What to CookDessertIce Cream & Frozen DessertsItalian CookingSpringSummerFruit

An Italian Strawberry Granita (or Sorbet) That Needs No Special Equipment

10 Save

If you like it, save it!

Save and organize all of the stuff you love in one place.

Got it!

If you like something…

Click the heart, it's called favoriting. Favorite the stuff you like.

Got it!

I must admit that when I first made this recipe from Roman cookbook writer Ada Boni, I thought I was making granita. I had in my head the idea of flaky icy shards, stained bright red, to sip with a straw. But the next day, when it was firmer and I scooped it out into a bowl, rather than a glass, and my three-year-old asked if she could have some gelato too, I realized it was a lot less like a granita than I thought. I looked up the recipe again, grabbing a copy of the Talisman off the shelf, and there it was: “Strawberry gelato (sherbet),” the recipe says.

Strawberry granita (or sorbet).
Strawberry granita (or sorbet). Photo by Emiko Davies

I have three copies of Ada Boni's Talisman. I love it, and it is rather handy to be able to compare all the different editions. One is a lovely linen-bound hardback, a vintage Etsy find, printed by Crown Publishers in New York, 1950. Another, a worn-around-the-edges paperback picked up for £1 in England, printed in London in 1975. But they are both condensed—very condensed—versions of the original Italian one, Il Talismano della Felicità (with that ever-so-romantic title, “The Talisman of Happiness”) published in 1929. It is over 1000 pages long and could easily be mistaken for a doorstop by its weight alone.

Advertisement
Ada Boni's "Talisman Italian Cook Book" (the 1975 London edition).
Ada Boni's "Talisman Italian Cook Book" (the 1975 London edition). Photo by Emiko Davies

It is funny what different parts of the English-speaking world (and 25 years between publishing dates) can do for food language: The London edition, where I read the recipe first, calls the same recipe “Granita di fragole (Strawberry water ice)." What I do love about that edition is that the titles are written in both Italian and English, which is usually more helpful than some of the descriptions given to these Italian classics in 1950, when it was translated; most people, for example, are probably more familiar with “vitello tonnato” than its 1950 translation, “tunnied veal.”

A granita is an icy, usually fruit-flavored (but often found with other flavors, such as coffee) refreshment, somewhere between a slushie and sorbet. It's an ancient preparation that the Sicilians inherited from the Arabs, when, centuries ago, grated ice was flavored with fruit or syrup (much like Rome's grattachecca) and eaten to cool off during warm weather. In Sicily, they still love eating granita with a brioche bun for breakfast. Meanwhile, sorbet generally refers to a dairy-free gelato made with fresh fruit. Either way you prefer it, Ada Boni's recipe can be used for both granita or sorbet.

Strawberry granita (or sorbet)
Strawberry granita (or sorbet) Photo by Emiko Davies

There's not much messing around: You don't need any special equipment, and aside from waiting for it freeze (which can take anywhere from 2 to 6 hours, but I like the texture better when it's had overnight to freeze in peace, rather than be poked at every hour), it's quick to prepare.

Advertisement

First, you make a simple syrup. Ada Boni instructs to pass washed strawberries through a sieve (the 1975 edition adds “or liquidizer”—that is, blender). I choose the latter; it seems less tiring. Add the juice of 2 lemons and an orange to the syrup and freeze it. She calls for stirring after an hour “until it has the consistency of thick mush”—and this, to me, sounds like granita. If you eat it that day, it will be undoubtedly "slushier" and really ideal for granita. If you want to eat it as gelato, let it freeze overnight. The sugar syrup prevents it from freezing solid, and the next day, you will have a wonderful, soft, creamy sorbet.

E77d0c6a d27f 45e8 8d8d 9dd67e8bc418  granita di fragola img 4857

Ada Boni's Fresh Strawberry Granita or Sorbet

9415f039 d6dc 487a 8dce 9ff4e97bf9ae  emiko davies new portrait Emiko
48 Save Recipe
Serves about 6
  • 8 ounces (200 grams/1 quart) strawberries
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
  • 1/4 cup orange juice (about 1 orange)
  • 2 1/2 cups (750 ml) water
  • 2 1/2 cups (500 grams) granulated sugar

Emiko, a.k.a. Emiko Davies, is a food writer and cookbook author living in Tuscany, where she writes about (and eats!) regional Italian foods. You can read more of her writing on her blog.

Granita or sorbet—what's your favorite? Tell us in the comments.

Tags: granita, sorbet, frozen desserts, strawberries, Italian cooking, Ada Boni