Pistachio gelato, made properly, relies upon nothing but pistachios, milk, cream, egg yolks, sugar, and salt for its flavor and color. That’s why true pistachio gelato isn’t Frankenstein green. Sppons at the ready!
I’m convinced that in a past life I was an Italian woman with strong arms and solid legs, my nylons rolled down around my swollen peasant ankles. Because like signoras of years gone by, when it comes to pistachios, I refuse to take shortcuts. I will happily sit at the kitchen table and shell pounds and pounds of pistachios by hand. I’ll shell so many nuts that by the end my thumbs are stinging because the salt has made its way into the slits on my fingertips inflicted by the sharp edges of the shells. Hell, I’d sit there in the dark as I shell to heighten the sense of martyrdom if I could get away with it. But I never begrudge the work or the mighty pistachio itself. Some activities are meant to be done slowly and with great suffering. They’re good for the soul. (They’re also hefty deposits in the relationship bank account so that I can guilt The One into doing my bidding simply by giving him two very sore thumbs up.)
That’s how it is with this gelato. I know I can buy shelled pistachios. I know I can refinance our apartment to buy Sicilian pistachio paste. I know I can hire neighborhood children and scream at them to shell faster as they huddle together, crying, as they ping those lovely green nuts into a communal bowl. It’s just that I get an enormous sense of satisfaction from doing it myself. If I could grow the damn things, I would.
The payoff of all this drama queen-worthy sturm und drang is supremely creamy, abundantly studded sin in a spoon. And accept no less than khaki-colored gelato. Yes, khaki-colored. Those pints of nuclear-green ice cream whispering your name each summer are imposters. They’re artificially colored and too often laced with almond extract, kind of like inexpensive performance-enhancing drugs for the dairy set. (The One and I were in Aix-en-Provence recently, and I was floored to find my pistachio gelato contained nary an eponymous nut; it was meagerly flecked with—are you ready?—crushed peanuts.) People will go to great lengths to not spend the time or money to make a memorable gelato.
Speaking of money, many an excellent commercial gelato maker will use those outrageously expensive pistachio pastes ($320 for a 4.6-pound can) to achieve a pistachio flavor so intense you positively vibrate while lapping it up. But where’s the pain in that, I ask you? My signoras would never approve. Originally published August 10, 2003.–David Leite
LC Peeling Pesky Pistachios Note
It’s not just the shelling of the pistachios that could lead one to martyrdom. It’s the peeling of the pistachios, too. Ideally those pesky, papery, bitter-tasting husks that cling rather pestilently to the pistachio nut must come off, too. The easiest way to make this happen–aside from hiring those neighborhood children–is to blanch the shelled pistachios in boiling water, thoroughly drain the nuts, toss them in a large kitchen towel, and briskly rub, rub, rub until your upper arms will allow you to rub no more. Dump the pistachios on a rimmed baking sheet and pore over them, wearing spectacles if you must, so you can spy and strip any lingering specs of violet or brown parchment-like peel that insist on clinging to the nut. Then give your floor a good sweep, as it’ll need it. And yes, the resulting gelato, with its robust pistachio taste and ethereal creaminess, is worth every second of this.
- Quick Glance
- 30 M
- 30 M
- Makes about 1 quart
Special Equipment: Ice cream maker
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Recipe Testers Reviews
I love pistachio gelato, and this is a top-notch recipe. Very simple and easy to make, it packs an amazing amount of pistachio flavor without any artificial pastes, colorings, or essences. The verdant green color along with the crunchy bits of pistachio is certainly an exotic treat for the pistachio lover–and even if you aren't one yet, this will certainly make you one.
The gelato wasn’t overly sweet and, indeed, it was perfect, as anything sweeter would have completely masked the pistachio flavor. It’s just how a gelato should be. Heaven in every spoonful. This will be a regular gelato in our household.
The whole process was very easy to follow and the ice cream was done in no time, apart from waiting for the custard to cool. The final product was a gelato that’s perfect for the pistachio aficionado. It’s not your usual creamy ice cream nor your icy sorbet but rather a nice blend of both, just as a true gelato should be.
It was far from sugary, so if you’re inclined to a sweeter taste, I would advise adding about 1/4 cup more sugar, but certainly not more than that.