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For other uses, see Gelato (disambiguation).
Type Ice cream
Place of origin Sicily, Italy
Serving temperature Cold
Main ingredients Milk, cream, sugar, flavoring ingredient (e.g. – fruit or nut puree)
Cookbook: Gelato  Media: Gelato

Gelato (Italian pronunciation: [dʒeˈlaːto]; plural: gelati [dʒeˈlaːti]) is the Italian word for "ice cream", derived from the Latin word gelātus (meaning "frozen"). In English this word commonly refers to varieties of ice cream made in a traditional Italian style. Gelato can be made with milk, cream, various sugars, and flavoring such as fresh fruit and nut purees. Gelato contains a relatively small amount of air.[1] By statute, gelato in Italy must have at least 3.5% butterfat, with no upper limit established.It is generally lower in fat, but higher in sugar than other styles of ice cream.[2] Gelato typically contains less air and more flavoring than other kinds of frozen desserts, giving it a density and richness that distinguishes it from the others. In Italy it is served in relatively small portions.

The sugar in gelato is balanced with the water to act as an anti-freeze to prevent it from freezing solid. Types of sugar used include sucrose, dextrose, and inverted sugar to control apparent sweetness. Typically, gelato contains a stabilizer base. Commercial bases usually contain guar gum.

In the United States, there is no standard of definition for gelato set forth by the United States Food and Drug Administration, as there is for ice cream.[3] Whereas ice cream in the U.S. is defined by the Federal Code both by its ingredients, which includes milk fat (also known as butterfat) of 10% or more, gelato in the U.S. covers a wide range of products that are similar to ice cream with the exception of their butterfat contents. American ice cream contains butterfat far exceeding the minimums set forth in Italy.


The history of gelato is rife with myths and very little evidence to substantiate them. Some say it dates back to frozen desserts in Sicily, ancient Rome and Egypt made from snow and ice brought down from mountaintops and preserved below ground. Later, in 1686 the Sicilian fisherman Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli perfected the first ice cream machine.[4] However, the popularity of gelato among larger shares of the population only increased in the 1920s–1930s in the northern Italian city of Varese, where the first gelato cart was developed. Italy is the only country where the market share of handmade gelato versus industrial one is over 55%.[5][6] Today, more than 5,000 modern Italian ice cream parlors employ over 15,000 people, mostly Italians.[7]

Although iced desserts may have been around for thousands of years, gelato was not invented until around the 18th century when it was first put down in cookbooks in Naples. The rumor of this new delicious dessert spread quickly. In Sicily the famous chef, Francesco Coltelli, began to experiment with gelato. He was remarkably successful and moved to Paris to open a fashionable café to sell his delectable gelato. Many relished Francesco’s savory gelato including French nobles, and later leaders of the French revolution like Robespierre and Napoleon. When you first walk in, Napoleon’s hat is on display because when as a young officer he was unable to pay his tab so turned in his hat as a grantee he would pay.


Gelato in Florence, Italy

The mixture for gelato is typically prepared using a hot process first, where the sugars need to dissolve. White base is heated to 85 °C (185 °F) completing a pasteurization program. The hot process to make chocolate gelato is essentially the same depending on recipes, it is meant to be traditionally flavored with cocoa powder .

See also[edit]

  • Stracciatella
  • Frozen custard, a frozen dessert made with cream and eggs
  • Italian ice, a frozen dessert made from either concentrated syrup flavoring or fruit purees.
  • Semifreddo, a class of semi-frozen dessert
  • Granita, a semi-frozen dessert made from sugar, water and various flavorings.
  • Frozen yogurt, the cultured, frozen milk product, with a tart flavor


  1. ^ Ferrari, p. 21
  2. ^ "Nutritious facts on gelato compared to ice cream". San Francisco Gate. Retrieved August 20, 2014. 
  3. ^ "CFR - Code of Federal Regulations Title 21". Retrieved 2012-09-10. 
  4. ^ Storia del gelato. Retrieved on 2012-07-06.
  5. ^ See
  6. ^ See
  7. ^ See, outside of Italy the bigger number of gelaterie is located in UK, France, Germany and north Europe in general.


  • Ferrari, Luciano (2005). Gelato and Gourmet Frozen Desserts - A professional learning guide. ISBN 978-1-4092-8850-3. 

External links[edit]