Authentic Italian Gelato is a frozen creamy dessert made with milk, heavy cream and sugar.
With or without eggs (depending on the taste), you can make dense creamy gelato at home, following a slow freezing/creaming process, usually with the help of an ice cream maker.
Gelato in Italy is a true passion and a very rooted tradition. You can find Gelato on sale in many shops called “Gelateria” present in large quantities in all Italian cities, even in the smallest ones.
They serve Gelato is in small cups or in crunchy waffle cones and you can enjoy it while walking and chatting quietly. This is one of the most common habits widespread and loved in Italy, especially on hot summer days.
- Find out where to eat the best gelato in Rome
The good news is that you can make authentic Italian Gelato at home. You have only to learn the right tricks to easily make it. Usually we make homemade gelato to eat as a dessert or as a delicious afternoon snack. You can also enjoy Gelato with fresh fruits or delicious biscuits.
If you love Authentic Italian Gelato and want to do it at home, here is the recipe with all the tips and tricks for making an exquisite, healthy and genuine homemade Gelato, both with and without ice cream maker!
This is the basic gelato recipe. With this recipe you can make all kinds of gelato you prefer. This type of gelato in Italy is called “Gelato alla Crema”.
So now let’s show you how to make authentic Italian Gelato at home!
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Authentic Italian Gelato Recipe
WITH Ice Cream Maker:
- Prep Time: 5 Min + about 40 min in ice cream maker
- Cook Time: 10 Min
- Servings: 6/8 people that is about 750 g (1,65 lb) of Gelato
WITHOUT Ice Cream Maker:
- Prep Time: 5 Min + cooling in the freezer for about 5 Hr
- Cook time: 10 Min
- Servings: 6/8 people that is about 750 g (1,65 lb) of Gelato
- 4 medium egg yolks
- 150 g (3/4 cup) of granulated sugar
- 350 ml (1 ½ cup) of whole milk
- 250 ml (1 cup) of heavy cream
- A little grated lemon zest or vanilla extract (optional)
Kitchen Tools and Equipment for Making Authentic Italian Gelato
Gelatiera (Ice Cream Maker)
The most useful tool for making authentic Italian gelato is for sure an ice cream maker or Gelatiera. There are various types of Gelato makers, but the best is the one that has a compressor that cools while churning the Gelato.
Let’s have a look at some of them:
The best performing gelato machines are Musso ice cream makers. They are made entirely in Italy but have spread successfully throughout the world. The smaller model is made for home use but has the same features as the professional machines.
Lello 4080 Musso Lussino 1.5-Quart Ice Cream Maker is easy to use, perfect for professional results at home. Small, with a large, non-removable bowl. The spatula is made of stainless steel. It has a powerful and robust refrigeration system to achieve professional performance without pre-cooling.
Another high-performance ice cream maker is the Whynter ICM-200LS Automatic Ice Cream Maker (built-in compressor, no pre-freezing).
Incredibly easy to use, you can create delicious gelato in the comfort of your own home. Ideal for entertaining, this high capacity unit makes up to two quarts of your favorite frozen dessert in a single batch.
Other types of gelato makers, without a compressor, plan to keep the special container of the machine in the freezer many hours ahead of time to cool the ingredients while mixing them, but its autonomy is quite short. Among these we recommend Cuisinart Automatic Frozen Yogurt, Sorbet, and Ice Cream Maker which in our opinion is inexpensive and practical.
Other Kitchen Tools
Making Gelato without an ice cream maker: the result will still be good if you follow our recipe well. In this case you will need a gelato container. This is useful in any case even if you don’t eat immediately all the gelato, even made with the ice cream maker.
Step 1) – Whip the egg yolks with the sugar at maximum speed for about 5 minutes, until you have a soft fluffy cream. You can use a stand mixer or an electric hand mixer. You can even beat them by hand with a whisk, but you need more time and the result is not as perfect as with the electric mixer.
