Our Gelato: The Basic Recipe post is one of the most popular here on Memorie di Angelina, especially around this time of year. No surprise there. There’s nothing quite as refreshing and satisfying as a scoop of gelato when the temperatures rise, whether as a sweet snack or dessert.
That basic gelato recipe involves a multistep process including making a custard with egg yolks and cream, which can be a bit tricky, especially for less experienced cooks. Too much heat and you risk curdling the eggs, too little and it won’t thicken properly.
But the good news is that there’s a simpler way to make gelato, well within reach of even beginner cooks. In this recipe for gelato di mirtilli or Blueberry Gelato, puréed blueberries—high in pectin, a natural thickener found in many fruit jams—and lightly caramelized sugar help provide that lusciously smooth texture we associate with gelato. And it’s more or less impossible to mess up.
The result may not be quite as rich as the eggy version, but it’s every bit as tasty.
Makes approximately 500 grams /a bit over one pint of gelato
- 250g (1/2 lb or about a dry pint) blueberries
- 150g (6 oz) sugar, preferably caster/superfine type, or more to taste
- Juice of 1/2 freshly squeezed lemon
- 500ml (2 cups) heavy cream
- A large dollop of Greek yogurt (optional)
Mix the blueberries and sugar in a bowl. Squeeze the lemon juice on top and mix well until the juice and sugar have formed a thick paste.
Let the blueberries macerate in the sugar and lemon juice for about an hour or so. The sugar will have melted and the blueberries exuded ample juice.
Transfer the blueberries and their juices to a saucepan and bring them to a gentle simmer. Continue simmering until the blueberries begin to burst their skins and the liquid thickens to form a kind of light caramel.
Turn off the heat, add the heavy cream and mix. Taste the mixture and stir in more sugar if you feel it needs it. Let the mixture cool completely.
Place the blueberry and cream mixture in a blender, along with the Greek yogurt if using. Whiz everything together until you have a perfectly smooth, beautifully lavender “smoothie”.
Pour the blueberry smoothie into an ice cream maker and freeze, following your machine’s instructions. (See Notes for directions without a machine.)
Serve when ready or, if you like a firmer texture, transfer to the freezer for an hour or so before serving.
Notes on Gelato di mirtilli
As mentioned, this recipe is pretty much foolproof, so there is very little you can do to mess it up. And if you want to make it even easier, you can make it using entirely raw ingredients, skipping the step where you simmer the blueberries and sugar. You’ll lose a little on the flavor and texture, however. I think the extra five minutes is worth it.
The Greek yogurt is optional, but I find it provides a nice extra creaminess that helps make up for this recipe’s egglessness. It also adds a slight tang, which you might or might not like—up to you. Some people like the tanginess quite a bit, which is why we have frozen yogurt.
Needless to say, perhaps, but you can use this recipe with all kinds of fruits. Other types of berries work perfectly, of course, but plums, peaches and bananas lend themselves nicely to this treatment, too.
And finally, if you like your gelato extra rich, you can always make blueberry gelato with eggs. Just follow our basic recipe, but omit the vanilla pod from the custard (or keep it in if you like). Purée the simmered blueberries and sugar from this recipe, then fold the purée into the custard and take it from there.
Like all gelati, gelato di mirtilli will keep almost indefinitely in the freezer. Just make sure to let it rest at room temperature for 15 minutes or so to soften it slightly before serving.
No ice cream maker?
If you don’t have an ice cream maker, don’t despair. There are ways around that using the same technique as for making another Italian frozen dessert, the granita. You pour the puréed blueberry and cream mixture into a loaf pan and place it in the freezer. After about an hour or so, check on it and stir to break up any crystals that are forming. Keep on checking and stirring every so often, say every 20-30 minutes, until you’ve reached that classic, creamy consistency. No, it won’t be quite as silky smooth as it would be with the constant churning in an ice cream maker, but it will still be very good indeed.
Gelato di mirtilli
- 250g 1/2 lb blueberries
- 150g 6 oz sugar preferably caster/superfine type, or more to taste
- 1/2 lemon, juice of freshly squeezed
- 500ml 2 cups heavy cream
- A large dollop of Greek yogurt optional
- Mix the blueberries and sugar in a bowl. Squeeze the lemon juice on top and mix well until the juice and sugar have formed a thick paste.
- Let the blueberries macerate in the sugar and lemon juice for about an hour or so. The sugar will have melted and the blueberries exuded ample juice.
- Transfer the blueberries and their juices to a saucepan and bring them to a gentle simmer. Continue simmering until the blueberries begin to burst their skins and the liquid thickens to form a kind of light caramel.
