Chocolate Gelato

It goes without saying that Italy is a beautiful, marvelous country with many assets. The language spoken here is melodious and beautiful to the ear, there is a wealth of art and history to be explored, and it goes without saying that the food is wonderful. I realize how lucky I am to be living in a such a marvelous place as Rome -- really, I do! -- but I find myself forgetting all of the Eternal City's good qualities every year, from June-mid September, when Summer hits. Let me explain: while it is true that Rome is home to the Colosseum and Piazza Navona, it is not home to air conditioning, something that would be very handy during the sweltering summer months, when temperatures climb high in to the 90s. While you can usually find air conditioning in shops or offices, it is not always a fixture in apartments, the same way that microwaves, dryers, and dishwashers are not givens here either. Without air conditioning at my disposal then, I devised three other ways to beat the heat here in Rome:

1. Sit in front of your fan. Don’t move.

2. Go to the movies. A lot. There’s air conditioning in the movie theatres and it’s dark. Pick the longest movie possible.

3. Gelato. Eat lots and lots of gelato.

Let’s focus on the third and perhaps most interesting point on my list. Gelato is the quintessential summer dessert in Italy (just as ice cream is in other parts of the world) and has proven time and time again to be a lifesaver during the summer in Rome, and a perfectly acceptable dinner option when it is too hot to turn on the stove or oven.

While most people opt to get their gelato fix at the nearest gelateria, I’ve found that it’s also fun to make gelato at home (just keep it in your freezer for whenever you need to cool down!). I began to make both homemade gelato and ice cream* a couple of years ago after receiving an ice cream maker as a birthday gift. I admit I was initially skeptical—making gelato at home was probably complicated, and wasn’t it easier to just buy it somewhere?

This recipe for gelato al cioccolato, the first recipe I ever made with my ice cream maker**, changed my mind. Not only was it simple to make, it also packs a real chocolate punch (make sure you use good quality chocolate) and has a dense smooth texture, far better than any gelato you will get out of the freezer aisle. Added bonus: this is also an impressive dessert to serve to your dinner guests, because after all, how many people can say they make their own gelato?! Once you get the basic gelato-making technique down, you can also be creative and experiment with different flavors. I’ve since tried out recipes for chocolate raspberry gelato, cinnamon gelato, and blueberry gelato -- the possibilities are endless. Buon appetito! 


1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Pinch of salt
2 cups whole milk
5 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream, chilled 

In a medium saucepan, over low heat, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch and salt until blended. Add 1/4 cup of the milk, and whisk it until the cornstarch dissolves. Whisk in the rest of the milk and then, (still whisking) combine the mixture until it thickens and comes to boil, for about 6 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and cook 1 minute longer, whisking occasionally. Remove from heat; add chocolate. Let stand 1 minute, then whisk until melted and smooth.

Transfer the chocolate gelato base to a medium-sized bowl. Mix in the cream. Place the bowl inside another large bowl filled with ice and water to cool, stirring often, for about 30 minutes.

Process the gelato base in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer the gelato to a container (I usually use Tupperware) and cover. Freeze the gelato at least 3 hours, but ideally overnight. Makes 3 cups of gelato.

Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit magazine, June 2004 issue.

*In case you’re wondering, ice cream generally has more air incorporated into it during the churning process, and uses a good amount of heavy cream; gelato on the other hand contains less air (making it denser in texture) and is made with more milk than cream, so it is slightly lower in fat (a perfect excuse to eat gelato!) In addition, gelato is made with few or no eggs at all, while American ice cream is almost always made with eggs.

**If you're undecided about whether to buy an ice cream maker, I highly recommend it -- it's a super investment for the summer and you can use it to make sorbet, frozen yogurt, and ice cream as well. If you have a Kitchen Aid standing mixer you need only buy the ice cream bowl attachment and you're good to go.



  1. YUM this looks amazing!! I had no idea you could make gelato in an ice cream maker - I am pinning this for sure.

    1. Ciao Meg!!! Yes you definitely can make ice cream, gelato, frozen yogurt, even sorbet -- anything that needs to be frozen to eat really :) I'll be posting other ice cream/gelato recipes later on, but this is a great one to start with!!

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