Step 2) – Meanwhile, pour the milk in a saucepan and bring it almost to a boil. Cook for about 5 minutes.
THE MILK MUST NOT BOIL
If you have a kitchen thermometer you can check that the temperature remains at about 85°C (185 F). If you don’t have a thermometer, take care to remove the saucepan from the heat or to lower the heat if you see that the milk starts to boil.
For more information read the paragraph below “Why Should Milk be Heated to a Maximum of 85°C (185 F)? The Pasteurization”).
Step 3) – At this step, transfer the egg and sugar fluffy cream to a saucepan. Pour the hot milk slowly. Keep mixing while you do it. In this way you are pasteurizing the eggs. With the exception of flour, the procedure is similar to that of Pastry Cream recipe. If you want to flavor your gelato, this is the time to add either grated lemon zest or two drops of vanilla extract or vanilla bean. Now put it back on the heat and cook for another 5 minutes
WITHOUT BOILING AND ALWAYS STIRRING
Then turn off the heat and add the cold heavy cream. Mix really well. Now you have a lukewarm mixture. If you have an ice cream maker with a compressor (that cools while churning the gelato), there is no need to cool the mixture further in the refrigerator.
Now let’s show you how to make gelato with and without ice cream maker, so keep reading.
How to Make Authentic Italian Gelato WITH Ice Cream Maker
Step 4/1) – Now if you have an ice cream maker, pour the mixture into the machine and start it. It will take about 40 minutes, depending on the model. After the necessary time, your gelato is ready! Fresh, creamy and nutritious.
PLEASE NOTE: The best ice cream maker you can find on the market is the one with a compressor that cools while churning the gelato. This ice cream maker is very similar to the professional ones and is the one we used for this recipe.
Read how to store it in the paragraph below.
If you don’t have an gelato maker, in the next paragraph we’ll show you how to make ice cream without an ice cream maker
How to Make Authentic Italian Gelato WITHOUT Ice Cream Maker
If you don’t have a gelato maker, don’t worry! We are going to show you how to make Italian gelato without the help of an ice cream maker. It takes more time (5 hours instead of about 40 minutes) and more work but the result is still exceptional! Let’s see how to do it!
Step 4/2) – Pour the mixture into a gelato container and place it in the freezer for about 5 hours. Every 30 minutes you have to break the frozen surface. So remove from the freezer and mix for about 30 seconds using a hand whisk or an electric whisk on low speed.
This step is necessary in order not to create ice crystals in the gelato and have a creamy result. Of course this is a bit more laborious process, but it’s worth it. You will surely have an exquisite authentic Italian Gelato!
Why Should Milk be Heated to a Maximum of 85°C (185 F)? The Pasteurization
When making homemade gelato, you must pay attention to some steps. One of these is the pasteurization of eggs.
For safe pasteurization, you have to heat the liquid – in this case the milk – to a temperature of 85°C (185 F) and hold that temperature for a couple of minutes. So about 5 minutes total.
Pouring the very hot milk over the eggs will pasteurize them.
Finally, it’s important to abruptly reduce the final temperature of the mixture to 4-5°C (39-41°F). The sudden reduction in temperature is important to prevent heat-resistant bacteria from resuming their activity.
Indeed, remember that some microorganisms capable of resisting pasteurization temperatures are able to resume their activity if conditions are favorable. The abrupt decrease in temperature paralyzes the activity and development of any bacteria.
So if you want to make gelato safely at home, follow our recipe step by step and you won’t go wrong!
One of the reasons authentic Italian gelato tastes so good is because it’s fresh. So make gelato and eat it right away. If you leave it in the freezer for too long, crunchy ice crystals form and your gelato is no longer so good. So eat your homemade gelato immediately or within two days of making it.
Tip: if your gelato is too hard and frozen, let it thaw in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes before serving.
What’s the Difference Between Gelato and Ice Cream?
