Discover with us the tried and tested recipe for homemade ice cream, along with the true history and origins of Italian gelato.
Gelato is now an iconic symbol of Italian culture internationally and a delicious delicacy enjoyed by many all over the world, Italians and non-Italians alike: discover its history and how to make a real Italian-style ice cream at home (without an ice cream maker)!
How to make homemade Italian gelato
The preparation of ice cream may vary a bit depending on the specific recipe you intend to use. We have tasted many and in all flavours and tried to make it in a thousand ways. Here is Visit Italy's tested recipe for homemade Italian-style ice cream.
Milk 200 ml
Water 100 ml
Fresh whipped cream 200 ml
Sugar 200 g
Chocolate pieces, peeled pistachios or fresh fruit
The night before:
pour sugar and water in a pot over low heat. Meanwhile, pour the milk and cream into a carafe. When the syrup in the pot comes to the boil, turn off the heat and let it cool until it is warm, then add it to the carafe together with the milk and cream. Using a blender, whip the mixture and then transfer it into a silicone mould that should be kept in the fridge overnight.
The next day:
In a blender, blend until creamy, add your favourite ingredients to create your own flavour and blend again to blend until smooth. Transfer your cream into an aluminium container and keep it in the freezer for at least 6 hours to obtain the finished ice cream.
Tip: when serving, you can decide whether to stir it with a spoon or put it in the blender for a few seconds to return it to its creamy state.
History of Italian gelato
Gelato has a long history dating back many centuries. The origins of ice cream reach back to ancient China, where emperors loved to enjoy sweet, cold drinks made of milk or rice. Later, the practice of making sweet ice-cream spread to Greece and Rome: precisely in Italy, ice-cream became a culinary art. During the Renaissance, ice cream became popular in the courts of the nobility and it was at the court of Catherine de' Medici that an architect created what was later sold in the first 'gelaterie' in Florence from 1565.
From here, the art of gelato spread throughout Italy and each region developed its own specialities: in Naples the very first milk ice cream, 'gelato alla crema', was invented, while in Sorrento they added lemon, giving rise to 'gelato al limone'. In 1870 an Italian - Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli - opened a café in Paris, one of the first places in Europe to serve Italian ice cream, and during the 1950s and 1960s Italian immigrants brought the art of ice cream to the United States.
Today, Italian-style ice cream is appreciated worldwide for its creamy texture, the wide variety of traditional or innovative flavours and tastes, and the attention to detail in its artisanal preparation.
Bonus track: gelato day
During 2022, Italy was the protagonist of 'Gelato Day', the European Day of Artisanal Gelato. An occasion to enhance the talent of ice cream artisans and to one of the best-loved desserts (or savoury, depending on taste). Classic flavours from traditional recipes, or innovative flavours, but always created by the mastery of artisan preparation. Read the article here.