- Turn off the heat, add the heavy cream and mix. Taste the mixture and stir in more sugar if you feel it needs it. Let the mixture cool completely.
- Place the blueberry and cream mixture in a blender, along with the Greek yogurt if using. Whiz everything together until you have a perfectly smooth, beautifully lavender "smoothie".
- Pour the blueberry smoothie into an ice cream maker and freeze, following your machine's instructions.
- Serve when ready or, if you like a firmer texture, transfer to the freezer for an hour or so before serving.
Man this looks tasty. How come this recipe uses cream instead of milk? Would milk be too watery since there is fruit involved?
The cream is for texture. Its thickness makes up for the lack of egg yolks or other thickener you might otherwise use, so you still wind up with a creamy texture. But if you wanted to give it a try with whole milk instead, why not experiment. If you do, do let us know how it comes out.
How long can I freeze this for until the flavor goes away?
Treat it as you would any ice cream. You can really keep it for months. The flavor shouldn’t really fade all that much.
Very frustrating that my ice-cream maker is… in Italy! Still, will be there next week and making it then!
Indeed it will. Good things come to those who wait. 🙂
This sounds delicious frank. And the colour is lovely.
Thanks so much, Sherry!
Oh goodness this sound wonderful. And it’s so pretty. Is the yogurt just to add a little zing to the gelato?
Zing and also a bit of creamy texture. Thanks for stopping by!
What an awesome recipe, Frank! I do love making homemade ice creams, but I haven’t really tried my hand at homemade gelatos. This is definitely going on the list to make – partly because we just picked 15 pounds of fresh blueberries at a local farm over the weekend! 🙂
15 pounds? Wow… that’s an impressive catch. I’m sure you’ll be making lots of gelato, lol! And jam no doubt… 😆
I made a pistachio gelato last week, it was a David Leibowitz recipe that used cornstarch as a thickener. I like to add a tablespoon of milk powder as it makes the gelato so creamy. I have a bag of frozen blueberries so this recipe will be high on our list as soon as we finish the clementine gelato I just made!
Hope you like it, Eva. I think you will. I have yet to try the cornstarch method but it’s on my to-do list.
I am having a difficult time posting a comment but I will try again. Your gelato looks like a tasty treat. Italian gelato is my favorite ice cream.
My favorite, too, Gerlinde!
And so sorry you’re having trouble leaving a comment. Happens to me sometimes, too—the mysteries of the internet… But this time it worked! Thanks so much for making the effort.
We both love blueberries and this is perfect timing to make a batch or two ! Thank you Frank !
It looks delicious. I love bluberries. I will try your recipe adding some Greek yogurt. Thanks for sharing, Paola
You’re welcome, Paola! Thanks for stopping by. 🙂
This looks beautiful Frank! I make gelato like this all the time as I prefer it without eggs. I keep the “smoothie” in the refrigerator so it’s already quite cold before churning. It’s such a great easy dessert for a dinner party. I start churning half way through dinner so it’s ready at the right time. Everybody happy!
Great tips, Letizia. Thanks so much!
This might be the prettiest gelato I’ve ever seen. Such a gorgeous color — and I’m certain it’s equally as delicious! 🙂 ~Valentina
Thank so much, Valentina! The color really is so pretty, isn’t it. Mother Nature is amazing.
Between your blueberry gelato and Christina’s lemon, I am pretty much in heaven! This is one amazing dessert from a man who doesn’t love sweets! Thanks!
You and me both, David. But I do have a weakness for gelato, especially this time of year!
Terrific looking recipe. We got rid of our ice cream maker — it was just taking up space, and never worked as well as we would have liked. And there is good ice cream in the supermarket, so why work to duplicate? I’d rather put my efforts into something else. BUT. Gelato is something else entirely — can’t get good quality in the supermarket. At least I haven’t found it. So I’m glad to have this recipe. Thanks.
Gelato definitely is something else! And even if there are some pretty good brands of gelato available in stores around here, I still like making my own since I get to mix and match flavors however I please.
I’m not surprised it’s so popular, and this version looks dreamy! I’ve been on a granita and ice cream kick recently, so this is another great recipe to try. My husband would love it!
I bet he would … hard not to like! 🙂 Thanks for stopping by, Christina!
Frank, the color of your gelato is amazing. I enjoy gelato, but have never made it. You make it sound very doable, even if one (like me) doesn’t have an ice cream maker. Thanks!
Definitely doable, Ron! Thanks for stopping by.