Italian Ice Cream Delights

How much do you know about “Gelato”?

Gelato is classified into various categories according to ingredients used. Here is a short list of the more popular ones:


A frozen dessert of Italian origin.  It is generally made in an ice cream machine with a base of milk, sugar and often a flavoring ingredient.  Although the fat content is lower than ice-cream, it could also contain cream and egg yolks. In some parts of Italy, when egg yolks are added, it will be called a Crema. Crema will be higher in fat with a smooth, almost elastic and a very soft mouthfeel.

Gelato as served in Caffé Paradiso

The very best summer indulgence is to use lemon gelato to make a frothy glass of alcoholic bliss…Sgroppino. And the recipe could not be simpler!  Look here for the recipe.

If you are in the North End, treat yourself to the gelato at Caffé Paradiso, 255 Hanover St. They now have special containers from Italy that will allow you to purchase a container of gelato to go. The container will keep the gelato frozen for a couple of hours.


Known to us as soft-serve, this type of gelato is milk-based, churned on demand in a special machine, served in a swirly shape and softer and less dense than regular gelato.


Italian lemon sorbet as served in Artu Rosticceria & Trattoria.


A frozen dessert containing fruit juices or crushed fruit and sugar, often with the occasional addition of wine or liquor.  Unlike American sorbet, it does not contain dairy ingredients or emulsifiers.  If you’re adding milk to your sorbet, then you’re making sherbet or gelato.

Look here for my very quick and easy sorbet recipe.


Check out this great YouTube segment on making lemon sorbetto:


Semifreddo means “half-cold”, or “half frozen” in Italian. Its velvet texture is halfway between gelato and mousse and is based on an egg-based custard and whipped cream. No ice cream machine is needed to make semifreddi. The basic mixture can be poured directly into a mold and put in the freezer for a few ours. Layering is common but not necessary.

Peanut butter gelato bomba with a caramel center, in a chocolate shell. Served at Artu Rosticceria & Trattoria.

Semifreddo can also be called spumoni.  The classic Neopolitan Spumoni originally consisted of one layer of pistachio, one of cherry and one of chocolate, with candied cherry pieces, chopped pistachios and chocolate shavings in between them. These were later changed to vanilla, chocolate and strawberry.

Bomba is made from 2 or more flavors of gelato frozen in a sphere shaped mold, often with a fruity surprise in the middle and then dipped in chocolate.

Tartufo is a classic version of bomba where chocolate and vanilla gelato are layered with almonds and a whole cherry in the middle, frozen in a mold about the size of a baseball.

Look here for my Zuccotto recipe.


Torta gelato is essentially an ice-cream cake.  A mold, round or spring-form is lined with sponge cake, pound cake, lady fingers (savoiardi) or meringue disks and layered with gelato, nuts or candied fruit and frozen for several hours.  If flavored whipped cream is used instead of gelato, it would be called a semifreddo.


This very light slushy frozen dessert originated in Sicily where it is often served for breakfast on a hot summer day! I have wonderful memories of dipping my sweet roll (brioscia) into granita di caffe.  Coming from the word “grana” or “grainy”, granita is made with sugar syrup and another liquid. Although there are many variations, the most popular are fruit juice, almond milk or coffee . Unlike gelato or sorbetto, granita is easy to make at home, all you need is a pan and a spoon.  The mixture must be frozen into a pan of plastic or stainless steel and stirred from time to time to allow the sides and top to freeze, resulting in a soft, granular ice. This creates a lightly granular texture with visible ice crystals.

Look here for my recipe for Granita di Caffé.