affogato dessert with ice cream and biscuits on the side

Simplicity is often king when it comes to food, and Italian affogato is the ultimate example.

What most chefs eventually realise is that it’s the simple dishes that have the strongest impact on their audiences, which is certainly the case with Italian food. Although there are plenty of Italian classics to pick from, there are few more impressive than the humble affogato. It’s almost the definition of “minimum effort for maximum reward”, which just adds to the fall-in-love happiness that this dish delivers every time it’s served.

What is affogato and how do you make it?

To make affogato al caffe, all that’s involved is drenching a couple of scoops of vanilla ice cream with a beautiful cup of strong coffee – hence the name “affogato”, which means “drowned” in Italian. It’s the ultimate rule-of-opposites dish, made with deep, dark-roast espresso and simple white vanilla ice cream – a yin-yang culinary affair, resulting in a moment of instant bliss. It’s easy to marvel at the sheer effortlessness of it all with that first spoonful, and wonder why everything good in life can’t be this easy.

A clear coffee cup filled with ice cream, coffee and chocolate sprinkles for the perfect affogato recipe. There's biscotti and a spoon on the side.

Affogato ingredients

  • Two scoops of vanilla ice cream
  • A cup of dark-roast espresso
  • Your choice of nut or biscuits, crushed and sprinkled on top for crunch (roasted almonds, hazelnuts, amaretti or biscotti biscuits work a treat)

Jamie makes a gorgeous walnut whip affogato, and uses leftover dessert in this affogato recipe in the video above – the perfect way to use up Christmas pudding, chocolate mousse, tart, pie, or anything else you have to hand. You can use cups, glasses or little bowls to make this one – just place the leftovers into the bottom of each, add the ice cream, and pour over the coffee. Genius!

The last important note on this is about the coffee. Very simply, don’t use the instant stuff – it just doesn’t have the depth of flavour needed to cope with the ice cream. I would suggest proper espresso, as I love the crema that forms on the top, but strong coffee from a stovetop mocha pot or cafetiere will do the job nicely.

It’s that simple. Grab your ice cream, your coffee, your crunch, and surrender to it.

Looking for more easy dessert ideas? Check out our favourite crumble recipes

About the author

John Quilter

John Quilter is an entrepreneur and broadcaster with over 20 years experience as a restaurateur and chef.

John Quilter