Inside Otaleg!'s ice cream shop.
Photo: Martina Valente 

How to Make Gelato at Home Without an Ice Cream Machine

A maestro explains.
Alice Caccamo
Rome, IT
November 17, 2020, 8:30am

This article originally appeared on VICE Italy.

As a bonafide addict, I’ve had some bitter disagreements with friends about what makes a truly great gelato. Some prefer it light with a small amount of sugar and fat, others prefer it rich and dense. Recently, I set out on a quest to perfect my very own gelato recipe – one exactly to my liking – in the hope of ditching store-bought ice cream forever.

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First off: gelato is simply the Italian word for ice cream. The main difference between the Italian variety and those from other countries is that gelato incorporates less air, leaving you with a thicker and creamier product.

Making this at home seemed like a daunting task, especially since I don’t have any of the equipment. So I reached out to Otaleg!, a gelato shop in Rome famous for its experimental flavours, to ask for help with my latest home-cooking experiment.

Marco Radicioni from Otaleg! standing behind the counter at the ice cream shop.

Marco Radicioni, from Otaleg! Photo: Martina Valente.

Otaleg! ice cream shop in Rome. Photo: Martina Valente.

Otaleg! ice cream shop in Rome. Photo: Martina Valente.

Otaleg!’s gelato is made without artificial flavouring. Gelato-obsessed Marco Radicioni gets up at 2AM every morning to make the 30 flavours on offer at the shop – a total of 150kg to 200kg per day. Radicioni started out making gelato at home as a cheat meal during his bodybuilding days, meaning he was making it for love, not money – a good indicator that I’d found the right maestro to guide me along my journey.

Radicioni explained that making gelato at home is easier than you’d think. There are two basic recipes: one cream-based, and another (which is vegan) for fruity flavours. Inspired, I decided to have a go at a gelato flavoured with peach, my favourite fruit, following Radicioni’s tips.

I’ve also included his recipe for the cream based gelato. The last two steps are the same for both types of mixture.

MIXTURE ONE: FRUIT-BASED

Three nectarines soaking in water and baking soda.

Three nectarines soaking in water and baking soda. Photo by the author.

For fruit ice cream, it’s important to use only ripe, seasonal fruit. In my case, that meant three nectarines (380 grams, including the pits). Radicioni swears by keeping the peel on, saying it adds flavour and colour to the final result.

Homemade ice cream. Nectarines and sugar, ready to be blended.

Nectarines and sugar, ready to be blended. Photo by the author.

First, you should soak the nectarines in a mixture of water and baking soda (a spoonful per litre) for an hour. Then rinse the fruit, chop it finely and blend, adding 98 grams of sugar. If your nectarines aren’t ripe enough, you might want to add a little more for extra sweetness. 

And there you have it: your totally vegan mixture number one.

MIXTURE TWO: CREAM-BASED

For the cream-based ice cream, mix 45 grams of egg-yolk, 265 ml of whole milk, 16 ml of cream and 56 grams of sugar in a saucepan, bringing the mixture up to a temperature of 82 degrees, while whisking constantly.

For extra flavour, you can add lemon or orange rind, vanilla pods or even half a glass of marsala. After the mixture reaches 82 degrees, take it off the heat and leave it to cool completely.

CHURN WITHOUT AN ICE CREAM MAKER

Homemade ice cream. Churning the peaches with a hand mixer.

Churning the peaches with a hand mixer. Photo by the author.

Now comes the most important part: the churning. If you don’t have an ice cream maker, you can use a regular hand mixer, or simply a whisk and every single muscle in your arm.

Put your mixture of choice in a metal bowl in the freezer for a few minutes before churning, then take it out and whisk energetically for about ten minutes, before putting it back in. 

Homemade ice cream. The blended peaches after the first churn.

The blended peaches after the first churn. Photo by the author.

REPEAT, REPEAT, REPEAT

Take your ice cream out of the freezer every 30 minutes and whisk for another ten minutes, for a total of four times over the course of two hours. (Not mandatory, but during the churning process I threw some pieces of dark chocolate into the mix.)

Once you’ve done all that: congratulations – you’re now a gelato maestro!

Homemade ice cream. Peaches with chocolate chips.

Homemade ice cream. Peaches with chocolate chips. Photo by the author.