap. Slice and serve sprinkled with additional chopped pistachios and perhaps a bit of shaved chocolate. Alternatively, scoop the semifreddo into cups or bowls and sprinkle with the pistachios and chocolate.
  • Category: Dessert
  • Cuisine: Italian


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  1. Is this semifreddo made with roasted salted pistachios? Thanks

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