Gelato Recipe – Italian Desserts

When it comes to famous Italian desserts, most of us will probably think of ice cream instantly. The Italian ice cream is admittedly very famous for its incredible taste and a quick refreshment on hot days. In recent years, however, a brand new type of Italian dessert has become really popular. We are talking about gelato – a frozen dessert made from a mixture of cream, sugar, and milk – and, in some cases, egg yolk. Despite being a frozen kind of dessert, gelato is not considered to be one of your typical types of Italian ice cream. The major differences between gelato and ice cream are the texture (gelato features a vastly creamier texture) and flavor; gelato’s flavor is typically richer than ice cream’s.

What Exactly Is Gelato?

Let us start by explaining just what gelato is. At first glance, you could mistake it with ice cream, but in reality, gelato has very little to do with ice creams. It originated in Italy and is mostly served in special shops known as gelaterias. The main ingredients are milk, cream, and sugar, and quite often egg yolk is also added to a gelato mix. 

There are also many regional variants of gelato, containing slightly different proportions of ingredients, as well as various extra ingredients to create interesting Italian gelato flavors. The southern Italian version of this dessert, for example, also makes use of cornstarch, in order to thicken the gelato. Some versions of gelato also contain slightly more cream, although not as much as any Italian ice cream.

Differences Between Gelato and Ice Cream

A moment ago, we declared gelato is vastly different from ice cream so let’s focus on these differences a bit more.

First of all, gelato has less fat than even the best Italian ice cream. When we talk about how to make gelato, it’s important to note that less cream is needed to produce a gelato than to produce ice cream. Ice cream can have a butterfat content of up to 25%, while a homemade gelato will only have 3-9% of butterfat. What’s more, in accordance with Italian law, professionally manufactured gelato, served in restaurants or sold in stores, can only contain up to 3.5% of butterfat.

High-quality gelato is recognizable also by low amounts of excessive air. While ice cream is quickly mixed in order to create more air bubbles, there are basically no air bubbles present in a gelato dessert. This is also related to the low amount of butterfat. This causes gelato to melt really fast on the tongue, even when compared to some truly great types of Italian ice cream.

There is also a noticeable difference when it comes to the serving temperature of both desserts. Gelato is served much warmer than ice cream; the temperatures can differ by 12 degrees Fahrenheit. While, in most cases, all types of Italian ice cream are frozen, gelato’s texture is much softer and more delicate, which also causes the profile of Italian gelato flavors to deepen.

Is Gelato Dairy-Free?

No, as you can tell by the ingredients, gelato is by no means a dairy-free dessert. If you wish to try a frozen, Italian dessert containing absolutely no dairy, we recommend you opt for sorbetto. It’s actually very similar to gelato; the major difference lies in replacing milk and cream with fruit juices and water. It follows the very same slow churning methods of how to make gelato and is also of similar consistency.

How to Make Gelato at Home?

It’s easier to make this dessert at home than you might think, allowing you to try out and experiment with many different Italian gelato flavors.  

  •   The first thing you will want to do is to create a custard from milk, sugar, and cream. You can also add some egg yolk or cornstarch in order to make the custard a bit thicker.
  •    Blend the ingredients carefully.
  •    After blending the ingredients, you can add any flavorings you may like! People often add chocolate, pistachios, nuts, or fruits – feel free to experiment a bit though. You can even draw inspiration from your favorite Italian ice cream flavors.
  •    Churn the gelato as it cools. You can do this either manually by hand, or with a mixer. It’s important you mix the ingredients slowly and carefully. This way you’ll prevent the formation of air bubbles, which could make the texture too light and fluffy for a traditional gelato.

How to Make Gelato Manually?

Making gelato by hand is really easy. After creating the custard, you just have to:

  •   Pour the custard into a plastic pot and cover it with a fitting lid. Place the pot in the freezer for about 30-40 minutes.
  •    After this time has passed, take the custard out of the freezer, place it in a bowl, and beat it with a fork or a hand whisk; you may also use an electric hand mixer. Continue to do this until the custard breaks into a smooth consistency; repeat a few times every 30-40 minutes.
  •    Put the gelato back into the plastic pot with a well-fitting lid. Place it in the refrigerator.
  •    Remove the gelato from the refrigerator 10-15 minutes before serving it.

Making gelato by hand is not hard, although it can take a bit of your time. However, if you want to feel really satisfied after successfully making your first even gelato, this is definitely the best option.


Just as with typical Italian ice cream flavors, you can create gelatos of vastly different tastes. You’re not only limited to the basic ingredients! Among the most popular gelato flavors you are sure to find:

  •     vanilla
  •     chocolate
  •     hazelnut
  •     pistachio
  •     coffee
  •     strawberry
  •     stracciatella
  •     and more!

Ultimately though, it is entirely up to you; whichever flavor you choose is fine, just like with Italian ice cream flavors, as long as you follow the basic steps of creating a real gelato.

Gelato is a tasty alternative to Italian ice cream. It has a deep flavor profile, it’s arguably healthier to consume than ice cream (lower amount of fats), and is pretty easy to prepare. In that sense, you can always take your newfound knowledge to the kitchen and try to make this dessert yourself. Of course, if you’re not sure that you’re skilled enough or that you’ll nail the recipe without trying it first, feel free to pay us a visit at Mi’talia. We are the Miami-based yet Italian-inspired restaurant that delivers the intricate and satiating nature of Italian cuisine mixed with the modern take on Northern and Southern cuisine. At Mi’talia, you’ll find that we pay attention to our setting as much as we do to our menus. We welcome you to enjoy our food and drinks together with the beautiful and relaxing nature of our outdoor patio.