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Making Homemade Italian Gelato in our Ice Cream Machine

Updated on September 5, 2014

Eat It Before It Melts!

With our trip to Italy coming up, we decided to try some store-bought gelato here at home in Arizona beforehand, so we'd know what we had to look forward to overseas. What we sampled -- a whole pint each, actually -- was just as delicious as ice cream ... but different somehow. (What that difference was, though, we couldn't quite put our finger on.) And then there was the appealing, fancy name, which comes from the Italian word "gelare," meaning "to freeze." We were hooked, for sure.

Needless to say, we ate a lot of flavorful gelato during our two-week vacation, so we were thinking about it once we got home, where it was pricier than in Italy. Could we make it ourselves, we wondered? Yep, we sure could, and we could use the ice cream machine we already had. I'll show you how it's done below.

Image Credits: All photos on this page were taken by me, Deb Lauman, in Amalfi, Italy, and Flagstaff, Arizona. All rights reserved.

Have you ever tried gelato? - What did you think?

Please answer this little desserty poll....

See results

Eating Italian Gelato IN Italy - A staple of our vacation diet

Gelato shoppe in Amalfi, Italy
Gelato shoppe in Amalfi, Italy

Okay, I admit it: we ate gelato pretty much every day while we were in Italy. Sometimes, um ... twice. We were there for two weeks and, yes, the scale showed every bit of that indulgence when we got home.

But, you see, there were so many flavors we had to try. And gelato was actually much cheaper than most other food or dessert in the places we visited, so it was a money-saving thing too!

So, you see, we had our good reasons.

No Shortage of Gelato Shops

Everywhere we went -- the Amalfi coast, Verona, Venice -- we never had to walk far to find a gelateria (one of the few Italian words I know besides prego), so temptation and opportunity were everywhere, even at times right across the street from each other.

Sometimes we ate our frozen treats in cups, sometimes in cones, but they always came with a little edible, crunchy cap on top and sometimes a dollop of fresh cream, the latter in Venice.

Actually, while I say "frozen," the gelato seemed less cold than the ice cream and frozen yogurt we were used to back home. The glass of the display cases wasn't that cold to the touch, and the gelato started to drip and melt as soon as it was handed over to us. So, we'd be licking and licking as we fumbled around for our money to pay for it. (Jeremy usually ended up with a drip on his shirt.)

I later found out that, yep, gelato is traditionally kept at a warmer temperature -- about 15 degrees warmer -- than ice cream. Ice cream is usually stored at around 10 degrees Fahrenheit, but at that same temp, gelato would be too hard and lose the texture everyone looks forward to. In turn, ice cream would be like soup at the temperature gelato "likes."

Making Our Own Back Home

We didn't have gelato in mind when we bought our ice cream maker, and the booklet that came with it had no such recipes. Just ice creams, frozen yogurts, and sorbets. But when we came back from Italy with gelato in our veins, I looked up some recipes and found that, yep, just a regular ice cream machine would do the job just fine.

This is the one we have and will be using today (except in cherry-red)....

Cuisinart ICE-21 1.5 Quart Frozen Yogurt-Ice Cream Maker (White)
Cuisinart ICE-21 1.5 Quart Frozen Yogurt-Ice Cream Maker (White)

Actually, this easy-to-use machine comes in a rainbow of other colors too, from turquoise to magenta, dark purple, and more.

It's got a special thick bowl surrounded by cooling liquid, which you pre-freeze so it's always ready for making sweet stuff. It also has a retractable cord, making it more convenient to store, and comes apart for easy cleaning.

 

The Recipe We'll Be Following....

Chocolate-Hazelnut Gelato
Chocolate-Hazelnut Gelato

For this recipe, you'll need the following supplies:

  • Medium mixing bowl

  • Medium saucepan

  • Fine strainer

  • Electric mixer or whisk

  • Wooden spoon

  • Measuring cups and spoons

  • Plastic baking spatula (for scraping mix out of the bowl and gelato out of the ice cream maker)

  • Ice cream machine

  • Separate plastic container (for chilling the finished gelato)

  • Prep time: 25 min
  • Cook time: 2 hours 35 min
  • Ready in: 3 hours
  • Yields: 6 - 8 (1/2-cup servings)

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup of sugar (divided into 1/2 cup and 1/4 cup)
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup chocolate-hazelnut spread (Nutella)

