Traditional recipes

Homemade Italian pistachio gelato recipe

Homemade Italian pistachio gelato recipe

  • Recipes
  • Dish type
  • Dessert
  • Frozen desserts
  • Ice cream

Pistachios are my favourite nuts because they have such an intense flavour. Don't worry if you do not have an ice cream machine, I've included a few tips for making it by hand.

2 people made this

IngredientsServes: 4

  • 200ml whole milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 80g caster sugar
  • 100g Bronte pistachios (or pistachios paste)
  • 200ml double cream, cold
  • 1 teaspoon orange blossom water

MethodPrep:20min ›Cook:10min ›Extra time:4hr freezing › Ready in:4hr30min

  1. Place the milk in saucepan; bring up to a simmer, then remove from heat. Set aside to cool slightly.
  2. Place eggs and sugar in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer for 5 minutes or until pale and fluffy. Pour into the saucepan with the milk and stir well.
  3. Return the pan to low heat and cook until just simmering. Remove from heat and transfer into a container to stop it cooking any further.
  4. Shell the pistachios and blanch in abundant boiling water for 2-3 minutes. Drain; remove the skin from the pistachios by rubbing them inside a clean drying cloth. Cool and dry completely, then grind in a mixer or with a mortar and pestle.
  5. Transfer the ground pistachios into a bowl; add the egg- milk mixture, stirring well. Set aside. If using the pistachio paste, skip step 4 and mix it directly with the egg-milk mixture.
  6. Beat the double cream until stiff peaks form; gently fold in the pistachios mixture.
  7. If using an ice cream maker, transfer the mixture into the bowl of the machine and follow manufacturer's instructions. If you do not have an ice cream machine, transfer the mixture into a freezer-safe container and place in freezer for 30 minutes. Remove from the freezer and crush the ice crystals with a spatula. Return to the freezer and repeat the same process for 4 hours, crushing the crystals every 30 minutes. This will keep you gelato silky and smooth. Enjoy!


Serve the gelato topped with chopped pistachios and grated chocolate.

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Homemade Italian pistachio gelato recipe - Recipes

Gelato is that dense, super-rich, intensely-flavored Italian version of ice cream. There’s really nothing else quite like it.

Gelato is a delicacy that dates back thousands of years. The earliest beginnings of frozen desserts are recorded in 3000 B.C. when Asian cultures discovered they could consume crushed ice with flavorings. Five hundred years later, it became a custom for Egyptian pharaohs to offer their guests a cup of ice sweetened with fruit juice. Italians joined in as the Romans began the ritual of eating the ice of the volcanoes, Etna and Vesuvius, and covering it with honey.

It was during the Italian Renaissance, when the great tradition of Italian gelato began. The famous Medici family in Florence sponsored a contest, searching for the greatest frozen dessert. A man named Ruggeri, a chicken farmer and cook in his spare time, took part in the competition. Ruggeri’s tasty frozen dessert of sweet fruit juice and ice (similar to today’s sorbet) won the coveted award. The news of Ruggeri’s talent traveled quickly and Caterina de Medici took Ruggeri with her to France. Caterina was convinced that only he could rival the fine desserts of French chefs – and had him make his specialty at her wedding to the future King of France.

Caterina de Medici

In the late 1500’s, the Medici family commissioned famous artist and architect, Bernardo Buontalenti, who was also known for his culinary skills, to prepare a beautiful feast for the visiting King of Spain. Buontalenti presented the King of Spain with a visually pleasing, creamy frozen dessert that we now call gelato. Buontalenti is considered the inventor of gelato.

But it was Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli, a famous restaurateur, who made gelato famous all over Europe. Procopio moved from Palermo to Paris and opened a café that soon became the hub for every novelty, from exotic coffee, to chocolate, to a refined gelato served in small glasses that resembled egg cups. The Procope, as the café was known, soon became hugely successful and gelato spread throughout France and into other parts of Europe.

