Pears Poached in Passito with Mugolio Cream

Poalched Pear with Mascarpone

Their gentle sway, the round bottom that nestles in my hand, the succulent flesh of a perfectly ripe Comice – I love pears. Succulent and sexy, whether roasted in cream and sugar, baked into a tart or cake, transformed on the stove top into Pear Vanilla Butter, or eaten out of hand, pears are one of the gustatory delights of Winter.

I have a vivid recollection of my first taste of poached pears. Bosc pears, firm and tall with their stems intact, had been peeled and gently poached in sweetened, spiced Port wine. Their flesh yielding to a paring knife, the hostess lifted them from the garnet liquid and placed them in a pool of thick Creme Anglaise. She increased the flame under the poaching liquid and reduced it to a syrup. She dotted the Creme Anglaise with the syrup and deftly ran a paring knife through the dots, connecting them in an elephant walk chain made of linked hearts. A beautiful dessert took shape before my eyes, and I was transfixed. It changed the way I thought about food, and certainly how I thought about pears. It was one of those moments one never forgets, and although the word may be overused, it was a revelation.


It’s such a simple preparation – pears enrobed in sweet syrup and served after a winter’s feast. Even less than perfect pears are wonderful when poached. The possibilities for poaching liquids are limited only by the imagination of the cook. From water sweetened with sugar or honey and flavored with vanilla, citrus zest and spices such as cinnamon, star anise, cloves and allspice to wines of every color and sweetness level, the choices are endless.


Sweet wines result in particularly succulent fruit, and these days wonderful and wonderfully inexpensive sweet wines abound.

For a real treat, try a Passito from the tiny windswept island of Pantelleria.

The island’s volcanic soil gives rise to one of Italy’s most wonderful grapes, Zibbibo (the Arabic name for Muscat of Alexandria), from which this fine dessert wine is made.

Harvested in late August and September, the grapes for this DOC wine are left out on mats to dry, a wine making technique known as apassimento.

Complex and sweet, with a dark honeyed hue, the wine complements the pears beautifully.

Poached Pear Mascarpone

The pears may be served warm, at room temperature or chilled. The poaching liquid is reduced to a thick vanilla-flecked amber syrup, drenching the pears with the wine’s precious essence. The pears are delicious served with their syrup alone, but a dollop of Mascarpone Cream flavored with Mugolio adds extra dimension to this dessert.


Mugolio is a thick syrup made from the buds of Pinus mugo, the Mountain Pine – a high altitude evergreen shrub. In May, high in the Dolomites Eleanora Cunacia, owner of Primitivizia, gathers the buds. She sets the buds, known as gems, in pots, leaving them to cure under the summer sun. Through the summer months the gems exude a golden essence, and in late Autumn the liquid is collected, filtered, mixed with sugar and reduced over heat. The result is Mugolio, a sweet resinous elixir redolent of pine and rosemary with a hint of raspberry. There is no end to the ways you can use Mugolio. Some recommend using it on pancakes or French toast in place of maple syrup. It is a brilliant match for roast pork and drizzled over the meat will lift panini to new heights. I like to dribble a bit over ricotta or Pecorino. For a real treat, try it with Taleggio and serve a few succulent Comice pears along side. Mugolio’s dark, resinous notes and honey-like taste are a beautiful match for these Passito poached pears.

Poached Pear Passito Sauce

Poached Pears with Mugolio and Mascarpone Cream

serves 4 left whole or 8, if pears are halved

4 pears, Bosc or Bartlett
1 bottle (500 ml) Passito di Pantelleria
3 cups water
1 cup granulated sugar
1 3-inch strip of lemon peel – peel only, no white pith
1 vanilla bean, split
juice of 2 lemons

8 ounces Mascarpone
7-8 tablespoons heavy cream
2 tablespoons superfine or confectioner’s sugar
3-4 tablespoons Mugolio

Fill a large bowl ¾ full with cool water and add lemon juice. This water is now said to be acidulated, because of the citric acid in the lemon juice; it will prevent the pears from oxidizing and turning brown. Peel the pears, placing each peeled pear in the acidulated water.

If the pears are to be served halved, cut them lengthwise, top to bottom. Core them using a melon baller and use a small paring knife to remove the tough flesh near the bottom. Place the halved and cored pears in the acidulated water.

