Gelato alla Crema

Vanilla Ice Cream

Ice cream is as synonymous with Italian food as pasta, or pizza, cannelloni—perhaps even more so! Originally invented as a form of sorbet in Sicily during the Arab domination hundreds of years ago, using Etnas snow mixed with wine, honey, or fruit juice, ice cream has evolved in a variety of ways. Strange to say, the simplest recipe and the one that must be closest to the original ancient Arabic version, granita di limone, is still so very popular. Here is the basic recipe for simple Italian vanilla ice cream which all kinds of other ingredients can be added to create different flavors. Best results are to be had with a churning ice cream machine.


  • 5 egg yolks
  • ¾ cup superfine sugar
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 tablespoons vanilla extract


  1. Beat the egg yolks and the sugar together until light, fluffy, and foaming. Place the milk in a pan and bring to just under a boil, do not allow it to boil.
  2. Gradually strain the milk into the egg yolks, beating constantly. Never add more milk until the previous amount has been absorbed into the egg yolks and sugar. Return to the heat and reheat, stirring constantly, never allowing the mixture to boil.
  3. When it is thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon, stir in the vanilla extract and remove from the heat. Strain and allow to cool completely.
  4. Pour into an ice cream machine and churn until frozen and thickened to the right texture. Depending upon the machine, this will take either about 30 minutes or up to 1½ hours.
  5. Alternatively, if you do not have an ice cream machine, pour the mixture into a freezerproof container and place in the freezer. You must then regularly stir the mixture from time to time to prevent ice crystals from forming.