Summertime Sweet Treats: Homemade Gelato

When you’re looking to put your ice cream maker to good use, consider experimenting with the rainbow of flavors possible with homemade gelato – the Italian version of ice cream. After sampling a host of tantalizing gelato flavors at the local Italian bakery, it got me thinking – what do I have to do to make this dessert at home? From mango to pistachio to coffee-flavored gelato, you can recreate the intense flavors of gelato for your next summertime sweet treat.

What’s So Special About Gelato?

Gelato is to Italy what ice cream is to North America, but with three distinct differences. For starters, gelato contains significantly less butterfat than ice cream. Since there is a lower butterfat content, gelato doesn’t freeze as solid as ice cream. Because of this – gelato melts in your mouth faster, delivering an instantaneous blast of flavor.

gelatoManufacturers often add air to their product to double their quantity. However, the quality of the ice cream suffers. With gelato, no air is added, which creates a much higher density than ice cream that produces a richer and creamier sweet treat in taste. Gelato is actually served at a slightly warmer temperature than ice cream with about a 10- to 15-degree difference. In its less frozen, the taste of gelato is further amplified as it melts in your mouth.

When you buy gelato at a shop or grocery store, look for selections that use real fruit, nuts, chocolates, milk and cream, instead of flavored syrups.

Homemade Gelato Recipe

You can also make your own gelato at home with:

  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup sugar


1. In a medium saucepan, mix 2 cups of milk and 1 cup of cream. Warm the mixture until foam starts to form around the edges. Remove the saucepan from the heat.

2. Beat 4 egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl until they become frothy.

3. Gradually pour the warm milk into the egg yolks. Whisk constantly, and then return the mixture to the saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon until the mixture gels slightly and coats the back of the spoon. Remove the mixture immediately if you see lumps of egg begin to appear.

4. Into a bowl, pour the mixture through a sieve or fine strainer. Cover, and chill for several hours or leave in the refrigerator overnight.

5. Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker, and freeze according to the maker’s instructions. Transfer the gelato mix to a sealed container. Freeze until it becomes firm. If the gelato is too firm, place in the refrigerator until it reaches the desired consistency.

If you don’t feel like making your own, you can always buy some! Check out this Gelato Classico Variety Pack (Pack of 6)!

Frozen Sweet Treats: What’s the Difference?

In the past, ice cream was once an expensive and rare treat because it took quite a long time to prepare the dessert before the invention of modern refrigeration was born. Today, ice cream isn’t the only frozen indulgence that satisfies a sweet tooth. We can now choose from a variety of frozen sweet treats that offer an array of ingredients, flavors, and textures, including:

Ice Cream

ice cream dessert
Image Credit: Richard Dudley

Dairy products, such as milk and cream, play a significant role in making ice cream, which comes in fat-free, slow churned, sugar free, and low-fat versions. The variety of fruits, nuts, flavors, and other ingredients livening up our ice creams are endless. From rosewater-flavored selections served at Mashti Malone’s Ice Cream (Los Angeles, California) to inspired blends, like Turkey Hill’s Limited Edition Baked Apple Dumpling, creative minds cease to surprise our taste buds. Ice cream is also used in a variety of delicious desserts – ice cream pies, parfaits, cakes, and other desserts, like the infamous Baked Alaska.

ice cream dessert
photo credit: Michal Zacharzewski

Introduced as a healthier alternative to ice cream, frozen yogurt (also known as ‘froyo’) is made from or contains yogurt and/or other dairy products, which contributes to a lower calorie count. Frozen yogurt possesses a softer consistency and is considered tartier than ice cream. A basic frozen yogurt recipe generally includes milk solids, milk fat, yogurt culture, sweetener, gelatin, corn syrup, coloring, and flavoring. Vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, peach, and other fruity flavors dominate the frozen yogurt market.

Frozen Custard

Similar to ice cream, frozen custard carries a high percentage of butterfat and egg yolk, which creates a thick, creamy texture. This frozen treat offers a much smoother, softer consistency than ice cream. The best place to enjoy frozen custard is at a modern stand or facility, where the treat is prepared fresh. It’s usually hard to track down frozen custards in a grocery store. Standard flavors include chocolate and vanilla with the occasional unique blend – often touted as a ‘flavor of the day.’


The Italian version of ice cream is called gelato – a frozen dessert typically consisting of milk, cream, sugar, and natural flavorings – most often fruit and nut purees. This traditional sweet treat usually delivers a bolder flavor and contains about 3% less fat than ice cream. Often served in a small glass dish or paper container, popular gelato flavors include chocolate, pistachio, coffee, egg custard, strawberry, raspberry, and lemon.


A range of sorbets is found in restaurants and grocery stores – a frozen treat consisting of sweetened water flavored with frozen fruit juice or puree. Wine, liqueurs, and chocolate can also play a role in the creation of sorbet. While ice cream uses dairy products with an abundant amount of air whipped in, sorbet differs in its composition – allowing a dense and fuller flavor to emerge in this non-fat or low-fat dessert. Popular flavors of sorbet include key lime, mango, and coconut.


Sherbet offers a refreshing frozen blend of sweetened fruit juice and water. Sometimes, sherbet contains egg whites, gelatin, and milk, but usually only a small amount. The sweet treat possesses a lighter consistency than ice cream and is known for its vibrantly fruity flavors. Raspberry, orange, lime, and lemon represent standard sherbet flavors. Tropical blends, such as pineapple, mango, and coconut are also available. Pair orange sherbet with vanilla ice cream to create a dazzlingly traditional combination.

Italian Ice

Not to be confused with an Icee or flavored shaved ice, Italian ice actually undergoes the same process as ice cream – mixing ingredients and pouring them into a batch freezer. This frozen dessert is comprised of concentrated syrup flavoring or natural fruit purees. Cherry, lemon, orange, and blue raspberry are popular flavors of Italian ice, which is typically served in small cups or tube-like containers.