Decadent Dark Chocolate Gelato

by Lael Hazan on July 13, 2010

Our family has a particular fondness for intensely chocolaty chocolate ice cream.  Our favorite chocolate ice cream is the decadent chocolate gelato the Cipriani Hotel makes, as opulent as the hotel itself.

Italian gelato is a bit different than American ice cream.  It is made with less sugar and is often made with milk rather than cream.  It has a more intense flavor.  Italians like their flavors to “pop”, melon tastes like melon, not melon and cream.

Ask any Italian and they will, of course, say that their neighborhood gelateria is the best.  They will also tell you that the concept of ice cream is Italian in origin.  Some believe that it was invented during the time of Emperor Nero.  It is undisputed that Italians had it long before the French.  It was Caterina de Medici who brought it to the French court and it was there that founding American father Thomas Jefferson had ice cream for the first time.  He then brought a recipe home with him and introduced the concept to the fledgling United States.

When we are in Venice, one of our favorite excursions is to take the Cipriani launch from San Marco Square to the luxurious and beautiful hotel.  As one pulls away from Venice proper and navigates through oncoming gondolas and cruise ships and approaches the hotel, it is as if one were ushered into another realm.  Arriving at the Cipriani is always full of pomp and circumstance.  A bell person assists you out of the launch and through the pergola-covered walkway that is the entrance to one of the most exquisite hotels in the world.  We like to eat our ice cream alongside the outdoor pool, one of the only pools in Venice and a perfect location to relax and enjoy an afternoon.  Of course, one has to transcend the shock of receiving the bill.  Eating ice cream at the Cipriani hotel is expensive.  However, one is never rushed at the Cipriani and you can nurse the feeling of decadence all afternoon.  Also the launch back has one of the best views of Venice.  It is the view on all of the postcards and tapestries, The Doge’s palace grows larger as you get closer to San Marco, and one can see on a pedestal the magnificent winged Lion that is the symbol of St. Mark and the Serrinessima, Venice herself.  It  almost makes the price of the ice cream seem reasonable.

If  Venice is not in your travel plans anytime soon, and  you can’t  partake of the amazing Cipriani experience, here is the recipe for the famous ice cream so you too can enjoy it at home.  This is actually a long guarded Cipriani secret.  Fortunately, my mother-in-law, Marcella Hazan, had asked the chef for the recipe many years ago.  It is a recipe that we teach to our students at our cooking school in Italy.  The secret is that into the dark chocolate mixture one drizzles very dark caramel.  The caramel enhances the flavor of the chocolate creating an incomparable combination.

The intense velvety texture of this gelato evokes reminiscences of Venice.   You will likely have no leftovers, only a lovely magical memory, much like a visit to Venice herself.

Chocolate Ice Cream

(Adapted from Marcella’s Italian Kitchen by Marcella Hazan)

4 egg yolks

2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

2 cups milk

3 1/2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate

1 1/2 ounces high quality unsweetened cocoa powder

1. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler. Heat the milk until it just begins to boil.

2.  Use an electric mixer to whip the egg yolks and 2/3 cup of the sugar until they form creamy pale yellow ribbons.

3. Add the hot milk slowly to the whipped eggs and sugar while mixing with the electric mixer.

4.  Add the melted chocolate and mix it in well.  Add the cocoa and mix again.

5.  Put the remaining two tablespoons of sugar and 2 teaspoons of water in a small pan over high heat.

6.  Transfer the chocolate mixture to a saucepan and place it over low heat and stir constantly with a whisk .  When the sugar in the pan has turned to a dark caramel, add the caramel to the chocolate mixture and mix it in thoroughly with the whisk until it dissolves.

7.  When the mixture has cooled completely, freeze in an ice cream maker following the manufacturer’s instructions.

Comments on this entry are closed.

J.B. Bul May 30, 2012 at 4:51 pm

Would you comment on the difference between using eggs in gelato and the use of cornstarch. What really is authentic Italian gelato?

Giuliano Hazan June 26, 2012 at 10:43 pm

Custard based gelati, and certainly homemade ones, always use eggs and no cornstarch.

haineux March 19, 2012 at 4:56 pm

How much ice cream does this recipe make? I have a one-quart ice cream freezer. Looks like the right amount, but, never any harm in adding a few more words.

Giuliano Hazan March 29, 2012 at 11:37 am

It makes about one quart. In any case, don’t fill the ice cream maker to the top because the ice cream will increase in volume somewhat as it freezes.

jim December 12, 2011 at 9:11 pm

loved reading the comments, and figuring out the infamous step #6!! Am looking forward to making this recipe…it sounds completely on point! not a revelation, coming from a Hazan..! a big fan for a long time in Chicago…Jim

Giuliano Hazan December 13, 2011 at 4:59 pm


Kathleen September 2, 2011 at 5:00 pm

Absolutely fabulous!!! Used Droste dutch cocoa powder – it’s the best. Felt as if I was in Rome again!!

