Olive Oil Gelato

March 31, 2011
5 Ratings
  • Serves 2 to 4
Author Notes

The apotheosis of Mario Batali's cooking and the Mediterranean diet is, in my dessert-loving view, the olive oil gelato at Otto. It's as smooth as aioli, pulsing with green olive flavor, and has sugar and salt dueling in the background.

As I fumbled through my cookbooks, I came across another version in Ice Creams, Sorbets & Gelati by Robin and Caroline Weir.

The Weirs are the foremost authorities on frozen desserts, and this book is the culmination of all of their research. And yet, I was also skeptical of their recipe, which calls for water in the custard, no cream or salt, and a whole lot of olive oil.

After chilling it overnight I whisked in olive oil to taste. The custard drank the oil like a good, dense mayonnaise, getting thicker and smoother with each stroke of the whisk. But after 6 tablespoons of oil -- the Weirs call for 12 -- I called it quits, and churned the gelato as is.
Amanda Hesser

What You'll Need
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • Large pinch salt
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
  1. In a medium-size saucepan stir together the sugar, water, milk, and salt and heat until bubbles form around the edge of the pan. In a separate bowl beat the egg yolks until frothy. Continue beating whilst pouring in the combined liquids in a thin stream, then return the mixture to the pan. Carry on stirring with the pan over a low to moderate heat until the custard thickens to a loose custard sauce consistency or reaches 185 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. (Take your time and take the pan off the heat, if needed, because you don't want to scramble the egg). Immediately pour the custard into a bowl and set the bowl in an ice water bath. Stir until the mixture is cool. Transfer to a lidded container, and refrigerate overnight.
  2. Whisk in 1/4 cup olive oil in a thin steady stream -- the mixture should thicken and turn smooth. Taste the mixture and decide if you want to add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil -- the oil flavor will become more prominent as the ice cream ages, so keep this in mind. Churn in an ice cream maker following manufacturer's instructions. Eat right away, or transfer to a container and freeze until ready to eat.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • keg72
  • Raquel Grinnell
    Raquel Grinnell
  • Rissako
  • Monica Little
    Monica Little
  • RaquelG
Amanda Hesser

Recipe by: Amanda Hesser

Before starting Food52 with Merrill, I was a food writer and editor at the New York Times. I've written several books, including "Cooking for Mr. Latte" and "The Essential New York Times Cookbook." I played myself in "Julie & Julia" -- hope you didn't blink, or you may have missed the scene! I live in Brooklyn with my husband, Tad, and twins, Walker and Addison.

39 Reviews

keg72 April 30, 2015
This recipe didn't work at all for me. I tried twice and was as patient as I usually am with the eggs, but both times they scrambled. (I know the recipe says to baby the custard -- and I thought I was doing just that.) After wasting 8 eggs, I switched to an ATK vanilla ice cream recipe that worked like a charm. I wonder if the issue could be with the lack of fat in the ice cream base having some impact on the cooking of the egg yolks.
Amanda H. April 30, 2015
I'm sorry the eggs scrambled for you. I haven't tried it with just milk and no water (which would increase the fat content), but if I have a chance, I will and will report back. Thanks for your feedback.
Raquel G. June 23, 2014
Followed Rissako's lead with less sugar (1/2 cup) and more olive oil (1/2 cup). I'd take the sugar down to her 1/3 cup next time. It solidified very quickly in my Cuisinart ice cream maker... I had the idea to grind in a little fresh back pepper, but was beyond the liquid point, so instead ground a bit atop each serving. Pretty AND delicious!!
Rissako February 25, 2014
Amanda, I love the simplicity of this recipe! So many other olive oil gelato recipes that I'd found contain vanilla, which I find detracts from the olive oil flavor. Also, so many have cream, but with the oil, the milk really is enough.

To those who worried about it being too sweet, I just wanted to comment that I made my first batch exactly as specified, and for my palate, which prefers things far less sweet, I needed to tone it down. However, I do think for most people, the sweetness will be perfect. For my second batch, I actually reduced the sugar to 1/3 cup… and just to get crazy and see what would happen, I upped the olive oil to 1/2 cup (8 tbsp) and I was thrilled with the results.

I think it's a pretty flexible recipe and would encourage others to play around.