Very often “Gelato” and “Ice Cream” are used to describe the same dessert. But are you sure that they are really the exact same thing?
Many think that “Gelato” is simply the Italian translation of the English “Ice Cream”, but in reality these two products are different. The differences between these two frozen treats depend on four basic factors: fat content, ingredients, air and temperature.
Gelato has a lower fat content. Butterfat + fats that come from dried fruit or other origin, do not exceed 8%, of which at least 3.5% butterfat (cream and milk fat). Ice cream, on the other hand, according to the FDA, has a higher butterfat content than gelato: in fact, it cannot be less than 10%.
Gelato is made using mainly fresh milk and fresh heavy cream. Instead, powdered milk and vegetable fats are generally used for the production of ice cream.
Gelato melts faster because it contains less air. Ice cream, on the other hand, melts more slowly thanks to the insulating effect of the air. The law allows it to incorporate air up to 100% of its weight.
Gelato has lower storage temperatures. This is why you must eat it immediately. While ice cream is stored at low temperatures in the freezer as if it were frozen food. To ensure its durability, it’s necessary to add preservatives.
In short, gelato is not just a dessert, it’s a delight for the palate, rich in taste, healthy and nutritious.
Is it Even Possible to Make Vegan Gelato?
As we have said, the fundamental ingredients of authentic Italian gelato are whole milk, heavy cream, egg yolks and sugar.
Obviously you can safely replace whole milk with vegetable drinks such as soy milk, almond or rice milk.
If you want to flavor your gelato, you can choose dried fruit extracts that naturally contain vegetable oils. Those make gelato very creamy. For example you can try hazelnut or pistachio paste, or use very creamy fruits such as avocado and banana.
About the eggs. Don’t use them. That’s easy.
Sorbetto: Dairy-free Italian Gelato
For a dairy-free option similar to Gelato, try Sorbetto, a frozen Italian dessert that replaces milk and cream with fruit juices and sweetened water. It follows the same creaming method as Gelato.
Fior di Latte: the White Italian Gelato Without Eggs
Together with Gelato alla Crema, Fior di latte gelato is the other basic gelato recipe. Children love Fior di Latte gelato! It’s lighter than Gelato alla Crema because it’s egg-free.
Fior di Latte is made with only fresh whole milk, heavy cream and sugar. Due to its creamy consistency and delicate-neutral taste, it can be easily matched with other ingredients, such as chocolate or strawberries. For example Stracciatella Gelato is made with Fior di Latte + pieces of dark chocolate. A treat for the taste buds!
History of Gelato
One of the first historical documents in which we speak of “gelato”, comes to us from a Greek poet who lived in 500 BC in Athens. The Greeks loved making their refreshing drinks with a little lemon, honey and lots of pomegranate juice with snow or ice.
If we move to Arabia, we discover that they called each iced drink “sorbet”. Hence the Italian word Sorbetto. The Arabs in Sicily mixed the snow of Etna with fruit juices. Creating what can be considered the ancestor of our homemade gelato.
The birth of gelato with milk and cream is quite recent. It was born around the year 1565, at the court of Caterina de’ Medici, in Florence, thanks to the architect Bernardo Buontalenti. He is known as Mastro Bernardo delle Girandole, who makes an almost frozen sorbetto using snow, lemons, sugar, egg white and milk.
Then, in 1686, the enterprising Sicilian Francesco Procopio, who moved to Paris, inaugurated the “Café Procope”. The Café still exists. He creates a new recipe for making sorbetto-gelato using fruit, honey, sugar and ice.
In 1770, gelato recipe lands in America, when Giovanni Basiolo takes it to New York.
Another important step in the production and popularization of gelato comes from the United States. Here Nancy Johnson, from New Jersey, in 1846 developed the first gelato maker.
Gelato has certainly become one of the most popular and well-known desserts in the world thanks to its goodness and the genuineness of its ingredients.
Gelato alla Crema Web Story