Instructions

  1. Heat the milk, cream, and 1/2 cup of sugar on medium until the sugar has dissolved.
  2. In a separate bowl, whip the egg yolks and the other 1/4 cup of sugar until the mixture is pale yellow and thick.
  3. Pour 1/2 a cup of the warm milk mixture into the whipped egg and stir it up, then add that back into the saucepan.
  4. Reduce the heat to very low and continue stirring until the mixture is thick enough to stick to a wooden spoon. This may take up to 10 minutes.
  5. Strain this mixture with a fine strainer into a bowl, then stir in the vanilla extract and the Nutella or other chocolate-hazelnut spread until it dissolves.
  6. Chill the mixture in the refrigerator at least a couple of hours or even overnight.
  7. Pour the chilled mix into your ice cream maker, following the directions for your machine.
  8. We recommend transferring the gelato to another container and chilling it in the freezer for a half hour before serving.
  9. Optional: Top with chopped, toasted hazelnuts
Cast your vote for Chocolate-Hazelnut Gelato

A Step-By-Step Pictorial How-To - Make some gelato with Jeremy and me

Start by mixing the 2 cups of milk, 1 cup of cream, and 1/2 cup of sugar in a saucepan and warming this over medium heat.

Stir until the sugar has completely dissolved.

Combine the Egg Yolks and the Rest of the Sugar

Now separate 4 eggs, using the yolks for this recipe, and, if you wish, saving the whites for something else. (See Quick Tips: What To Do With Leftover Egg Whites for 5 recipes.)

Stir in the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar.

Now it's time to whip it up.

We decided to try this is by hand with a whisk. (Why not burn some calories before eating all this gelato, right?) Basically, we just wanted to experiment and see if we could do it the non-electric way. But we gave in to tired wrists and finished up with the electric mixer..

Note: If you're making gelato with a helper, they can always be stirring the mix on the stove while you do this part (or vice versa). Or, if you're a pro in the kitchen, you can probably do both things at the same time. Otherwise, you might want to do the eggs first and then heat the mix on the stove. Whatever works best for you.

Whip the eggs until they're thick and light yellow.

Whip the eggs until they're thick and light yellow.
Whip the eggs until they're thick and light yellow.

Pour Some of the Heated Mix into the Whipped Eggs

Pour or maybe ladle (or dip in a measuring cup) about 1/2 cup of the hot mixture into the bowl with the eggs and stir it up.

Add the Egg Mixture Back to the Saucepan

Pour what's in your mixing bowl back into the saucepan and reduce the heat to low.

Stirring almost continuously -- although you can get away with a short break now and then -- cook the mix until it's thick enough to stick to the back of the wooden spoon. This might take up to 10 minutes.

Strain the Gelato Mix Back Into the Bowl - We put some cheesecloth in our strainer, because it didn't seem fine enough.....

Or you can use a new bowl if you prefer. We just rinse out the one we used before.

Add the Vanilla and Nutella

(And feel free to sample a spoonful of Nutella in the process.)

Add your 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract and 1/2 cup of Nutella (or some other chocolate-hazelnut spread) to the warm mixture and stir it up until well blended.

Now it's time to CHILL!

Put the bowl in the refrigerator for anywhere from two hours to overnight. Or you can put it in the freezer for a shorter time, just don't let it actually freeze.

Let the mix chill completely. The colder it is, the better and faster it will churn.

Let the mix chill completely. The colder it is, the better and faster it will churn.
Let the mix chill completely. The colder it is, the better and faster it will churn.

Pour the mix into your ice cream maker. (It may develop a little film like ours did.)

Pour the mix into your ice cream maker. (It may develop a little film like ours did.)
Pour the mix into your ice cream maker. (It may develop a little film like ours did.)

Then it's time to churn until the texture looks right -- about 15 minutes.

Then it's time to churn until the texture looks right -- about 15 minutes.
Then it's time to churn until the texture looks right -- about 15 minutes.

Transfer the Gelato to Another Container - Don't store it in your ice cream maker bowl

Using a plastic spatula so you don't scratch the interior of the freezer bowl, scoop the gelato into some other container for chilling and, if it won't be eaten at one serving, for storing. We use a former ice cream tub with a handle.

Buon Appetito!

While gelato is best served on the softer side, we recommend chilling it in the freezer for a while before eating ... if you can wait. If you don't, it'll be like soup really quickly.

We had to try a little within about an hour after churning it, but the rest we left in the freezer overnight, and it was perfect the next day with that elastic kind of texture it had back in Italy.

