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How to Make Gelato: Easy Recipes for a Delightful Italian Ice Cream Dessert

Updated on January 23, 2012

Here's a fun resource on all things gelato, whether it's history, flavors, or just basic information:

Americans love ice cream, with vanilla ranking as the number one dessert choice. It's versatility is wonderful, and it's variety makes it something that can appeal to a wide range of tastes. Over the past few years, variations on the theme of ice cream have been explored, with yogurt and gelato shops springing up everywhere and becoming very popular.

What exactly is gelato, and how does it differ from ice cream? The answer is found in the ingredient list, as well as the method of making it. Whereas ice cream contains lots of cream (who'd have guessed?), gelato generally contains little to no cream, and perhaps more eggs. Also, ice cream is usually made by combining a custard with cream just before the freezing process, while gelato is a lighter cream that is cooked together and then frozen. It derives a denser and creamier texture from the fact that there is no air whipped into it during the freezing, as there is with ice creams.

There's one more little item going for gelato, lending it an air of the gourmand. It's Italian in origin, dating back to the Renaissance. The famous Medici family is credited with sponsoring a competition to find the best frozen dessert, and gelato was discovered. It's fame soon spread world wide, and has continued until today.

Here are a couple of my favorite recipes, showing some of the range of flavor you can find in gelato, making it a memorable delicacy. Enjoy!


Toasted Amaretto Gelato

This is a rich dessert, with a strong almond flavor given from an infusion, a unique and flavorful way of adding complexity.


  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 cups slivered almonds, toasted
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

Infuse the milk and cream
In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, warm the milk, cream and almonds until a few bubbles appear along the edge of the pan. Remove from the heat and let steep for at least 15 minutes. Pour through a fine-mesh sieve into a liquid measuring pitcher.

Prepare the custard
In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, granulated sugar and brown sugar until fluffy and lightened in color, 3 to 4 minutes. While whisking constantly, pour the milk mixture into the egg yolk mixture.

Return the mixture to the pan, set over medium-low heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the custard thickens slightly and reaches 170°F on an instant-read thermometer, about 5 minutes. Do not let the custard boil. Pour the custard into a bowl and let cool, then cover and refrigerate until very cold, at least 5 hours or up to overnight.

Churn and freeze the gelato
Transfer the custard to an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer the gelato to an airtight container, press a layer of plastic wrap onto the surface and freeze until firm, at least 2 hours. Let the gelato soften slightly before serving. Makes about 1 quart.

Stracciatella Gelato

This recipe is from Sherry Yard, one of my favorite chefs. Her two books Desserts by the Yard and The Secrets of Baking are some of the most beautiful dessert cook books I've ever found, with beautiful and accessible recipes for beginner bakers or the most advanced of chefs. The Italian stracciatella translate to mean "little rags", representing the tiny ragged pieces of chocolate strewn throughout the cream.


3 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup powdered milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup light corn syrup
Pinch of salt
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped


1. In a heavy saucepan, combine the milk, sugar, powdered milk, vanilla, and corn syrup and bring to a boil. Whisk until the sugar and powdered milk have dissolved. Remove from the heat, pour into a bowl, and allow to cool to room temperature, or chill in the refrigerator. Add the salt.

2. Freeze in an ice cream maker following the manufacturer's directions.

3. Meanwhile, shortly before the gelato is ready, melt the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and 50% power for about 2 minutes or in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water. Cool to about 100 degrees.

4. When the gelato has reached the desired consistency, continue running the machine while you drizzle in the chocolate in a very fine stream. You can control the drizzle by lifting the melted chocolate from the bowl on a spatula and letting it drizzle from the spatula into the ice cream maker. If the stream is too thick or too fast, the chocolate will form into clumps instad of flecks.

If your ice cream maker turns with the motor turning the paddle from the lid on top (making it impossible to drizzle the chocolate in while it runs), simple melt the chocolate and spread it thinly onto a metal baking sheet and freeze. With a metal spatula, scrape up the chocolate, and it should flake as you bring it off the pan. Add it to the cream before beginning the freezing process, and your results should be the same.

5. Transfer the gelato to the freezer container and freeze for at least two hours, to firm before serving.


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