I know what you are thinking. “She’s lost her mind. Gone completely coo coo. Basil olive oil gelato? Huh?”
Oh it is so good. After one bite you’ll wonder why you haven’t had it before.The basil makes it a bit minty and the olive oil adds a fruity and peppery side. Combine the two and flavors explode in your mouth. It’s refreshing. It’s sweet, but not too sweet. It’s unique and it is delicious. We first had this at a local restaurant and now it has become one of our favorite flavors.
I did a lot of research trying to find a recipe that would be as close to the real gelato (Italian style ice cream) I once had in Italy. It’s hard to find here, and it is hard to find solid info on how exactly gelato should be made. Two things are certain: gelato has less fat than American style ice cream and has less air. That combination gives you more bang for your buck with each bite. The flavor is more concentrated.
Now, as for the whether or not gelato should have eggs is rather dependent upon the region. Either way, it should have far fewer eggs (4 yolks is about the max per batch) and it should not have cream. When researching recipes, those that had too many yolks and cream were out. Yes, I’m certain those recipes would have been delicious, that’s not the point. That would have made it American style ice cream. I’m going for Italian here.
I was a bit surprised to find many recipes use corn starch as a thickener instead of egg yolks. Corn starch doesn’t exactly bring “tasty” to mind. But, it does make sense. Egg yolks have a strong flavor and they distract from the flavor of the gelato, in this case, basil and olive oil. The best part, in my humble opinion, about using corn starch is that you don’t have to worry about tempering those eggs. Sure, it’s not that difficult, but it does make for a much more relaxing experience when you aren’t worried about curdling your eggs and checking the temperature frequently. It. Was. Easy.
I actually rarely make ice cream because when all is said and done, it’s not cheaper to make it at home and it can be tedious. Egg yolks and cream add up. This gelato was not expensive and it was so much easier to make. So I’m hooked. I will be using this recipe as my base for other flavors.
I finally decided on this pistachio recipe from Saveur. I obviously didn’t add the pistachios. I steeped a vanilla bean and basil in the milk overnight, then added olive oil the next day. To finish I folded in minced basil. I’m so happy with how it turned out. At first I was worried it was too much olive oil, but after freezing the flavor is perfect. It is very easy to adjust to your liking.
It’s very important to use a good extra virgin olive oil here, otherwise you won’t taste it. And if you can’t taste it, what’s the point?
Basil Olive Oil Gelato
Modified from Saveur
Yield: 6 cups of gelato
Difficulty: Easy to Medium
Time: 20 mins to make mixture; chill overnight; 20 to 30 minutes in ice cream maker
Special Equipment: Ice cream maker
- 4 cups whole milk, divided
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 TB cornstarch
- 1 vanilla bean, split
- 4 to 6 fresh basil leaves, divided, leaving 2 to 4 whole and the rest finely minced
- 1/4 cup good extra virgin olive oil, plus additional 2 TB if needed
- Tiny pinch of salt
1. Heat 3 cups of milk to a simmer. Remove from heat. Meanwhile, mix the remaining 1 cup milk with the sugar and corn starch.
2. Stir sugar mixture into the hot milk. Return to heat and cook, stirring constantly (using a spoon not a whisk!), for 8 to 10 minutes. Mixture will thicken, but not much.
3. Stir in 2 to 4 whole basil leaves and the vanilla bean. Pour into heat proof bowl. Let cool slightly, stirring frequently, then cover and chill completely overnight.
4. The next day, remove the basil leaves and vanilla. Add in 1/4 cup of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Mix according to your ice cream makers instruction, stopping after about 10 minutes to taste. Add additional olive oil if desired. Flavor will be less pronounced as it freezes.
5. After the mixture is done in the ice cream maker, fold in your minced basil and freeze. Enjoy!