It’s the summer of gelato! You’re going to love this basic gelato recipe, which can be used as a starting point to add countless flavor combinations (I’ve included many examples). It’s also wonderful on its own! Egg yolks and sugar are whisked until smooth, then milk, cream, and a splash of vanilla are added. The mixture is briefly cooked until the eggs are safe to consume, then you simply chill the gelato base and spin it in your ice cream maker. You’ll be amazed at how easy this is!
I’ve decided to highlight one of my favorite desserts this summer: gelato! I’ll be sharing one new recipe per week in addition to my usual content. If you love frozen desserts as much as I do, you’re going to love these gelato recipes. Today I’m sharing a simple base recipe that you can use to create your own flavors (or simply enjoy it on it’s own; it’s delicious). This is the base recipe I’ll be using to create all of the other recipes. Ready to get started?
- Egg yolks
- White granulated sugar
- Whole milk
- Heavy cream
- Pure vanilla extract
- Optional flavor add-ins (more on this below)
Can you make gelato in an ice cream maker?
You can absolutely make gelato in an ice cream maker; the machine serves exactly the same purpose. That’s what we’ll be using today!
How to Make a Basic Gelato Recipe
I’ve already covered a general overview of the steps at the top of this post, but let’s break it down further with step-by-step photos. FYI. the main difference between ice cream and gelato is that gelato contains more milk than cream, as opposed to ice cream, which is at least 50% cream (sometimes all heavy cream).
You want to add a small amount of salt to help balance the sweetness (I always recommend doing this with desserts), and I’ve added 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract since this base recipe doesn’t have any flavoring yet. You can omit the vanilla if you’re going for a different flavor profile, but a bit of vanilla almost never hurts anything.
You want to start by whisking the egg yolks and sugar together in a medium-sized saucepan until the yolks thicken and lighten in color. This will take about 30 seconds of vigorous whisking.
Next, whisk in the milk, cream, salt and vanilla until smooth. Make sure to whisk everything thoroughly (this is why I love using a silicone whisk; you can really jam it into the corners of the pan). Cook the mixture over medium heat, whisking almost constantly, until an instant-read thermometer shows 170 degrees F. This means the eggs are safe to consume. The mixture will thicken slightly during this process.
Strain the gelato base through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl (preferably a bowl with a pouring spout). This will remove any bits that may have cooked onto the bottom of the pan, as well as the chalaza from the egg yolks (that’s the little white stringy piece that’s always connected to a whole egg yolk).
Lay some plastic wrap directly against the surface of the gelato base. This will prevent a skin from forming on the top. Place the bowl in the refrigerator to thoroughly chill. Unless you have a super fancy ice cream machine, this usually takes at least 6 hours. You can also make the base a day or two in advance.
Spin the gelato in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Once it’s finished spinning, I like to transfer the gelato to a loaf pan (or similar) to finish firming up in the freezer. Both ice cream and gelato are typically more of a soft serve consistency at first. Cover the top of the loaf pan with plastic wrap or a lid to prevent any freezer “flavors” from sneaking in.
After a couple hours, the gelato should be totally firmed up and ready to serve!
You can use this base recipe to make endless flavor combinations. You can also include add-ins like cookies. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Stir in chopped up Oreos before transferring to the loaf pan.
- Add almond extract (or your favorite extract).
- Add strong, cold coffee or (even better) espresso for a coffee or espresso gelato.
- Puree your favorite berries in a blender and stir them into the base before straining the mixture.
- Microwave some peanut butter briefly to thin it out, then stir it into the base before chilling.
- Add your favorite whole spices to the mixture before chilling it, then strain them out before spinning (cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, etc).
Can you make gelato without cream?
You can technically make gelato with only whole milk, but I recommend adding the cream for extra richness and a smoother, creamier texture.
What Ice Cream Maker Do You Use?
I make a LOT of gelato and ice cream, so a few years ago I invested in a fancy shmancy Whynter Ice Cream Maker. I absolutely love it because I don’t have to chill the ice cream canisters before spinning; the machine itself gets cold. However, you do NOT need anything this expensive. You can get a perfectly good ice cream maker for $30. I owned one of those for years.
More Gelato Recipes
If you love this recipe, be sure to check out my Vanilla Milk Gelato.
You can also check out my full archive of frozen desserts!
Basic Gelato Recipe
- 4 large egg yolks
- 5 1/2 ounces granulated sugar (3/4 cup)
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- In a medium saucepan, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until smooth, thick, and pale yellow. This will take around 30 seconds. Whisk in the milk, cream, salt and vanilla until evenly combined.
- Place the saucepan over medium heat. Whisking almost constantly, cook the mixture until an instant-read thermometer reads 170 degrees F, approximately 10 minutes.
- Strain the gelato base through a fine mesh strainer into a medium-size bowl, preferably one with a pouring spout.
- Place plastic wrap directly against the surface of the liquid to prevent a skin from forming. Chill until the mixture is very cold, at least 6 hours or up to two days in advance.
- Briefly whisk the mixture, then prepare in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer instructions.
- Once the gelato has finished spinning, it will likely be a soft serve consistency. Transfer to a loaf pan (or similar sized pan), cover, and freeze until fully frozen but scoopable, up to 2 hours.
- Enjoy within 1-2 weeks for best flavor and texture. If the gelato is too firm to scoop directly out of the freezer, let it sit on the counter or in the refrigerator for 5 minutes before serving.
Please read my full post for additional recipe notes, tips, and serving suggestions!
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