Gelato made its way to the Americas for the first time in 1770, when Giovanni Basiolo brought it to New York City. At this point, there were two types of gelato – one made by mixing water with fruits such as lemon and strawberries (also known as Sorbetto), and another made by mixing milk with cinnamon, pistachio, coffee or chocolate. By 1846, the hand-crank freezer was refined and changed the way Americans made this frozen dessert. The freezer kept the liquid mixture constantly in motion and kept it cool throughout, making a product that was no longer granular, but creamy. This is where the history of industrial ice cream began, as the product contained more air and was less dense. Gelato did not make a name for itself in the U.S. until the late 1900’s – although its popularity still had a long way to go.

The process of making gelato has evolved over thousands of years. In the beginning, gelato was made with a few simple ingredients. Egg yolks were used as the main stabilizer and were added to other raw ingredients, such as sugar and milk (sometimes water for sorbetto), heated in a large pan/bowl and then chilled. Flavor ingredients (fresh fruit, nuts, chocolate, etc.) were then added and the gelato was batched. Batching gelato is also known as the process in which the gelato is frozen and air is incorporated into it to give it its dense, smooth texture. This tedious old fashioned process only allowed gelato makers to be able to make a maximum of 4 or 5 traditional flavors and the shelf life was not long. Few gelato makers still use this process, as technology has redefined the traditional gelato making process without compromising taste and flavor.

1906 Gelato Makers

At the turn of the 21st century, a new way to make gelato, known as the Hot Process, was introduced. Widely used today, the Hot Process involves the use of a pasteurizer, which heats the gelato ingredients up to 85°C/185 F for 5 seconds and then drops the temperature to 5°C/41 F. This controlling of the process allows for stabilizers and emulsifiers to perform properly and creates a microbiologically safe mixture.

After the going through the pasteurizer process, the gelato is placed in a batch freezer. Here, the mixture is quickly frozen, while being stirred, to incorporate air that produces small ice crystals necessary to give gelato a smooth, creamy texture with a satisfactory percentage of air. There are some gelato machines that contain both a pasteurizer and a batch freezer, which can simplify the process. The Hot Process is generally used for gelato because it can allow for more flexibility in the customization of a recipe and offers a slightly longer shelf life than all of the other processes.

In the 1980’s, the Cold Process was developed to provide a simpler gelato making process. The ingredients used in the Cold Process are already microbiologically safe which eliminates the need for a pasteurizer – not only saving gelato shops costs, but also space, as it is one less piece of equipment. In the Cold Process, the raw ingredients are mixed with a Cold Process base and flavor, and placed directly in the batch freezer, where the gelato is batched and prepared for serving. While the shelf life is slightly less than the Hot Process, the Cold Process is the answer to the gelato makers’ need for a process that achieves a greater amount of gelato in a quicker timeframe without compromising taste.

While the gelato market continues to develop, the needs of the gelato maker have continued to grow and/or change. The Sprint Process is the newest process to make its way into the industry, offering an even easier and quicker way to produce gelato without the intervention of a skilled gelato master. The Sprint Process is simple add a liquid ingredient (water or milk) to a prepackaged mixture containing all of the raw ingredients including, flavors, stabilizers and emulsifiers. Then, the mixture is poured into the batch freezer. The Sprint Process allows little room for error and provides complete consistency in flavor every time. For gelato shop owners producing large varieties of flavors in a short period of time, the Sprint Process works best. On the downside, the Sprint Process doesn’t leave much room for flavor experimentation and creativity.

Regardless of the process used, when the gelato has completed its cycle in the batch freezer, the next step is extraction into the gelato pan. Here’s where the difference in presentation between gelato and American ice cream reveals itself. Gelato is extracted using a spatula, rather than an ice cream scooper. The spatula helps to create creamy waves of gelato that are visually appealing in the display case and truly give gelato its artisanal feel.

In some instances, gelato makers do not immediately serve their gelato, but utilize a blast freezer. The blast freezer contributes to the life of the gelato by freezing it at a lower temperature than a standard freezer. This also helps it maintain its artisanal presentation.

The final step in all gelato processes is decoration. Here the gelato maker can add to the gelato texture, flavor and appearance by adding toppings and fillers (also known as Arabeschi®).

