Not gelato, not sorbetto–semifreddo occupies a niche. The light and creamy texture melts fast in your mouth, leaving the essential freshness of the fruit. It's easy, too, since you need no ice cream machine. Cherries or raspberries rival the strawberries during their seasons. Semifreddo keeps well in the freezer for a week.
1. Line a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with plastic wrap, leaving a few inches all around the sides.
2. Puree the strawberries (reserving and refrigerating several pretty ones) with the orange juice and 2 tablespoons of the sugar. Chill the puree until ready to use.
3. Fill the bottom of a double boiler with water and bring almost to a boil. In the top, beat the eggs with the remaining sugar, the milk, and the vanilla. Place over the simmering water and whisk continuously for about 10 minutes, or until the mixture thickens and forms trailing ribbons. Cool in the fridge for about 1 1/2 hours.
4. When the egg mixture has cooled, whisk in the mascarpone and all but 1/4 cup of the strawberry puree. In a separate bowl, whip the cream until firm peaks form. With a spatula, fold the cream into the strawberry-and-mascarpone mixture. Pour into the loaf pan and freeze for at least 4 hours. Refrigerate the reserved puree.
5. Unmold the semifreddo by loosening the plastic wrap, then inverting the pan onto a serving dish. Slice or leave whole the reserved strawberries. Add them to the reserved puree and spoon this over the semifreddo in the dish or over individual servings.
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Recipe reprinted from the book The Tuscan Sun Cookbook by Frances Mayes and Edward Mayes. Copyright 2012 by Frances Mayes and Edward Mayes. Photographs copyright 2012 by Steven Rothfeld. Published by Clarkson Potter, a division of Random House Inc.