Italian Frozen Desserts

Frozen desserts have a long history in Italy. Italians love their gelato, Italian-style ice cream. Gelato (shown in this figure) is a lot like American ice cream, but Italian gelato is usually much more intensely flavored. Strawberry gelato tastes first and foremost of berries, for example.

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You can find dozens of common gelato flavors. In addition to the basics, such as vanilla and chocolate, many uniquely Italian flavors exist:

  • Castagna: Chestnuts make an especially rich, creamy gelato.

  • Fichi: Italians use fresh figs in season.

  • Gianduja: Intense combination of chocolate and hazelnut.

  • Limone: Lemon-flavored gelato.

  • Nocciola: Italians love hazelnuts!

  • Panna: This is ice cream (panna means cream) without any flavorings — basically vanilla ice cream, minus the vanilla.

  • Riso: A little cooked arborio rice is added to a plain vanilla ice cream base for an unusual gelato that resembles frozen rice pudding.

In addition to gelato, Italians make another kind of frozen dessert called a granita (see this figure). Granite (plural for granita) are scraped ices, much like the Italian ices sold by street vendors in North America. They have a granular, icy texture, somewhat like a Sno-Kone.

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Granite usually don’t contain any dairy products, so most are nonfat.

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