Home Gelato Maker

Gelato or Sorbet ?

Personally, I love both of them, but we have to admit that there are differences between sorbetto (sorbet) and gelato.

Sorbet is prepared, for the most part, with three ingredients (fruit, ice, and sugar), while gelato also contains milk or cream.

There is also a difference in the variety of tastes available: while ice cream may have many different flavors, sorbet is most often made with fruit (classics are lemon, orange, and mandarin sorbets), with coffee or mint.

The ice cream is soft, creamy, ready to lick the sorbet is grainy and semi dense. You can enjoy it by spoon or even drink!

Ice cream is enjoyed at all hours: as a snack, in the evening, even in the early morning.

Sorbet is served as an interlude between very different courses, for example meat and fish, especially in restaurants. Some, on weddings or ceremonies in general, prefer a sorbet to take a break between the first and second courses, to help digestion and “clean the palate”, to better enjoy the following courses.

Of course, that does not mean that you cannot enjoy a sorbet like a classic dessert.

Compared to ice cream, sorbet has a less creamy texture, is semi-dense and being icier, it is colder on the palate and tends to melt faster: for this reason, it is convenient to serve it in cups or glasses.

It seems that the sorbet has a very ancient history: it is already mentioned in the time of the Roman Emperor Nero, who seems to have made the ice arrive from the Apennines specifically to prepare it. The Arabs, on the other hand, at the time they were settled in Sicily, mixed the snow of Etna with sea salt to keep the temperature of the sorbet low while it was being processed.

What about gelato? It is rather difficult to accurately place the period in which it was born, although it is in the sixteenth century that the preparation of modern gelato begins to spread widely. The first gelateria (gelato shop) in history was opened in Paris by a Palermo-born, Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli, who had moved from Sicily to the court of the Louis the Great.

Sorbet and gelato can be both prepared without an ice cream-maker, but this helps their consistency and the creaminess of the ice cream. In addition, the machine helps in the preparation times. Here are some recipes.

Pistachio Gelato

Pistachio gelato, made properly, relies upon nothing but pistachios, milk, cream, egg yolks, sugar, and salt for its flavor and color. That’s why true pistachio gelato isn’t Frankenstein green. Sppons at the ready!

I’m convinced that in a past life I was an Italian woman with strong arms and solid legs, my nylons rolled down around my swollen peasant ankles. Because like signoras of years gone by, when it comes to pistachios, I refuse to take shortcuts. I will happily sit at the kitchen table and shell pounds and pounds of pistachios by hand. I’ll shell so many nuts that by the end my thumbs are stinging because the salt has made its way into the slits on my fingertips inflicted by the sharp edges of the shells. Hell, I’d sit there in the dark as I shell to heighten the sense of martyrdom if I could get away with it. But I never begrudge the work or the mighty pistachio itself. Some activities are meant to be done slowly and with great suffering. They’re good for the soul. (They’re also hefty deposits in the relationship bank account so that I can guilt The One into doing my bidding simply by giving him two very sore thumbs up.)

That’s how it is with this gelato. I know I can buy shelled pistachios. I know I can refinance our apartment to buy Sicilian pistachio paste. I know I can hire neighborhood children and scream at them to shell faster as they huddle together, crying, as they ping those lovely green nuts into a communal bowl. It’s just that I get an enormous sense of satisfaction from doing it myself. If I could grow the damn things, I would.

The payoff of all this drama queen-worthy sturm und drang is supremely creamy, abundantly studded sin in a spoon. And accept no less than khaki-colored gelato. Yes, khaki-colored. Those pints of nuclear-green ice cream whispering your name each summer are imposters. They’re artificially colored and too often laced with almond extract, kind of like inexpensive performance-enhancing drugs for the dairy set. (The One and I were in Aix-en-Provence recently, and I was floored to find my pistachio gelato contained nary an eponymous nut it was meagerly flecked with—are you ready?—crushed peanuts.) People will go to great lengths to not spend the time or money to make a memorable gelato.