Rebecca August 8, 2011 at 9:44 am

FANTASTIC recipe!! Made this on Saturday and my fiancé and I loved it! I also got a slight grainy-ish texture (more slight “chunks” rather than grainy but not big pieces), but I think it was the chocolate used rather than the recipe itself. I will work to find the perfect chocolate for the recipe :) Any suggestions are welcome!

Also, have you (or anyone else reading this) tried to make it and add a bit of cayenne or other spice to it? I have a big Theo’s Spicy Chile dark chocolate bar I was thinking of using…

Thank you :)

jeffrey strain October 10, 2010 at 7:00 pm

wow – I know what recipe I want to try first…

Aldo Mc Bride August 14, 2010 at 12:57 am

I can not wait to try this recipe, Hmmm Is it true that its ice cream will bring memories of the city of Venice..? Let’s try it!

Lyle Beaugard August 8, 2010 at 9:09 pm

@James Terrell:

Grainy gelato usually results from slow freezing and the resulting large ice crystals forming. Rather than freezing in a traditional ice cream pint containter, try freezing it in a large shallow square or rectangular Tupperware-type container so that the liquid layer is thinnner and freezes quickly. Later, you can transfer the mixture to a more convenient one for storage. Hope this helps you!

Chàva August 4, 2010 at 10:21 pm

Just made you recipe tonight and it was luscious. Went to Rome a few years back and it tasted just like the dark chocolate gelato we had over there. Thanks so much for sharing with us. Yummy.

James Terrell August 4, 2010 at 11:03 am

My Wife is an excellent cook. She made the chocolate gelato and it came out grainy. We can’t figure out why. If it weren’t for that you can tell that it would have been superb.

Giuliano Hazan August 1, 2010 at 3:37 pm

Thanks to everyone for their comments! The chocolate mixture needs to cook only briefly, about the same time it takes to make the caramel. I put the sugar and water in a small pan or skillet and place it on the stove next to the saucepan that has the chocolate mixture in it, that way i can watch the caramel as I whisk the chocolate mixture. Once the caramel is ready, I pour it into the chocolate mixture, whisk until it is fully dissolved, then remove the chocolate mixture from the heat. I hope this clears things up!

corrine July 29, 2010 at 8:27 pm

I have the same question as DPR and Alana. No harm in making sure one understands correctly. With the high cost of ingredients and people having less time, it is a smart move to ask. :)

Steven July 28, 2010 at 3:15 pm

Lighten up Mama, One mistake can ruin a recipe all cooks know that. Even people who are not cooks I’m sure

Mama July 28, 2010 at 2:38 pm

This is not difficult, people. Just THINK about what you’re doing. Caramelizing sugar is not rocket science, but it is a process that happens separately from the rest of the recipe, so duh…use a different pan. No wonder there are so few good cooks anymore. Everyone blindly follows recipes without engaging their brains. Tsk Tsk.

Dpr July 28, 2010 at 1:11 pm

I agree with Alanna and I’m not sure if any change you made was clear. Perhaps consider separating #6 into two different steps…. it’s not clear that the saucepan for the chocolate is separate from the pan with the sugar. Otherwise, I cannot wait to make this!

ravenouscouple July 14, 2010 at 9:13 am

we recently began making ice cream–before we got an ice cream maker, we tried the semifreddo method which works beautifully! Now that we have an ice cream maker we’ll definitely try to make gelato..thanks for the recipe!

Trish July 14, 2010 at 1:24 am

Your picture of dark chocolate gelato is beautiful and it’s making me very hungry for ice cream. Thanks for the recipe. I will try it out some day. I look forward to reading more of your posts. Cheers!

Giuliano Hazan July 13, 2010 at 12:22 pm

Thanks for pointing out my typo, and for your comment, Alanna. I hope it’s clear now.

Alanna July 13, 2010 at 10:14 am

“Less sweet” and “flavor that pops” is the way I like to cook, too!

I’m a little confused about #5 and #6. I presume that in #5, we make the caramel in a small pan. But then in #6, do we actually cook the yolk-milk-chocolate-sugar mixture until it turns dark like caramel? And then stir in the caramel from #5?

I’m thinking that this shall be tonight’s dessert!

Nanette July 13, 2010 at 9:59 am

I’m forever grateful that your mother was able to wrangle this recipe from the Cipriani chef!

It’s truly the most magnificent gelato!

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