Thanks again for this, and for Food52 in general, over the past couple of years, it's been one of my main-stays.
Amanda H. March 2, 2014
Rissako, thanks so much for your comment and thoughts -- I've been wanting to play around with this recipe to make it less sweet, and your changes sound just right. I've lent my ice cream machine to our office kitchen so I look forward to trying this out once I get it back!
Also, so glad to hear Food52 has been helpful! Take care.
Asaracoglu March 1, 2013
This would be great with a really rich, bitter brownie!
Amanda H. March 1, 2013
great idea!
Erin P. September 6, 2012
I just made the base and it's very sweet. Is the 2 parts total liquid to 1 part sugar correct? Or am I missing something? Thanks.
Amanda H. September 12, 2012
You're right -- it is quite sweet, but tastes less so once frozen. You can cut back on the sugar in the recipe, but sounds like it's too late for this batch. How did it turn out?
Monica L. January 18, 2012
What kind of olive oil did you use for this? Is there a specific type and/or brand you recommend?
Amanda H. January 18, 2012
I'd use a mild fruity olive oil. The one in the photo was made with a fairly robust flavored oil -- Frantoia.
Monica L. January 19, 2012
Thank you so much for your quick response! :) Can't wait to make it.
RaquelG August 26, 2011
I've been pondering the question of what would best accompany this gelato while preparing my home for the onslaught of Hurricane Irene (what better to keep one's mind from impending doom than dessert?) and came upon the idea of lemon-thyme pound cake. Apparently, Martha Stewart had already come up with it:
Amanda H. August 26, 2011
Ah! Good idea. I was going to suggest a cookie that's not too sweet, and maybe even a little salty.
boulangere August 26, 2011
Mmmm, I love the idea of something on the salty side with this. It's unbelievably fantastic, while pretty intense. Salty would be just the thing. Even salty chocolate chip cookies.
RaquelG August 26, 2011
Amanda, would you have suggestions as to what pastry or baked goods one might serve with this gelato?
I'm interested to try this recipe after the problems I had with Mario Batali's recipe. For some reason, and I assume it's my ice cream maker's fault, I just couldn't get it to freeze. Even now, weeks later, it's really just a custard sitting in the freezer. Hopefully this version will work better in my ice cream maker....
Amanda H. June 23, 2011
Have you successfully made other ice creams in your ice cream maker? If so, how interesting. Let me know how things go with this version.
Nancyjenkins April 26, 2011
Amanda, I'm curious if you've tried this recipe with other olive oils. There's so little oil in it that I don't see how you get a mild olive oil flavor to come through past all the sugar. Have you tried it with a stronger, fruitier oil? It would be really interesting to experiment with three different oils, say one from Sicily (the Frantoia Barbera you've used), maybe one from Tuscany with more aggressive flavors, and maybe an arbequina from Catalonia with its pronounced nuttiness (at least to my palate). Any time you do that, invite me to a tasting!
Amanda H. April 26, 2011
I didn't try it with other oils. And I know it seems like very little oil, but oddly enough, after this sat for a day, I thought this amount of this kind of oil was probably a little bit too strong.
aussiefoodie April 25, 2011
I just couldn't get this to go as white, or as fluffy looking as the photo. Any ideas what I'm doing wrong?
Amanda H. April 25, 2011
Your olive oil might be darker so I wouldn't worry too much about the color. What kind of ice cream maker do you have?
KirstenW April 21, 2011
I heard you can drizzle a fruity olive oil over the top, return it to the freezer, and the oil turns into a 'magic shell' coating....sprinkle with sea salt and a few chocolate shavings and you are good to go! Am going to try it, definitely.
pauljoseph April 5, 2011
looks Beautiful
sdunleavy April 3, 2011
I'm so excited to try this. I fell in love with batali's olive oil gelato when I had it over christmas. Can't wait to experiment!
Amanda H. April 3, 2011
I think it would be great with chocolate.
Amanda H. April 3, 2011
Oops! Replied to the wrong comment. Thanks -- and hope you enjoy it!
the M. April 3, 2011
One of my favorite gelato flavors. I had black pepper olive oil gelato at Paciugo once, along with a scoop of some kind of sea salt gelato, might've been caramel sea salt. Thanks for posting this recipe! I wonder how it would fare if you added chocolate, as I've seen a chocolate extra-virgin olive oil flavor on Paciugo's gelato flavor list as well. Perhaps use a stronger extra-virgin olive oil?
Amanda H. April 3, 2011
I think it would be great with chocolate.
mrslarkin April 1, 2011
whoa, this looks fab.
Sadassa_Ulna March 31, 2011
Beautiful photo!
WinnieAb March 31, 2011
This sounds REALLY interesting. Like a sweet and yummy cold version of mayo ;)
Amanda H. March 31, 2011
Funny -- I was thinking of describing it as frozen mayo but was concerned some people would find that gross. Glad you don't!
WinnieAb March 31, 2011
No don't find it gross at all. I am a huge fan of homemade mayo with olive oil.
hardlikearmour March 31, 2011
Yum! What a crazy-good idea. Yet another fine use for good quality olive oil. Do you use extra virgin or something milder?
Amanda H. March 31, 2011
It's in my blog (coming out in the morning!) -- Frantoia, which isn't super strong but is extra virgin. I'd err on the mild side.
hardlikearmour March 31, 2011
some of us weren't born with patience!
boulangere March 31, 2011
Ohhhhhhhhh - the texture on the palate must be like silk. I'm going to fire up the IC maker this weekend!
Amanda H. March 31, 2011
It has great texture -- the oil is magical!