Speaking of money, many an excellent commercial gelato maker will use those outrageously expensive pistachio pastes ($320 for a 4.6-pound can) to achieve a pistachio flavor so intense you positively vibrate while lapping it up. But where’s the pain in that, I ask you? My signoras would never approve. Originally published August 10, 2003.David Leite

LC Peeling Pesky Pistachios Note

It’s not just the shelling of the pistachios that could lead one to martyrdom. It’s the peeling of the pistachios, too. Ideally those pesky, papery, bitter-tasting husks that cling rather pestilently to the pistachio nut must come off, too. The easiest way to make this happen–aside from hiring those neighborhood children–is to blanch the shelled pistachios in boiling water, thoroughly drain the nuts, toss them in a large kitchen towel, and briskly rub, rub, rub until your upper arms will allow you to rub no more. Dump the pistachios on a rimmed baking sheet and pore over them, wearing spectacles if you must, so you can spy and strip any lingering specs of violet or brown parchment-like peel that insist on clinging to the nut. Then give your floor a good sweep, as it’ll need it. And yes, the resulting gelato, with its robust pistachio taste and ethereal creaminess, is worth every second of this.

Pistachio Gelato

My travel companions and I had finally made it three quarters of the way around Sardinia, having started in Alghero on the northwest and choosing a counterclockwise route around the island. Our two-week trip would end on the north in Costa Smeralda but we had one more stop before reaching the high-end resort town. Cala Gonone sits almost directly east of the island much smaller scale than its northern neighbor, the area is popular for its unspoiled coves and translucent beaches–most of them can only be reached by boat (or a hike). Many would argue that Cala Gonone has some of the best beaches in Sardinia but other attractions caught my attention. It was here that my husband fell in love with salt-baked whole fish (my recipe here) and I with pistachio gelato.

I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy lots of gelato in Italy over the last decade and I can confidently say that they’re not all created equal. Pistachio gelato being my favorite it is my benchmark flavor for judging gelaterias that I come across. So far, my favorite pistachio gelati have come from Florence and Cala Gonone.

I’ve long wanted to try making gelato at home but I knew I’d have to find the right recipe and the right pistachio base. Enter the pistachio paste from my previous post. As much as I would have loved to use Sicilian pistachio paste (Bronte pistachios are said to be more flavorful) this recipe from Pierre Hermé worked in a pinch. It was wonderful on its own and I can see using it in other desserts but my first batch was intended specifically for gelato.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to search far and wide for a good recipe either. David Lebovitz has shared his favorite pistachio gelato recipe using Sicilian pistachio paste. I followed his recipe exactly with the exception of using my homemade paste. I have also always been intrigued by the use of a corn flour base instead of eggs and according to Mr. Lebovitz, the former is common way to prepare gelato in southern Italy.

The verdict? This gelato is rich in pistachio flavor. It’s buttery, too. Maybe my homemade paste is more concentrated than the Sicilian version but I loved that the pistachios are the dominant flavor rather than the milk or sugar. Since my pistachio paste was a bit chunkier, it added a nice second layer of pistachio flavor that I really enjoyed.

My search for a good pistachio gelato recipe was short and sweet. If you like it as much as I do, head on over to Mr. Lebovitz’s site for his recipe. If you have access to Sicilian pistachio paste, I can’t imagine a better use for it than in this gelato but if you don’t, try this very easy recipe.

Note: If you try the homemade paste, you might consider using a bit less of it in Mr. Lebovitz’s recipe if you want a more subtle pistachio flavor. 5 ounces might be enough.

Best Homemade Gelato: 3 Tips from Mario Batali

Gelato is that dense, super-rich, intensely-flavored Italian version of ice cream. There’s really nothing else quite like it. Thankfully, we don’t have to travel all the way to Italy every time we crave a scoop. Mario Batali was on the Splendid Table the other week and shared a few tips on how we can make excellent gelato at home.

It’s a good thing that Splendid Table hostess Lynne Rossetto Kasper and Mario Batali eventually got around to talking about homemade gelato. After listening to these two experts on Italian cuisine discuss their favorite frozen treat, we definitely had a hankering!

