Lemon Basil Gelato

September 22, 2016  •  Desserts,

lemon-basil-gelato-1Every time I travel I taste something – or as is often the case, many things – that I feel I just have to try to recreate when I get home. This year the absolute top of my list was the lemon basil gelato that I had on a hot day in Rome. I was walking with my group of guests across the Ponte Fabricio from the Jewish Ghetto on our way to Trastevere. This bridge takes you right across the small island in the middle of the Tiber River, Isola Tiberina, and just as you get over the bridge on your left is a gelato stand. I glanced, saw this in the window, and knew I had to try it.lemon-basil-gelatoI was immediately smitten, and not just because it was so refreshing in the 90 degree heat. The lemon and basil complemented each other perfectly, and it had a fresh flavor. I took a stab at recreating it as soon as I got home, and think this comes pretty close to replicating that taste. I only had skim milk on hand, so that’s what I used, but you can use something a bit richer. I added the lemon extract before I went to the grocery store, didn’t find it lemony enough, so returned and added the juice and zest of one lemon. You might start with the juice and zest of 1 or even 2 lemons, and might not feel you even need the lemon extract. Here’s to the last few hot days of summer!

Lemon Basil Gelato
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 12-16
  • 2 cups milk
  • ½ cup packed fresh basil leaves
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1-2 teaspoons lemon extract, optional
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large lemon, zested and juiced
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  1. Combine the milk (I used skim because I had some on hand, but you can use any type you like) and basil in the blender and blend on high until the basil is very finely ground up, about 1 minute.
  2. Whisk the basil milk with the salt, sugar, and egg yolks in the top of a double boiler and cook over simmering water until it thickens slightly, about 10 minutes, stirring often.
  3. Remove from heat and add the extracts, lemon zest and juice, and cream, cover, and refrigerate until well chilled. Process in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer's directions, and then freeze in a covered container.


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