Combine the Passito, water and sugar in a 4-quart high sided saucepan. Heat the mixture over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has completely dissolved. Bring the mixture to a boil, and reduce to a very gentle simmer. Add the lemon zest strips, split vanilla bean and the prepared pears.

Cut a round of parchment paper large enough to cover the surface of the saucepan and place it atop the pears. This will keep the top surfaces of the pears moist. Poach the fruit, keeping the liquid at a gentle simmer, until a paring knife slides in easily, about twenty to thirty minutes. The pears may take more or less time to poach, depending on their firmness when uncooked.

The recipe may be completed up to this point a day in advance. To store the pears overnight, remove and discard the lemon zest, leaving the vanilla bean. Transfer the pears, the poaching liquid and the vanilla bean to a glass container, being sure pears are submerged. Place a fresh piece of parchment atop pears. Dampen parchment with poaching liquid. Cover container tightly with several layers of plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

To serve, place the pears on serving plates. Remove the lemon zest and vanilla from the poaching liquid. Increase the heat to high, and bring the poaching liquid to a boil. Reduce it to a thick syrup.

While the syrup reduces, make the Mugolio Cream. Place the mascarpone, cream, superfine or confectioner’s sugar and 3 tablespoons of Mugolio in a medium bowl. Whisk gently until mixture mounds gently. Taste, adding more Mugolio, if desired.

Poached Pear Sauced

Drizzle a bit of syrup over each pear, allowing it to pool around the fruit. Place a dollop of Mascarpone Mugolio Cream on the plate and, if desired, drizzle a bit of Mugolio over the pear and cream.

Mugolio is available from Olio2Go

Pears in a Row

Note: You can click on any picture for a larger image, and to see a slide show!

I have no affiliation with any product, manufacturer, or site mentioned in this article.

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  1. Comment by Judi Castille:

    We make Pine Bud Syrup at ours are from the Transylvanian pines and we sell in the London market but looking to bring to USA. If you would be happy to pass this onto your readers, that would be greatly appreciated. It’s a great flavour.

    • Comment by Adri:

      Benvenuta Judi,

      I hope I can soon find your Pine Bud Syrup here in the U.S. I would love to try it. Until then I shall prevail upon my traveling friends to bring a bottle back for me on their next trip to London. Thank you so much for stopping by and for telling me about your Pine Bud Syrup.

      • Comment by Judi Castille:

        I will be trying to send some samples soon. I will let you know.

        • Comment by Adri:

          Ciao Judi,

          It’s a pleasure to meet you. I visited Ion Syrup, and there is so much good info there. I am really curious about the various types of syrup. I had no idea there were “variations on a theme.” Plus, I would like to compliment you on the photography. It is most enticing, and your blog is terrific. Thank you so much for contacting me.

  2. Comment by nancy at good food matters:

    Hi Adri, oh, my I don’t know where to begin…so much to love about this post—the food memory, the glistening pears, the information about mugolio (never heard of it before now!) Inspired!

  3. Comment by Karen (Back Road Journal):

    I think your poached pear dish is just gorgeous. It has to be delicious the way you prepared it.

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Karen,

      We all enjoyed it. I hope you try it. There is something so very special about poached pears. I can just imagine a large, low bowl filled with these pears sitting on the table in your gorgeous dining room. Happy New Year to you!

  4. Comment by Sam @ My Carolina Kitchen:

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen more gorgeous poached pears. Your photos are superb. I’ve never had much luck with pears, either they are too hard or too ripe or end up having spots. You’ve definitely inspired me, and also to find Passito, which I’m not familiar with. Lovely post.

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Sam,

      I hope you keep trying with the pears. Not every pear poaches up perfectly, but after a bit you will get a feel for the ones that are ripe for the poaching, so to speak. If you have a Trader Joe’s near you, look on their wine shelves. All their stores near me here in Southern California carry it, and if they do not have it, ask. They can be very accommodating. Thank you for stopping by and for the kind words. Happy New Year to you!

  5. Comment by Monique:

    I have never tried the Pssito either,but now am tempted..:) If it can be found here..
    And I love pears..the shape..s color..s

  6. Comment by John@Kitchen Riffs:

    I’ve never had Passito, but it sounds wonderful! I love poached pears – such an elegant and flavorful dessert. I totally need to make this – thanks.

