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Making Homemade Italian Gelato in our Ice Cream Machine

I've lived in Flagstaff, AZ, since 2003, where I'm an active member of the Coconino County Sheriff's Search & Rescue team and an avid hiker.

making-homemade-italian-gelato

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?

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.

making-homemade-italian-gelato

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)....

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 timeCook timeReady inYields

25 min

2 hours 35 min

3 hours

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
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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.

making-homemade-italian-gelato

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.

making-homemade-italian-gelato

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.

making-homemade-italian-gelato

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.....

making-homemade-italian-gelato

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

making-homemade-italian-gelato

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.

making-homemade-italian-gelato

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.

making-homemade-italian-gelato

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!

More Gelato Recipes to Choose From

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?

Read more about it....

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."

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

Deb Kingsbury (author) from Flagstaff, Arizona on March 18, 2015:

Oh, great! Thanks! We make this recipe a lot (too much, really). Enjoy. :)

Margaret Schindel from Massachusetts on March 18, 2015:

Deb, I came back to find this recipe now that I have a new ice cream machine (a Cuisinart like yours) and am pinning it to one of my boards. Love it!

Margaret Schindel from Massachusetts on November 11, 2014:

I own a slightly newer, 2-quart version of the Cuisinart ice cream maker you have. One of my favorite recipes to make is my own vegan, dairy-free Banana Walnut Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream recipe (you'll find the recipe here on HubPages if you're interested). I look forward to making a batch of homemade gelato once I've lost enough weight to indulge in a splurge. I'll never forget the fabulous gianduja gelato we enjoyed in Florence 14 years ago!

winter aconite on July 22, 2013:

As an Italian living abroad I DO miss having a gelateria nearby. Great recipe!

Shinichi Mine from Tokyo, Japan on July 19, 2013:

I make home made ice cream at home during the summer. Love frozen desserts!

EmmaBrown1 on July 18, 2013:

Now the whole day I'll be thinking about gelato :) Thank God there is an Italian cafe near my office, I think I'll visit it in the afternoon.

k4shmir on July 13, 2013:

nice lens. thanks for sharing

CalobrenaOmai on July 12, 2013:

We used to have an ice cream maker (classic one from back in the day). Now the closest we come to homemade frozen treats is leaving a flavored drink in a glass set in the freezer till it freezes. Majority of all frozen treats are purchased. It would be nice to do this but space, obtaining ingredients and patience is running on low at the moment. So glad you discovered this treat can be made at home rather than purchased; price isn't too hot. Thanks for sharing this tasty lens.

SBRTechnologies1 on July 12, 2013:

I love gelato. It would be great if we can make some at home.

SteveKaye on July 11, 2013:

I was treated to gelato yesterday - and it's really delicious. Yum.

DreyaB on July 11, 2013:

Your lens makes me want to go and buy an ice cream/gelato maker! We've been to Italy too and got to taste the gelato. Very yummy! In fact I'll let you into a little secret, my profile pic is actually cut from a photo of me leaning on a table containing two gelatos in glass sundae dishes in Italy. Not both mine tho! ;0)

Mary Stephenson from California on July 08, 2013:

Ah, I knew there was a good use for Nutella other than spreading it on toast and giving it to kids! Got one of those ice cream makers but haven't used in awhile. Actually I have not had much ice cream in the past two years. I prefer slow churned ice cream, not sure what it is, but I seem to not get sick from it like the other ice cream (this didn't used to happen...just over the past 5 or 6 years). Great detail on how to make gelato. May be I shall try it someday.

DebW07 on July 02, 2013:

I've never made a homemade frozen dessert but I'm sure they're far superior to store-bought. Interesting lens!

Lisa Marie Gabriel from United Kingdom on July 02, 2013:

I am not really supposed to eat sweet things, so I don't make them at home. Store bought ice cream maybe isn't so nice, but that way it can be a special treat.

Rosanna Grace on July 01, 2013:

I've always wanted to learn how to make gelato and now thanks to you, I have lots of good tips! Thank you. :)

lesliesinclair on July 01, 2013:

I think your recipe would be a helpful one for me to try, substituting non-dairy milks for the milk.

lesliesinclair on July 01, 2013:

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.

tobydavis on July 01, 2013:

Yummy lens!

marktplaatsshop on July 01, 2013:

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

Renaissance Woman from Colorado on July 01, 2013:

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.

Renaissance Woman from Colorado on July 01, 2013:

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.

Deb Kingsbury (author) from Flagstaff, Arizona on July 01, 2013:

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

Deb Kingsbury (author) from Flagstaff, Arizona on July 01, 2013:

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

Deb Kingsbury (author) from Flagstaff, Arizona on July 01, 2013:

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

Deb Kingsbury (author) from Flagstaff, Arizona on July 01, 2013:

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

Deb Kingsbury (author) from Flagstaff, Arizona on July 01, 2013:

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

Deb Kingsbury (author) from Flagstaff, Arizona on July 01, 2013:

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

Deb Kingsbury (author) from Flagstaff, Arizona on July 01, 2013:

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

Deb Kingsbury (author) from Flagstaff, Arizona on July 01, 2013:

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

Deb Kingsbury (author) from Flagstaff, Arizona on July 01, 2013:

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

Deb Kingsbury (author) from Flagstaff, Arizona on July 01, 2013:

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

Deb Kingsbury (author) from Flagstaff, Arizona on July 01, 2013:

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

Deb Kingsbury (author) from Flagstaff, Arizona on July 01, 2013:

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

Deb Kingsbury (author) from Flagstaff, Arizona on July 01, 2013:

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

Northerntrials on July 01, 2013:

I still don't see the difference other than the temperature. The recipe looks similar. I have an ice cream maker attachment for my mixer I haven't used yet. I suppose it is time.

Rosetta Slone from Under a coconut tree on July 01, 2013:

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.

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