Watermelon Pudding (Gelo di melone)

Gelo di melone (Sicilian Watermelon Pudding)

In dessert, Sicilia, summer by Frank24 Comments

Sicilian Watermelon Pudding, or gelo di melone, is made from watermelon juice, perfumed with cinnamon and jasmine blossoms, thickened and mixed with bits of chocolate—cut into little bits so they resemble watermelon seeds—and chilled until set. Served in dessert bowls or unmolded on to a plate, the pudding is then topped with ground pistachios, chocolate shavings and perhaps a few more jasmine blossoms.

Gelo di melone strongly resembles another Sicilian dessert, the Biancomangiare, but, of course, the watermelon lends its own gorgeous color and aroma. It’s a truly beguiling summertime dessert that exemplifies the Moorish influence on Sicilian cookery.

Ingredients

  • 1 liter of watermelon juice, made from one small watermelon (see Notes)
  • 100g (3-1/2 oz) sugar, or more to taste
  • 80g-100g (3-3-1/2 oz) potato or corn starch, or other thickener
  • A pinch of cinnamon
  • 1 or 2 cloves (optional)
  • A few jasmine blossoms (optional)

Optional enrichments:

  • Dark chocolate, cut into small bits, or pre-bought chocolate chips
  • Zuccata, or candied pumpkin, cut into small bits

Toppings:

  • Ground pistachios
  • Shavings of dark chocolate
  • Jasmine blossoms

Directions

Put all but a cupful of the watermelon juice is a saucepan over a gentle flame.

Add the starch to the reserved juice and stir vigorously until the starch is completely dissolved into a slurry. Add the slurry, along with the sugar, cinnamon and, if using, cloves and/or jasmine blossoms to the saucepan, and let everything come to simmer, whisking the mixture all the while to avoid the formation of lumps. Once the mixture has thickened up, let it simmer for a minute or two and turn off the heat.

Transfer the thickened watermelon juice to a mixing bowl, passing it through a sieve if you like to ensure perfect smoothness and strain out the blossoms. Let the mixture cool almost completely. If using, fold in the chocolate bits and zuccata (candied pumpkin).

Now pour the pudding mixture into dessert bowls (or, if you prefer, individual molds). Place in the fridge and let chill for at least 2 hours. Some recipes call for a whole day’s stay in the fridge; the longer you let it chill, the firmer your pudding will be.

Serve your Watermelon Pudding, either in the dessert bowls or unmolded onto small plates, with any or all of the listed toppings.

Watermelon Pudding (Gelo di melone)

Notes on Watermelon Pudding

Watermelon juice is no trouble to make at all. A small watermelon should produce about 1 liter of juice, which is what you need for 4-6 servings. If you have a juicer, just cut up the watermelon into chunks, removing any seeds, and juice away:

Making Watermelon Juice

Otherwise, purée the watermelon in a blender, then pass the purée through a sieve placed over a bowl to eliminate the pulp.

How much starch you use depends on how you’d like to serve your Watermelon Pudding. If you want a softer texture, fine for serving in dessert bowls, I’d suggest staying on the low side of the 80g-100g range. On the other hand, for a firmer texture needed to unmold your pudding on to a plate, use 100g (or more). Personally, I like potato starch, which doesn’t cloud the mixture too much, but corn starch will do fine. Some Italian recipes call for amido di frumento, or wheat starch, something I haven’t come across here in the US.

Jasmine flowers lend a lovely Levantine scent to your Sicilian Watermelon Pudding but, of course, they can be hard to find in a typical grocery store. No worries—your pudding will still be delicious without them. As luck would have it, though, I found a live plant in my local farmer’s market, which now stands, minus a few flowers, in my kitchen window.

Jasmine Flower

Another unusual ingredient that often finds its way into this pudding is zuccata, or candied pumpkin. It’s quite simple to make if you want to, quite literally pumpkin that has been seeded and cut up into chunks, simmered in sugar syrup and allowed to cool. I imagine that other types of candied fruit, though not traditional, would also do nicely.

 On the name and origins of gelo di melone…

The use of spices, pistachios and jasmine gives away the Moorish origins of the dish. Remember that Sicily was an Arab emirate for many years starting around the 9th century and its influence remains noticeable even today in the region’s dialect and cuisine, although some credit the introduction of gelo di melone into Sicily to the Albanians. Some say Watermelon Pudding is derived from the Persian dessert called Faludhaj. It bears more than a passing resemblance to Turkish delight as well, although I haven’t yet found any sources drawing that connection.

The name gelo di melone may mildy surprise some readers who know Italian, since the usual word for ‘watermelon’ in Italian is anguria or cocomero. Melone, as its English cognate, means melon more generically, and often refers to what we call canteloupe. But in this case, melone is the Italianized version of muluna or muluni, the Sicilian dialect word for watermelon.