    • Comment by Adri:

      Ciao John,

      Passito is wonderful, and if you can’t find it, a Moscato would be great. Trader Joe’s often has the Ipsus Passito, so if you have a store near you, take a look. I hope you enjoy this! Happy New Year to you!

  7. Comment by Roz:

    What an ELEGANT recipe, Adri and I simply must try Passito . . . so grateful that you’ve educated me about something that I’ve never known about!

    May 2014 hold many blessings in store for you. I am so happy to have found you this past year and look forward to all of your delicious and delightful recipes and posts in the coming year!

    I also want to thank you for being such a nice contributor to the Facebook group of Italian Cuisine, Culture and Travel. You’ve been amazing!


  8. Comment by emanuela:

    Che bella proposta! Molto golosa! 😉

  9. Comment by Pam @ MyNewlywedCookingAdventures:

    My but what a beautiful recipe. I love the way you write too. You describe food and wine so lovingly.

  10. Comment by Michelle - Majella Home Cooking:

    What a gorgeous, elegant, creative and inspired dessert, Adri. And I never read one of your posts without learning something new – Mugolio! Buon anno, my friend!

    • Comment by Adri:

      Ciao Michelle,

      Thank you! What kind words. I am pleased to hear you found this of interest. The Mugolio is so special, and it was a marriage made in heaven for the pantescan wine. I hope you give it a try. I enjoy finding new things and derive particular pleasure from sharing my finds! Best wishes to you and yours for a happy and healthy 2014!

  11. Comment by amy @ fearless homemaker:

    Wow! What a decadent, luscious, sexy dessert! I don’t often think of desserts as sexy, but this one definitely is. I love the combination of flavors + textures – what an amazing combination! This would make a perfect chilly Valentine’s Day dessert. =)

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Amy,

      I don’t usually think of desserts as sexy either, but there is something about pears and softly mounding cream. Uh oh, there I go again! Enjoy, and Happy New Year!

  12. Comment by Laney (Ortensia Blu):

    Another one of your spectacular posts! This is beautiful and i think I’m in love with the Mugolio cream before I’ve even tried it. I always learn something new from you!

    • Comment by Adri:

      Happy New Year, Laney!

      Davvero, Mugolio is really something. I adored it with the pears and Passito, but it also rocks, and I do mean rocks, with pork. Un bacione a te!

  13. Comment by Liz:

    I adore pears…and your poached pears look DIVINE!!! Perfect light way to indulge in something sweet. Thanks so much for the marvelous recipe!

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Liz,

      Aren’t pears grand? I can never resist them whether in tarts, pies, poached – you name it. Thanks for stopping by and for the kind words. Happy New Year to you!

  14. Comment by Susan:

    I love pears and pear desserts also! This post and your last both sound delightful!

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Susan,

      I really do adore pears. As good as an Apple Pie can be, a nice Pear Pie or tart can be even better. Best wishes for a wonderful 2014!

  15. Comment by Ilaria:

    I never thought to a sexy pear… but if I look at it I must admit you are right! 🙂

  16. Comment by sippitysup:

    First off the presentation is just so beautiful. But what I really find fascinating are these taste treats I’d never tasted before. I can imagine what the wine would taste like, but that mugolio is so intriguing. I wouldn’t know the first thing about it. I wonder if Mario’s Italian Deli would carry it. I am having lunch there today anyway. GREG

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Greg,

      Thanks for the kind words, and it’s my pleasure to show you something new. Mugolio is truly unique. I hope you can find it at Mario’s, but if they don’t have it, Olio2Go does. I bet you will think of amazing ways to use it. Have a great lunch!

  17. Comment by Cathy at Wives with Knives:

    My family loves pears, too, Adri, and there couldn’t be a more beautiful way to prepare them. I love desserts that are full of luscious flavors and aren’t overly fussy. Happy New year to you!

  18. Comment by The Café Sucre Farine:

    These pears look simply spectacular. What a wonderful light, delicious treat!

  19. Comment by Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti:

    What a delightful and special way to serve pears! My husband usually eats fresh fruit after dinner as his dessert– I’d like to surprise him with this recipe one day!

    Thank you for your kind words of consolation, Adri. My son-in-law’s brother was only 39–far too young to pass. His loss made me realize again how we have to cherish our days and embrace happiness.

