Gelato: an Italian dessert, much like ice cream. It is lower in fat content, therefore has less air whipped into it resulting in a creamier texture and more condensed flavor. Gelato is served at a slightly higher temperature than ice cream.
Anna and I decided to save our first taste of “real” gelato for when we arrived in Italy. But, believe me, we made up for that self-disciplinary measure while we were there!
Our favorite gelato shop was in Manarola.
My next favorite was the one in Rome. We were lost and the dear couple who worked in the shop were so sweet! They said if we couldn’t find a hostel, to come back and they’d help us out. Awh!
The Pistachio has built up quite a following in Italy. Every pastry shop, gelateria, and bakery had something featuring this green, flavorful nut. The gelato was the most intriguing to me. Not the brightly colored variety that has “fake flavoring” written all over it, but the mellow, almost olive green color of the natural, nutty nut. Yum!
The first time I tried to replicate this gelato, it was a failure. Raw pistachios are hard to find in Oklahoma. However, I had a large bag of roasted ones. I got to work cracking shells, making a pistachio paste and trying the recipe I had pulled off line. It wasn’t one bit like I wanted it, but it wasn’t all for not. I knew what to do next time.
I still couldn’t find raw pistachios, so I worked (literally!) with what I had. This is a ridiculously long process, so I highly recommend using the raw variety if you have the chance, or better yet, a creamy pistachio paste if you happen to live in one of those privileged parts of the globe that carry such things.
It’s actually fun – cracking nuts. I put on some music and…well, I was pretty much confined to the table and my bowls, so I didn’t dance…much. I still managed to get bits and pieces of nut and shell strewn about the dinning room. Hmmm…
Place a cup of shelled nuts in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Let simmer for 5 minutes. Strain and cool in cold water. After a few minutes they’ll be cool enough to pop all the skins off. Rinse again and they are ready to use!
1 c. pistachios
3 c. whole milk
1/4 c. cream
1 c. sugar
1/4 t. salt
Place prepared pistachios in a food processor or blender. Add 1 c. milk. Blend until the mixture is a fine paste.
Add sugar, salt, cream and remaining milk.
Pour into a container and place in refrigerator for up to an hour.
Strain milk mixture through a bread cloth or other fine straining device.
Squeeze out all of the liquid, leaving about 1/3 c. of pistachio paste.
Discard paste – it’s not very flavorful. I tried it.
You’ll have about 3 1/2 cups of creamy, sweet, pistachio milk now.
While the ice cream maker was churning away, I couldn’t help thinking of all the marvelous flavors that had the potential to compliment the pistachio – lime, mint, rum…oh the bliss!
Needless to say, the finished gelato got split into three cups.
It was hard to decide on a favorite.
The mint was straight out of our garden – I snipped about a teaspoon of it right into the gelato. The flavor was refreshing and light, but I got some complaints about the leaves. The easy solution to that, would be to snip the leaves into the milk mixture before letting the flavors meld in the refrigerator. Then strain out with the nuts.
The plain pistachio and the pistachio rum got the highest ratings. This nut can definitely stand on it’s own! However, 1/2 a teaspoon a rum (to a cup of gelato) gave it a “refined” twist.