Delish!

Videos: Watch Gelato in the Making

See gelato made in a variety of ways. Choose the videos you'd like to watch.

Gelato or Ice Cream (or Frozen Yogurt)? - Which is better?

Depending on where you get your gelato, you may or may not detect a distinct difference between it and ice cream, and it really depends on the ice cream too. Some say gelato is more flavorful, while ice cream is creamier. Some say gelato has more of an elastic, milkier texture than ice cream.

What do you think?

Which would you rather have?

Gelato, for sure!

Gelato, for sure!

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    • Margaret Schindel 2 years ago from Massachusetts

      That's almost like asking me to choose between my left hand and my right hand, LOL! At the moment I'd give a slight edge to gelato, because seeing your photos and reading your recipe brings me back to our honeymoon in Florence and Tuscany where we enjoyed truly fabulous gelato as often as possible.

    • Raymond Eagar 3 years ago

      gelato of course

    • Tim Bader 3 years ago from Surrey, UK

      Gelato every time: no-one makes ice cream like the Italians, IMO.

    • winter aconite 3 years ago

      Good old Italian gelato!!!!

    • LUMOSE 3 years ago

      italian gelato, american ice cream, slovenian sladoled.

    • Shinichi Mine 3 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      Gelato

    • LadyDuck 3 years ago

      I am Italian, so I love gelato.

    • mahuffer 3 years ago

      I LOVE gelato.... especially in Europe on vacation.

    • yourlocalpt 3 years ago

      i i love gelato

    • Yamin Joe 3 years ago

      I made ice cream at home several times but I like the Gelato in Italy and I am going to try making it at home,thank you for sharing your lens!

    • Eamongilmore 3 years ago

      Superb.. I like your lens.

    • Cinnamonbite 3 years ago

      I'm a bit lactose intolerant BUT San Crispino in Rome? Yeah, honey gelato? Ice cream can't come close.

    • tfsherman lm 3 years ago

      Spumoni gelato for me!

    • lionmom100 3 years ago

      Definitely Gelato. I stopped at every Gelato stand I found in Italy.

    • HughSmulders LM 3 years ago

      I would love to try gelato, as I have never tasted it before. Rather interesting experience, it seems to me.

    • anonymous 3 years ago

      Anytime a gelato .

    • hkhollands 3 years ago

      I love gelato. I haven't tried making my own; however, your recipe really tempts me to get an ice cream maker. In the meantime, I buy the Talenti brand gelato and sorbetto at our local food coop and it is so rich and delicious.

    • Lisa Marie Gabriel 3 years ago from United Kingdom

      I actually like both! :) I enjoy Gelato whenever I can though.

    • Rosanna Grace 3 years ago

      Absolutely gelato all the way! I love the taste much more than I do, icecream.

    • lesliesinclair 3 years ago

      Gelato is so delicious and creamy. I didn't know what the difference was either so now I feel more clued in.

    Definitely ice cream or frozen yogurt!

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      • wyzeguru 3 years ago

        I like the creaminess of Ice Cream! Gelato is nice but on a hot summers day Ice cream does it for me.

      • shelle93 3 years ago

        This gelato looks good. I've seen it before, but was afraid to try some. I will have to try it; for now though I'll have to take the ice cream side, because that's what I know. :) But thanks for the lens.

      • Meganhere 3 years ago

        Ice-cream here (Australia) because I've had gelato in Italy and it's so much better there.

      • DebW07 3 years ago

        I like ice cream, preferably chocolate chip.

      But, Yes, There's IS a Machine Just for Gelato-Making - And a combination ice cream/gelato machine too

      I've not tried either of these appliances, but if you really like gelato and prefer it to ice cream or yogurt, this machine appears to make the process even easier and faster than with an ice cream maker. The description says, "Immediately brings ingredients to temperatures below freezing and allows you to make multiple batches continuously."

      DeLonghi GM6000 Gelato Maker with Self-Refrigerating Compressor
      DeLonghi GM6000 Gelato Maker with Self-Refrigerating Compressor

      This appliance is pricy, but if you're a gelato aficianado (hey, that kind of rhymes), then this may well be worth the cost and eventually pay for itself in the savings over store-bought.

      With more than 125 reviews on Amazon, the average is 4 stars, with more than seventy 5-star reviews.