    Happy and healthy 2014!

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Pat,

      Thanks! I hope you try this. I bet your husband will enjoy pears presented in this fashion. You are so right about how these terrible losses remind us to cherish our days. As a nurse you surely comforted so many in their time of grief, yet nothing can prepare us for that same grief when it is visited upon us. I hope time will soften the blow. 39 years old-it is hard to imagine. I wish you and yours the best in 2014.

  20. Comment by Ash-foodfashionparty:

    A VERY VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR!!May this year bring everything your heart desires.
    THis dessert looks so light and good. I need to order a bottle of passito online.
    Very beautiful and enticing dessert.
    Hugs to you my dear.

  21. Comment by Jovina Coughlin:

    Pears make such a great dessert. Your recipes make them really special.

  22. Comment by Luanne:

    Just gorgeous! (And ships nationwide)

  23. Comment by Phyllis @ Oracibo:

    Oh…and where can I get the Mugolio? We will be in Tuscany and Lazio in a few months any thoughts where it might be available. I have never heard of this elixir, want some!

  24. Comment by Phyllis @ Oracibo:

    Adri, this looks and sounds so totally delicious! I’ll be right over! If only Passito was readily available here…the bottle we have we brought home from London, England and I was hoping to share it with my hubby! If there’s leftovers I will be definitely making these amazing pears! Absolutely love poached pears and recently was doing them with spiced red wine. Soooo good! Chilled, definitely chilled!

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Phyllis,

      What a pity that the Passito is not readily available. A nice Moscato would also work beautifully, however. As for the Mugolio, Olio2Go in Virginia sells it, but I do not know if they ship to you. Check out their site at and see what they have to say. If you can not find any Mugolio, try a nice dark honey, like chestnut, and add it to taste to the cream. It will be wonderful with the wine and vanilla scented pears. Buon anno!

  25. Comment by 2 Sisters Recipes:

    Ciao ADRI! Beautifully done! I love how you paired the poached pear with the wine and the mascarpone cheese. Molto elegante! and restaurant -worthy! Buon Natale e Buon Anno!!
    Tanti Saluti, un bacione!

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hello to you both,

      Thank you both so much for the compliments. I adore poached pears. They have been at the top of my faves list for well over thirty years now, and I enjoy experimenting with different wines. Buon Anno!

  26. Comment by Ciao Chow Linda:

    Beautiful writing, beautiful photos, beautiful recipe too. Somehow I never seem able to poach entire pears without a mess so I usually cut them in half. But they’re not nearly as lovely to serve. I discovered that passito at TJ’s after spending nearly $50 at a local wine store for a similar wine. The TJ one is just as good and a real bargain! I had a bottle of that mugolio product and used it only once, unfortunately. I just wasn’t sure what to do with it, but I wish had the benefit of your blog post a couple of years ago.

    • Comment by Adri:

      Ciao Linda,

      Thank you for the kind words! I’m with you on the impressive presentation of an entire pear. But you know, sometimes it just does not work out, so I often cut them in half or slice each half into four lengthwise slices. The good news, of course, is that they taste great no matter how they are cut.

      Isn’t that wine a bargain? I use it often, and I love it. Too bad you went through the Mugolio. I experimented with it with meats and cheeses, and I really liked it, but then as I was making these pears for the first time it occurred to me that it would be a great match. I was really glad I had a bit left! Happy New Year!

  27. Comment by Lizzy (Good Things):

    Adri, happy new year! Thank you for such an exquisite recipe! Is there a suitable substitute for the mugolio?

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Lizzy,

      And Happy New Year to you! I would suggest a full flavored honey – such as chestnut. That would work beautiflly with the sine. The wine itself has honey-like notes, so a bit added into the cream would work beautifully.

  28. Comment by The Ninja Baker:

    Your sonnet-like description of the pear and mugolio are poetry. Your photos are alluring. Grazie for the introduction to mugolio and your lovely dessert.

    • Comment by Adri:


      Thank you for the kind words. I hope you give this recipe a try. It really is special. Best wishes for a fabulous New Year to you and yours.

  29. Comment by Angie@Angie's Recipes:

    I usually eat pears raw…I love how you prepared the gorgeous.