Yes another similar Sicilian dessert is the gelo di cannella, or Cinnamon Pudding, but that is dish for a future post…

Gelo di melone (Sicilian Watermelon Pudding)

Total Time: 3 hours

Yield: Serves 4-6

Gelo di melone (Sicilian Watermelon Pudding)

Ingredients

  • 1 liter of watermelon juice, made from one small watermelon (see Notes)
  • 100g (3-1/2 oz) sugar, or more to taste
  • 80g-100g (3-3-1/2 oz) potato or corn starch, or other thickener
  • A pinch of cinnamon
  • 1-2 cloves (optional)
  • A few jasmine blossoms (optional)
  • Optional enrichments:
  • Dark chocolate, cut into small bits, or pre-bought chocolate chips
  • Zuccata, or candied pumpkin, cut into small bits
  • Toppings:
  • Ground pistachios
  • Shavings of dark chocolate
  • Jasmine blossoms

Directions

  1. Put all but a cupful of the watermelon juice is a saucepan over a gentle flame.
  2. Add the starch to the reserved juice and stir vigorously until the starch is completely dissolved into a slurry. Add the slurry, along with the sugar, cinnamon and, if using, the cloves and/or jasmine blossoms to the saucepan, and let everything come to simmer, whisking the mixture all the while to avoid the formation of lumps. Once the mixture has thickened up, let it simmer for a minute or two and turn off the heat.
  3. Transfer the thickened watermelon juice to a mixing bowl, passing it through a sieve if you like to ensure perfect smoothness and strain out the blossoms. Let the mixture cool almost completely. If using, fold in the chocolate bits and zuccata (candied pumpkin).
  4. Now pour the pudding mixture into dessert bowls (or, if you prefer, individual molds). Place in the fridge and let chill for at least 2 hours. Some recipes call for a whole day's stay in the fridge; the longer you let it chill, the firmer your pudding will be.
  5. Serve your Sicilian Watermelon Pudding, either in the dessert bowls or unmolded onto small plates, with any or all of the listed toppings.

Notes

Watermelon juice is no trouble to make at all. A small watermelon should produce about 1 liter of juice, which is what you need for 4-6 servings. If you have a juicer, just cut up the watermelon into chunks, removing any seeds, and juice away. Otherwise, purée the watermelon in a blender, then pass the purée through a sieve placed over a bowl to eliminate the pulp.

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Comments

  1. Buonissimo e molto rinfrescante, perfetto per il caldo che fa qui in Sicilia questi giorni. Imagine that Frank…we were neighbors!:) We lived in the Bronx from around 1965. Before that we were in downtown Manhattan, I think around Second Avenue.

  2. OMG, why can’t I just reach in and grab one. Frank this sounds out of this world delicious. I’ve never tasted watermelon and cinnamon together but am really imagining how great that would be.

  3. How beautiful and so unique! I didn’t have the pleasure of trying this when I was in Sicily. Probably because I was too busy stuffing my face with brioche and granitas every day!! Love the sound of the candied pumpkin too!

    1. Author

      It’s such a rich cuisine, I’m sure you’d need to lifetime to try all of Sicily’s culinary wonders.

  4. What a wonderful dish! So much flavor! And of course perfect for the season — we’re right at the height of our local watermelon season right now. Glad I discovered your blog — it’s wonderful!

    1. Author

      Welcome, John! Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting—and, of course, for the kind words. Just discovered your great blog too, and I’ll be coming back often.

  5. As I sit here sweating away in Puglia, reading this has been refreshing! can’t wait to try it! ciao, Cristina

  6. Beautiful, Frank! I think my favorite part of this recipe is the jasmine! I love hoe easily it can perfume food and drinks. Mark loves biancomangiare (I grew up with the French version – blancmange) so I am going to try this and hope I can find jasmine!

    1. Author

      The jasmine does make this special. Good luck finding it—a nursery might be a good bet?

  7. Can’t wait to try this. Btw, you can find wheat starch in many Asian markets.

  8. non l’ho mai assaggiato nemmeno durante il mio viaggio in Sicilia. Adesso la voglia di provare a farlo in casa è grande ma dovrò comperare un estrattore di succo, è già da un po’ che ci penso, la centrifuga classica non va bene….Anche qui da me questa rossa la chiamiamo anguria, buon we Frank !

  9. This is so beautiful! I would have thought there was cream in this pudding, but only corn starch as a thickener – so very intriguing!

  10. It certainly looks delicious and refreshing. And the only thing I’ve ever called watermelon is anguria and cantaloupe– melone. I’d love to try this recipe. It would have to be with a blender since I gave my juicer to one of my kids. Isn’t that always the case? You give something away and then you need it. 🙂 Buona giornata!

  11. Frank, I had all but forgotten this wonderful dessert. Your instructions and reference to Arab / Middle Eastern origins are flawless as usual. Thank you for once again jogging my memory.

    1. Author

      You’re welcome, Paula! Italian cookery is so vast it’s easy to forget about a dish or two sometimes, even gems like this one…

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