       
      Cuisinart ICE-100 Compressor Ice Cream and Gelato Maker
      Cuisinart ICE-100 Compressor Ice Cream and Gelato Maker

      And here's another full automatic machine that makes both, with one kind of paddle for ice cream and another for gelato.

       

      Do You Make Homemade Frozen Desserts, Too? - Or do you prefer the speed of store-bought to bowl?

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        • Rosetta Slone profile image

          Rosetta Slone 3 years ago from Under a coconut tree

          That looks so so good! I haven't had proper Italian gelato for a long time, and assumed you needed special equipment to make it. Your technique looks very easy and worthwhile.

        • Ramkitten2000 profile image
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          Deb Kingsbury 3 years ago from Flagstaff, Arizona

          @Northerntrials: Do your ice cream recipes have egg yolks or cornstarch in them like gelato?

        • Ramkitten2000 profile image
          Author

          Deb Kingsbury 3 years ago from Flagstaff, Arizona

          @Northerntrials: Do your ice cream recipes have egg yolks or cornstarch in them like gelato?

        • Ramkitten2000 profile image
          Author

          Deb Kingsbury 3 years ago from Flagstaff, Arizona

          @Northerntrials: Do your ice cream recipes have egg yolks or cornstarch in them like gelato?

        • Ramkitten2000 profile image
          Author

          Deb Kingsbury 3 years ago from Flagstaff, Arizona

          @Northerntrials: Do your ice cream recipes have egg yolks or cornstarch in them like gelato?

        • Ramkitten2000 profile image
          Author

          Deb Kingsbury 3 years ago from Flagstaff, Arizona

          @Northerntrials: Do your ice cream recipes have egg yolks or cornstarch in them like gelato?

        • Ramkitten2000 profile image
          Author

          Deb Kingsbury 3 years ago from Flagstaff, Arizona

          @Northerntrials: Do your ice cream recipes have egg yolks or cornstarch in them like gelato?

        • Ramkitten2000 profile image
          Author

          Deb Kingsbury 3 years ago from Flagstaff, Arizona

          @Northerntrials: Do your ice cream recipes have egg yolks or cornstarch in them like gelato?

        • Ramkitten2000 profile image
          Author

          Deb Kingsbury 3 years ago from Flagstaff, Arizona

          @Northerntrials: Do your ice cream recipes have egg yolks or cornstarch in them like gelato?

        • Ramkitten2000 profile image
          Author

          Deb Kingsbury 3 years ago from Flagstaff, Arizona

          @Northerntrials: Do your ice cream recipes have egg yolks or cornstarch in them like gelato?

        • Ramkitten2000 profile image
          Author

          Deb Kingsbury 3 years ago from Flagstaff, Arizona

          @Northerntrials: Do your ice cream recipes have egg yolks or cornstarch in them like gelato?

        • Ramkitten2000 profile image
          Author

          Deb Kingsbury 3 years ago from Flagstaff, Arizona

          @Northerntrials: Do your ice cream recipes have egg yolks or cornstarch in them like gelato?

        • Ramkitten2000 profile image
          Author

          Deb Kingsbury 3 years ago from Flagstaff, Arizona

          @Northerntrials: Do your ice cream recipes have egg yolks or cornstarch in them like gelato?

        • Ramkitten2000 profile image
          Author

          Deb Kingsbury 3 years ago from Flagstaff, Arizona

          @Northerntrials: Do your ice cream recipes have egg yolks or cornstarch in them like gelato?

        • Diana Wenzel profile image

          Renaissance Woman 3 years ago from Colorado

          I would love to be able to make my own frozen desserts. Thanks for sharing this delicious recipe. I'll have to go see if you have already posted your Italian vacation lens. Sounds like a lovely, and delicious, experience.

        • Diana Wenzel profile image

          Renaissance Woman 3 years ago from Colorado

          I would love to be able to make my own frozen desserts. Thanks for sharing this delicious recipe. I'll have to go see if you have already posted your Italian vacation lens. Sounds like a lovely, and delicious, experience.

        • marktplaatsshop profile image

          marktplaatsshop 3 years ago

          Looks great, and I am sure it will taste great, but can never try it because of an allergy, thanks for sharing

        • tobydavis profile image

          tobydavis 3 years ago

          Yummy lens!

        • lesliesinclair profile image

          lesliesinclair 3 years ago

          I bought an ice cream maker so I could make my own dairy-free ice creams, but they turn out icy and superhard and not so satisfying.

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