Olive Oil Gelato


Olive oil and Gelato won’t make it. That’s what you’re thinking, right? They’re one of those couples that would rather bicker and roll their eyes at each other than anything else. They’re just too incompatible. One prefers to savor life, especially long leisurely meals full of good wine and even better conversation. The other, while sweet, prefers life on the go, rarely loitering around for anyone no matter how interesting.  How could such a couple ever resolve their differences?

With some quality time in the freezer I say.

The idea for this recipe was a result of a delightful saunter down memory lane. In college I participated in a Study Tour to Italy. It was there that I was introduced to both olive oil and gelato. I’d brushed shoulders with olive oil in salads and such of course, but I had never appreciated it as a food in it’s own right. In Italy, however, olive oil graced every table- lunch, dinner, and even breakfast- whether it was drizzled over pasta or pooled in a dish for dipping bread in.

Gelato was no less ubiquitous. Shops like this one seemed to be on every corner.


Unlike olive oil, I had no passing acquaintance with gelato, so our first meeting was without foreshadowing. My first night in Italy, a few of my friends and I braved the Roman streets in search of the nearest gelateria. We pointed and mimed our orders and then took our scoops outside. As we sampled each other’s flavors, I felt like the children in the Lickable Wallpaper room at Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. The espresso gelato tasted like a shot of espresso! The orange gelato tasted like oranges, not the fake orange flavor of Tang! Had there been a snazberry flavor, I have no doubt it would have tasted exactly like snazberries. Somehow the Italians had managed to distill the essences of the best food into their gelato.

So, when I was thinking of the best way to showcase olive oil, my thoughts naturally turned to the tables of Italy. And, as with any of my thoughts of Italian food, gelato was not far behind. And then it occurred to me- why not? Why not make an Olive Oil Gelato? It seemed true to all I had tasted and learned in Italy about food. Gelato let the essence of a food shine. No mix-ins, no extra flavors to distract the tongue. It made what was socially unacceptable, acceptable – eating olive oil straight off a spoon. Now the only problem was creating it.

A question to Mr. Google proved that as fresh as the idea of olive oil gelato was to me, it was not so original as I thought. It seems celebrity chef Mario Batali has been serving it in one of his restaurants for several years now. However, with recipes ranging from 1 to 2 cups of refined white sugar, there was still work for me to do. I substituted raw honey for the sugar, and because I think honey is much sweeter that sugar, I was able to cut it down to 1/2 a cup. However, from previous ice cream related research, I knew that the sugar content was what kept the gelato from turning into a solid block of ice in the freezer. To keep the creamy texture, therefore, I added a shot of limoncello, an Italian lemon liqueur, which I think compliments this Italian inspired treat beautifully. I’d imagine you could use any alcohol- from flavorless vodka to a strong brandy. Just don’t be tempted to add more than a shot, or else your gelato will never ever freeze. Also, unlike other ice cream recipes, this recipe begins with an emulsion instead of a cooked custard. Not cooking it not only allowed me to keep all the delicate (and heat sensitive) flavors of the olive oil intact, but also all the nutrition of the oil, egg yolks, raw milk, and cream. Because the emulsion is what keeps the gelato together, don’t skimp on the beating times, even though they seem long. The most important thing to remember in this recipe, however, is to use the best unrefined extra virgin olive oil you can get, because there is little else to disguise the flavor of a bland oil.


Olive Oil Gelato

1/2 cup honey

6 egg yolks

¾ cup extra virgin olive oil

1 shot limoncello

2 cups milk

1 cup cream

Beat yolks and honey on medium speed for 5 minutes. The mixture should turn light yellow and form ribbons when you lift the beater. Meanwhile measure out the oil and limoncello on a measuring glass. With the mixer still running, in a slow slow slow stream, add the olive oil and limoncello. The point here is to make an emulsion between the egg/honey mixture and the oil, just like in a salad dressing. Therefore, the slower you add the oil, the better. Beat for another 2 minutes. Add the cream and milk, and mix until thoroughly combined. Process in ice cream maker according to directions. Store in freezer for at least 2 hours to harden. Overnight is better. Serving suggestions include a spoon, an ice cream cone, or fingers. I served it in sorbet glasses with a sprinkle of sea salt, a drizzle of (more!) olive oil, and some crushed fresh rosemary. Once summer gets here, I plan on using this as a garnish on my gazpacho and chilled cucumber soup.

However you eat it, savor the rich taste of olive oil, but don’t dilly dally too long or your gelato will melt!


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Posted in Uncategorized 12 years, 9 months ago at 8:17 am.


7 Replies

  1. I’m so happy you entered this in the contest! It looks amazing.

  2. Elisabeth Davis Mar 3rd 2010

    My mouth is watering! Jana not only are you creative cook! You describe your olive oil gelato so well, to the point I am getting hungry. The limoncello not only keeps it from freezing, it also gives your geloato that extra flavor. Way to go! I am leaving Wednesday for Italy! I’ll think of you.

  3. This gelato is so incredibly intriguing.

    I just made my own very first Limoncello and adding it with this olive oil recipe would be great.

    I do have a question…how much exactly do you mean by a shot of liquor. Is it about 1 ounce?

    Looking forward to your response. Thanks.

    Flavourful wishes,

  4. Claudia,
    Congrats on the Limoncello! I’ve always wanted to do that. By shot, I do mean 1 oz, although I’m sure you could experiment if you wanted more limoncello flavor. Just remember that the more alcohol you add, the less the gelato will freeze.
    Good luck!

  5. Dona Nakajima May 13th 2013

    The meaning of the phrase “ice cream” varies from one country to another. Phrases such as “frozen custard”, “frozen yogurt”, “sorbet”, “gelato” and others are used to distinguish different varieties and styles. In some countries, such as the United States, the phrase “ice cream” applies only to a specific variety, and most governments regulate the commercial use of the various terms according to the relative quantities of the main ingredients.

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