In Italy, ice cream is something of an art. It’s lighter and fresher than its American counterpart. Fewer (or no) eggs and less cream and fat give it a smoother, airier consistency. If you stumble on an honest-to-goodness, authentic gelateria, you won’t find mounds of it piled high in neon hues. The real stufftastes clean. Its colors are muted, but flavor is just the opposite. There’s nothing quite so refreshing on a hot summer day.
The next best thing to devouring freshly scooped gelato in Italy: making it from scratch at home. The ingredients are surprisingly few, and the recipe is simple enough for a novice in the kitchen. If you have an ice cream maker on hand, it’s a cinch.
Italian gelato comes in all sorts of unusual flavors: nocciola (hazelnut) and pistacchio are almost always part of the line-up.Then there’s stracciatella.It’s the closest thing Italy’s got to chocolate chip ice cream. Stracciatella literally means “little shred” in Italian, referring to the chocolate shavings throughout it. You start with a base of vanilla gelato, then drizzle in melted chocolate, which hardens to form a sort of chocolate ribbon. As it’s churned, the strips of chocolate break into pieces and you’re left with the perfect amount of crunchy, chocolatey goodness.
Homemade Stracciatella Gelato
(makes about 1 quart)
1-1/2 cups heavy cream
1-1/2 cups whole milk
1 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
2 ounces bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
Cookies for garnish, if desired
1. Combine the cream, milk, and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Wait until the mixture comes to a simmer. Then remove the saucepan from heat.
2. Scrape the vanilla seeds into the milk, add the bean, and allow the mixture to sit for a half hour.
3. Strain into a clean bowl, discarding the vanilla bean. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
4. Get out your ice cream maker! Transfer your gelato mixture into it, then freeze according to manufacturer’s directions.
5.As you let the ice cream maker do its work churning the gelato, melt the chocolate in the microwave.Heat it on high for 20 second intervals until it is melted and smooth. Two minutes before churning is finished, drizzle the melted chocolate into the gelato. Alternately, the chocolate may be quickly folded in with a rubber spatula when the gelato is completed.
6. Scoop gelato into bowls or cones. Garnish with a cookie, if desired.
7. Buon appetito!
Recipe adapted fromMangia Bene Pasta.