Olive Oil Gelato

Who does not have childhood memories associated with food? Our first birthday cakes, the special treats that grandma used to sneak us, or maybe the first thing we cooked, or attempted to cook? BUT, do you actually remember the first food item you ever purchased on your own? I am talking about that very specific moment when you finally were able to exercise your right to choose, without mom around to judge or suggest; that moment when the little cash floating in you pocket actually was handed out to somebody in exchange for food. What did you buy?

I remember really well, I bought myself a Gelato! It was a hot August in Isola d’Elba, a wonderful island that my family and I visited somewhat regularly during summer vacations. Every year my brother and I used to bring to the beach a few boxes containing all the comic books we collected during winter, and sell them in the late afternoon when families were taking their pre-dinner stroll on the main avenue. No real profit there, more of a recycling program if you wish, and an opportunity for us to spend our own money the way we wanted, which usually was limited to video games matches at the local arcade, and obviously Gelato!

30 years have passed, and Gelato is still one of my favorite treats, but until now I never challenged myself to make my very own. Here in Los Angeles I still have not found an establishment that serves the real deal I grew up with; don’t get me wrong, you can find delicious Ice Cream, but it is not the same thing… and it does not evoke memories. I had to intervene and learn a few recipes, at least so I would feel empowered: “Now if I want Gelato I just have to make it myself!”, and this is good enough for me, problem solved.

This first Gelato recipe I am presenting has a twist to it, an extra ingredient that makes it even more special: Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Yes, it is an unusual choice but trust me, if you can source a good Olive Oil, this dessert will make you pause! I made it for my grandmother when I visited Florence last summer, and she asked me if she could take the leftovers home… instead of saving it for my daughters: “You can make it anytime for them!”.


Prep Time: 15 mins/ Cook Time: 15 mins/ Cool Time: 5 hours/ Serves: 1.5 quarts

2 3/4 cups milk
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split, seeds removed
7 large egg yolks
1 cup sugar
pinch of salt
3/4 cup good extra virgin olive oil

Add the milk, heavy cream, vanilla bean seeds and bean to a heavy bottomed saucepan. Set over medium heat and bring to a very low simmer. Keep an eye on it and stir often while you prepare the egg yolks.


Meanwhile, add the yolks, sugar, and salt to a large bowl and whisk until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Whisk in olive oil and beat vigorously for another minute or so until it’s completely emulsified.


Slowly ladle in about 1 cup of the hot milk mixture into the eggs and olive oil whisking the whole time. This is called tempering- it’s getting the yolks used to the hot temperature of the milk and preventing them from scrambling. Add the tempered eggs back into the milk saucepan and stir until it thickens just slightly, and coats the back of a spoon. This should take about 5-6 minutes.


Strain the custard through a fine mesh strainer into a large 8 cup measuring cup. Let cool then cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge. You want the mixture to cool down completely and to be well chilled before you run it in your ice cream machine. You can make this the night before.


Freeze ice cream according to manufacturer’s instructions- you should let it run about 30 minutes- until it looks like soft serve, then place back into the freezer until firm, another hour.


Keep in mind that gelato is softer than ice cream.