The Double-Duty Dessert Perfect For Low Effort Dinner Parties

While the appetizers and main course of a dinner party may command your attention and effort, it's crucial not to underestimate the significance of dessert. As a host, the best possible strategy for this final course is to select something that requires minimal effort on your end, while providing maximum enjoyment for your guests. Affogato does just that, serving as a perfect ending to a memorable evening.

When you host a dinner party, each course carries its own weight. The appetizers and hors d'oeuvres are the guests' very first bites, setting the stage for a favorable first impression. The main dishes, hopefully cooked to perfection, are the memorable stars of the show. And dessert is that last sweet note that lingers in each person's mouth as they thank you and bid you goodnight.

Once the meal is picked over and plates are cleared away, typical dinner party protocol is to serve something sweet along with some coffee. So why not combine the two? Affogato is a double-duty dessert that will give your guests everything they want, as it provides a delightful combination of flavors and textures.

All about the affogato

Literally translated to the word "drowned," in Italy affogato refers to the pouring of liquid over food — and that's exactly what it is: Cold gelato that's literally drowned in hot espresso. While it's definitely of Italian origin, the history of the affogato is a bit murky. The dessert is thought to have become popularized in Italy in the 1950s, and today you'll find it on the menu at pretty much any café or gelateria throughout Italy. 

But the beauty of this dessert is that it's refreshingly simple to make no matter where you are; so low-effort to serve yet so satisfying to eat. Traditionally made with crema or fior di latte gelato, a shot of unsweetened hot espresso is poured over a scoop of the ice-cold gelato, creating a dessert built on delicious juxtaposition: bitter and sweet flavors, solid and liquid textures, and hot and cold temperatures. 

When it comes to making the dessert for your guests at home, the gelato is naturally interchangeable with ice cream, and the espresso with a few spoonfuls of strong coffee. Either way, the final result is a unique, elegant dessert that slowly melts into a creamy, decadent treat as you first scoop and then savor every last sip.

Mastering the art of affogatos

If you're planning to include Affogato in your next dinner party, a great tip is to freeze pre-scooped balls of ice cream or gelato so all you have to do come dessert time is make your espresso or coffee and pour it on top. This way your ice cream also stays nice and frozen, which is what you want so that the hot coffee can slowly but surely do its thing without turning the dessert into instant soup. You also want to make sure you use unsweetened espresso or coffee to balance out the naturally rich sweetness of ice cream — and if it's good Italian coffee, even better.

While Affogato is typically made with a cream or vanilla-flavored gelato to offset the bitterness of the coffee, hazelnut, chocolate, or even coffee ice cream (if you want to double down) are all great choices as well. You can also experiment with additional flavors in the form of liqueur, adding a splash of amaretto, coffee liqueur, or Frangelico along with your coffee or espresso. And then there are the toppings and mix-ins too: try dark chocolate shavings, chopped hazelnuts, or some classic whipped cream for a little extra something special.