Who Doesn’t love a light icy Italian Gelato? Full of flavour and refreshingly light. Most summer evenings in Italy we enjoy a Gelato while strolling around Como.
My husbands family in Sicily had two ‘Pasticcerias’ in Sicily and they made incredible Gelato every day, using all the wonderful fruits and nuts that Sicily has to offer.
After living in Italy for so many years now, we have all become true Gelato afficiandos. We actually all agree on our favorite Gelateria in Como and most cities we visit.
Where is Gelato from?
The story goes that Gelato was brought to Italy first by the Arabs, and it was first made in first in Sicily where the arabs first landed. Rich cream and heavy egg based recipes were not what was used in Sicily, instead they used much lightly bases for their Gelato, it was less about the flavour of the Cream and much more about the other ingredients to flavour the Gelato, Local roasted Green Pistacchios, or Hazelnuts, or gentle roasted coffee, or of course the fruit gelatos using only the best fresh seasonal fruit, sugar and egg whites!
Yes, Gelato is not just the Italian translation for the English word ‘Ice-Cream’ it is actually a completely different food. Way less butter fat content and much lighter in texture.
Making Gelato at home
So on lockdown here in Como with the Gelateria still closed last week, we decided with the beautiful spring weather we were having to make some of our own. We do get lazy with Gelato making here when our favourite Rossetti Gelateria in Como is only a 15 minute walk away.
So we dusted off the Gelato Machine we have, and found a container of fresh cream and milk from the fridge, big chunks of dark chocolate, and some cookies and got to work.
I love texture with my Gelato, in our family we just say we want Gelato with ‘BITS’ in it! I love a light not overly heavy gelato base with the addition of Dark Chocolate Chunks and Crumbly Digestive Cookies. The cookies add texture and a hint of saltiness which goes so well with the Dark Chocolate chunks and contrasted with the cold fresh cream gelato.
Cookie and Chocolate Chip Gelato (Stracciatella)
- Gelato Machine
- 600 ml Full Fat Milk Lactose free works fine too
- 250 g Cream
- 170 g White Sugar
- 100 g Dark Chocolate cut into small chunks
- 100 g Digestive cookies Any plain cookies will work too
- 1 Vanilla Pod or half a teaspoon of Vanilla Essence
- Place the Milk, Vanilla, Cream, and sugar in a pan and bring to the boil. Let it boil for 1 full minute then turn off the heat and allow to cool.
- Once it has cooled place into your Gelato machine and churn for roughly 30mins, or until creamy and thick.
- Add the chopped chocolate chunks.
- Break up the cookie pieces and stir in gently to the Gelato mixture.
- Pour the mixture into a large container with a lid and place in the freezer for at least 6 hours to rest.
- When you are ready to serve, remove from the freezer and let it sit for at least 5 mins at room temperature to soften slightly and serve using a gelato scoop. Enjoy!
The word ‘gelato’ is derived from the Italian word ‘congelato’ which means frozen. Although, gelato isn’t frozen to quite the same temperature as your typical ice cream, often being between 5 and 15 degrees Fahrenheit warmer!
A Sicilian fisherman called Francesco Propocio dei Coltelli created the first ever gelato machine in 1686 and helped to bring it to popularity. Soon after, he opened a café in Paris named Café Procope, where Parisians flocked for fine gelato and coffee.
Despite having been made commercially viable in 1686, it wasn’t until the 1920s and 1930s that gelato really became a popular treat when gelato carts were introduced. It has only gained more and more lovers over the years. Since 2009, the industry has grown from around £8 million to £160 million!
Gelato is typically sold in gelaterias, which you’ll find all over Italy! The person serving the creamy snack is called a gelataio, and if they’re using a paddle rather than a scoop, that’s a good indication of authenticity!
The typical ingredients of gelato are fruit, sugar and milk, and tend to have less fat and more flavour than regular ice creams. This is due to a lessened amount of milk fat, which can be as much as 14% less, alongside the lack of egg yolks.
Some of the most popular flavours of gelato in Italy include chocolate hazelnut (bacio), vanilla rippled with chocolate chips (stracciatella), lemon (limone) and pistachio (pistachio)!
One of the best features of gelato is its creamy, smooth consistency, which is due to the lower air content, which can be up to 50% less, meaning that the frozen delight melts faster giving you a richer taste.
There’s an International Gelato World Cup named Coppa del Mondo della Gelateria, where people travel from countries such as Japan, Morocco, Spain and Poland to compete for the best gelato dishes, sculptures and sundaes!
There are lots of terminologies that you should know when ordering your gelato; affogato is perfect for those in need of a coffee buzz, as the fine gelato with be doused in delicious espresso & If you are craving a gelato sandwich, a brioche con gelato is for you!
A Sicilian specialty called ‘Granita’ is also sold in some Gelaterias. The culture of Granita eating comes from Sicily and is often eaten for breakfast with whipped cream and a fresh Brioche in the summer time. If you would like to try making your own check out my Recipe for Sicilian Granita.
The first Granita in Italy
At the end of the ninth century, the Arabs occupied Sicily where they found the Sicilian 'Neviere', these were what the Sicilians had created using snow and ice from Etna mountain to store food safely during the warmer summer months. The Arabs also brought with them their method of producing sugar. With honey, the only known sweetener at the time, it would not have been possible to create a Granita but, thanks to the sugar cane that the Arabs found in Sicily, it was possible to create the first Granita.
The Good News – Gelato is Lower in fat than Ice Cream!
An important difference between Gelato and Ice Cream is in the use of fats and sugars; Most Gelato makes extensive use of eggs, apart from Fior di Latte, while in Ice Cream less eggs and much more cream, based on fats, are used.
The fat content of the Ice Cream and its caloric intake are therefore much greater for the same weight compared to Italian Gelato.