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Angie,

      Oh, as good as pears are eaten raw, and that goes double for a perfectly ripe Comice pear, expose those babies to heat, either dry or moist, and you’ve got a real treat in store. Buon Anno a te!

  30. Comment by

    Adri– I just love the way you write!! Only you could turn a blog post on pears into soft porn!! Just kidding, but the “succulent flesh”, “round bottoms” “enrobed in sweet syrup” are really sexy. Maybe you should write a cookbook called “Fifty Shades of Pears”! I bet it would be a best-seller. Like all those people commenting above, I am seduced by your pears. Sexy but refined and elegant.

    • Comment by Adri:

      Ha! I love the way you think, Trisha!

      Thank you for the complimentary words on my writing. Coming from you that is high praise indeed. And “Fifty Shades of Pears”, well that is darn funny. Happy New Year to you and yours!

  31. Comment by ada:

    Ciao! Già conoscevo il tuo blog! Intanto complimenti per la scelta del passito, Ipsum è un tripudio di profumi, e anche per le pere! Le ho preparate da poco anche io con una chantilly all’arancia e una salsa al vino rosso e spezie! Bellissima l’idea della crema di mascarpone! A presto, Ada

  32. Comment by Michelle Davidson:

    Hi there!
    I have been trying all morning to find this Passito di Pantelleria that you have in the photo.
    Ive been talking with a wine merchant in ATL and he said he needed a name of the winery or wine maker so he could find this for me and get me some….or could you tell me where you got yours from and hopefully I can contact them to get some?
    I am VERY courious about this wine!!
    Your pears are GORGEOUS!!!

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Michelle.

      I have bought the Ipsus Passito at Trader Joe’s. Ours stores here in LA, all of them, always stock it, so if you have a store near you, give them a call. There are many brands of this really lovely pantescan wine. Happy hunting, and Happy New Year!

  33. Comment by Frank @Memorie di Angelina:

    I usually poach pears in red wine out of habit, but this may get me out of my rut. It sounds incredible!

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Frank,

      Until I tried the Passito I leaned more toward red wines, Port, etc, also, but the Passito really is lovely. I bet you would love these. Happy New Year to you!

  34. Comment by Gintare @Gourmantine:

    This looks absolute perfection! Makes me want to stretch through the screen and take a spoonful of pear with cream. 🙂

    • Comment by Adri:


      What a lovely compliment. I have just always had a thing for poached pears. GIve these a go. They are really lovely. Happy New Year to you!

  35. Comment by Maureen | Orgasmic Chef:

    Marie said it before I got there. If it’s possible to be seduced by a pear, you have done it. The photos are remarkable too. I want pears right now!

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Maureen,

      Well, then I guess this one just fits the name of your site… sorry, I could not resist. Pears are just so darn sexy! Happy New Year!

  36. Comment by Chiara:

    E’ veramente una ricetta fantastica Adri, un dessert per una serata importante ! Buona settimana, un abbraccio !

  37. Comment by Paola Lovisetti Scamihorm:

    Stunning Pics, delicious recipe and wonderful presentation. Adri, your pears are seducing my appetite! Buon Anno mia cara!

  38. Comment by Ana Daniel:

    Adri – Pears in Pastry: apothiosis!!!!
    spending winter in SF with Mom, alas, no snow in Mt Shasta, but looks like I’ve got an outside chance of returning to SFPLCookbook….what an inspiration it it to drop in on your excellent work – especially the pears. Here, it’s been the Persimmon Winter. So far, baked about 20 mini loaves (and counting). Best with Creme Anglaise, or Hard Sauce, and wouldn’t you know, I’ve changed whiskeys: Pendelton, just a tad sweeter than the default Jack Daniel’s, and slightly smoother. Wish I was there, or yous here.

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Ana,

      I love hearing that you may be returning to the cookbook – great news for the New Year! I need to do more with Persimmons – I rarely use them, and this Fall I saw so many inspiring recipes. I don’t know Pendleton-investigation is surely in order! Happy New Year to you.

  39. Comment by Marie:

    Adri, I’m seduced by your pears, your words and the photos! It’s such a pleasure to read your posts because I always click away smiling that I’ve learned something new!

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Marie,

      Well you just made my day. Thank you for the kind words. As you well know, there is so much out there, I’m glad I can say something new! Best to you, and I hope you have a wonderful New Year!

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