Here’s what Batali recommends:

Use Whole Milk – Batali points out that cream tends to coat the tongue and mute the taste of other ingredients. Whole milk delivers cleaner and more vibrant flavors.

Look for Overripe Fruit – Overripe fruit might not be great for eating, but they’re fantastic for delivering intense fruit flavor in gelatos. Here’s where to use those last few bruised peaches or the slightly-shriveled cherries.

Under-Churn the Base – Gelato is supposed to be a lot less airy than American ice cream and should actually end up fairly dense. Batali recommends stopping the ice cream machine when the mix looks like a thick custard and then freezing.

Classic Gelato

If you have ever traveled to Italy and eaten ice cream in a local gelateria, you have most likely experienced the difference between ice cream and authentic gelato. Gelato, the Italian word for ice cream, is denser and smoother than American ice cream. It has a lower amount of fat due to the higher proportion of milk versus cream and is churned more slowly than ice cream, which incorporates less air. Because of this, gelato's flavor is richer than ice cream and so creamy (even though it has less cream) that it melts in your mouth.

The basis of gelato is a creamy custard made of whole milk and sometimes egg yolks (depending on where in Italy it is made), which give the gelato its vibrant yellowish color. Gelato is served at a warmer temperature than ice cream and therefore needs an ingredient to prevent it from melting too fast this recipe is enriched with milk powder for stability whereas many ice creams use additives to keep the treat frozen.

Master this basic custard and you can make a variety of gelato flavors to please your family and friends. Once you try this recipe, you may never buy ice cream again.

Triple Pistachio Flavor

I use actual pistachios all throughout this recipe so that the end result is packed with a rich, nutty flavor, and there are actual nut pieces in each bite. I add pistachios to the standard gelato flavor in three places:

  1. the milk used to make the custard,
  2. the paste added to the custard, and
  3. the pistachio bits added directly to the gelato while it is churning.

This recipe is instructions to add flavor to the gelato&aposs custard before it goes in the ice-cream maker. Before you begin, make sure you have a good understanding of how to prepare a custard and how the flavoring fits into the overall gelato process.

Ultimate Pistachio Lover's Gelato

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 24 hours

A light and creamy pistachio base, crunchy chopped pistachios, and a luxurious swirl of white chocolate pistachio cream.


For ice cream:

  • 4 teaspoons (12g) cornstarch
  • 2 1/2 cups (600g) whole milk
  • 1/2 cup (120g) heavy cream
  • 2/3 cup (133g) granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pistachio extract (optional)
  • 1 cup (140g) shelled pistachios*, finely chopped in a food processor (alternatively use 1/3 cup or 60g pistachio butter)
  • 1/2 cup (70g) shelled pistachios*, lightly toasted (if desired) and coarsely chopped

For pistachio swirl:

  • 1/2 cup (90g) reserved steeped pistachio paste (alternatively use 1/4 cup or 50g unsweetened pistachio butter)
  • 6 tablespoons (90g) heavy cream
  • 3oz (85g) good quality white chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons (25g) granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons toasted pistachio oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon pistachio extract (optional)
  • 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt


  1. For ice cream base, in a small bowl whisk cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of milk and set aside.
  2. Combine remaining milk in a medium saucepan along with cream, sugar, corn syrup and salt. Bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat and boil, stirring occasionally, for 4 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat and whisk in cornstartch. Return to medium heat and let boil for 1 minute more until slightly thickened. Stir in pistachio extract and 1 cup finely chopped pistachios.
  4. Transfer to an ice bath (a heat-proof bowl or 4-cup glass measuring cup set inside a larger bowl of ice water) and let cool to lukewarm, stirring occasionally. Cover tightly, pressing a layer of plastic wrap down on the surface of the mixture, and refrigerate overnight. This cools the base completely (making churning quicker), as well as ‘cures’ the base, resulting in a thicker and creamier ice cream.
  5. The next day, strain the ice cream base through a fine mesh sieve to remove all the bits of pistachio, pressing out as much of the cream as possible. Re-cover and return to the fridge until you’re ready to churn.
  6. To make the pistachio cream, place the strained pistachios in a high powered blender or food processor. (Tip: weigh the empty container before adding the pistachios so you know how much you have it’ll make the next step easier). Process until smooth and paste-like.
  7. Measure out 1/2 cup (90g) of pistachio paste and return to blender. The rest can be reserved for another use.
  8. Place chopped white chocolate in a heat-proof bowl. Warm cream and sugar over medium-low heat until it starts to steam. Pour over white chocolate and let sit for 30 seconds, then gently whisk until melted and smooth. Pour into blender with pistachio paste. Add pistachio oil, pistachio extract and salt and pulse until smooth and creamy. If your blender wasn’t able to get the pistachio paste completely smooth, you can strain the final pistachio cream mixture through a fine mesh sieve to make the final product perfectly smooth and creamy.
  9. Place pistachio cream mixture in a bowl cover tightly and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled (it must be cold otherwise it’ll melt the ice cream!)
  10. Pre-freeze your chopped pistachios as well as your ice cream storage container for at least 30 to 60 minutes.
  11. Churn ice cream in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. When it reaches the consistency of soft-serve, stir in 1/2 cup of chopped pistachios. Transfer to a shallow, 6 or 8 cup capacity freezer-safe storage dish or an 8-inch cake pan. Spread ice cream into an even later, then place in the freezer for at least 2 hours to firm up. (If you are using a deeper pan like a loaf pan or ice cream pint container, I recommend alternating spooning a bit of the ice cream with a generous drizzle of the pistachio cream that way each scoop will have a bit of the pistachio cream in it. Save some of the pistachio cream for the final layer on top.)
  12. Once the ice cream has set up fairly firmly, pour the pistachio cream over top and spread into an even layer. Cover and freeze overnight until completely firm before scooping and serving.

*I recommend starting with whole, shell-on pistachios (you’ll need just under 1 pound worth) and shell them yourself. As you go, roll the nuts between your thumb and forefinger, using enough pressure to flake off the as much of the thin, papery skin as you can. It’s ok if not all the skin comes off, but the more you can peel off the greener and more visually appealing your gelato will be.

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Homemade Italian pistachio gelato recipe - Recipes

I had good memories from the Sicilian pistachio gelato and had a hard time finding an ice cream store that can make a good Italian gelato

The gelato is not as rich in fat as the ice cream and its texture is a bit less tender than what you’ve used to when getting a scoop at your favorite gelateria, however the flavor is just divine, it has a sharp and intense flavors that really make the difference.

Difference between gelato and ice cream

Let’s start off by saying that Gelato is the Italian word for ice cream, there is no other word for ice cream in Italian and in no way there is a difference in Italy between the terms.

Outside Italy, especially in France the ice cream makers would use different proportions and ingredients for their ice creams hence the main difference between the Italian gelato to the French/American ice cream, let’s go over some of the difference.

  • Gelato is lower in fat content, milk is the dominant ingredient with cream in lower proportions and lower amount of egg yolks, or no egg yolks at all.
  • Gelato is churned at a slower rate, mixing less air into the ice cream making it denser on one hand but more elastic on the other.
  • Because the texture is dense the serving temperature of gelato is a bit higher, this is how the contradiction between less air and less fat content can allow the gelato to be elastic.
  • Gelato will have intense flavors, there is less fat content like the cream and egg yolks which dim the flavors, this is why gelato is great with fruits, nuts and any flavor we would like to shine.

Making the Sicilian pistachio gelato

Due to the low fat content we would have to use a high amount of pistachio paste, now, this stuff is expensive so I wouldn’t recommend making this pistachio gelato with a store-bought paste, you can find a homemade pistachio paste recipe that is easy and cheap to make and will produce many pistachio gelato.

One of the important tips for gelato making is to cook the custard for a longer time than usual, in order to evaporate high water percentage hence reducing the chance of water crystallization when in the deep freeze.

Most of the home ice cream makers have only one speed for churning the ice cream, for gelato we need less air so the ice cream makers today offer another churning device that reduces the amount of air to the mixture, only by its shape which is a less aerodynamic than the ice cream one.