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Ricotta ice cream recipe

When I was in Sicily, either it slipped my mind, or my mind is slipping, because for one evening, I was supposed to be responsible for making something for dessert. I was offered a number of beautiful things to cook or bake with, and my mind kept wandering back to the heavenly ricotta cheese that we’d seen being made earlier that day.

Since we brought home a few big strainers of the just-set ricotta, I couldn’t resist putting one to use in ice cream. I blended up the cheese with some milk, a few spoonfuls of local honey, and made a luxurious pine nut brittle to crumble into the ice cream, called a croccante. I figured, “Heck, we’re in Sicily. I’m dumping a whole bunch of pine nuts into ice cream. Whee! Here I go…!”, assuming they were not so expensive there.

candied citron

My gracious hostess didn’t say anything, but I didn’t realize until later that I used what was probably the equivalent of the monthly mortgage on the house to mix into my single batch of ice cream. Fortunately everyone ate every last spoonful of ice cream, so they didn’t go to waste. (Whew!) But when I got home, I decided when I shared to recipe, to take an easier…and less-costly…route.

Sicilian gelato is traditionally made with milk and no eggs, but I decided to go with cream when I got home because the ice cream would become very hard to scoop otherwise. (After the recipe, I give guidelines to make the version I made without eggs, although I recommend using half-and-half or cream for a better texture.) Gelaterias get around that problem by storing their ice cream in freezers that aren’t as cold as home freezers, so the ice cream is scoopable.

pistachio nuts

Wanting to stay as true to the roots of this ice cream, I went with pistachios, which are very Sicilian. Although when I went to G. Detou, they had beautiful shelled pistachios, but ones from Iran. (Where I’d love my next trip to be to.) So I used those. I also started in on the stash of glazed citron that I stocked up on this winter when I was lucky enough to get my hands on some cédrats, in Paris.

candied cherries

I thought it’d be nice to top the ice cream with some candied cherries. But when I went into my jar of candied cherries, which I finally found it in the back of my refrigerator, due to an overload of Manhattans, I found out that I was down to my last few – and rather punky – cherries.

glazed candied citron

So I bought a jar of preserved sour cherries, drained the syrup into a pan, added some sugar (about 1 part sugar to 2 parts liquid), and cooked it until the bubbles were thick. If you want a treat, Amarena cherries are delicious. Although if you drink Manhattans, you might want to keep extra on hand, because once the jar is open, they’re hard to resist!

Standard supermarket ricotta cheese can be grainier than fresh ricotta. It probably helps if you have one of those vito-turbo-blenders that everyone is always raving about (except me, because I don’t have one). Still, it benefits from a good whizzing up in a blender, which helps smooth things out.

Ricotta ice cream recipe

Ricotta Ice Cream with Candied Fruit and Pistachios

You don’t need to use pistachios and other nuts can be swapped out, including lightly toasted chopped almonds or hazelnuts. Some chopped chocolate can be mixed in to the just-churned ice cream as well, and some might like to add a few drops of orange flower water or a splash of orange liqueur to the base, prior to churning. Or you can leave it as is; it’s great served with cherry compote or fresh berries. I’d mentioned that originally I’d made a pine nut brittle for the ice cream, but since the price of pine nuts is very high right now, I thought I’d offer an alternative. If you want to make the brittle and use that, instead of the pistachios, caramelize 1/2 cup (100g) of sugar, and mix in an equal amount of lightly toasted pine nuts. (Avoid Chinese pine nuts). Stir them together, then spread the mixture on a lightly oiled baking sheet or marble counter. When cool, break the brittle into little pieces with a chef’s knife or food processor and fold into just-churned ice cream along with the candied fruit.

For the custard

  • 1 cup (250ml), half-and-half or heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup (100g) sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup (80g) honey
  • 2 cups (500ml) whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • optional: 1-2 teaspoon grappa or , kirsch
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

For mixing in

  • 1/4 cup (40g) finely diced candied lemon, orange, or citron
  • 1/4 cup (40g) coarsely chopped shelled pistachios, (untoasted, or very lightly toasted)
  • Warm the half-and-half or cream with the sugar and salt in a small saucepan.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks.
  • Make an ice bath by nesting a metal or glass bowl in a larger bowl that’s partially filled with ice and some water. Set a mesh strainer over the top.
  • When the half-and-half mixture is very warm, gradually add it to the yolks, stirring constantly with a whisk as you pour (to avoid scrambling the eggs). Scrape the mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a heatproof spatula, just until the custard thickens and coats the spatula. (Do not boil.)
  • Immediately strain the custard into the bowl in the ice bath and stir until cool.
  • Pour the custard into a blender and add the honey, ricotta, and grappa or kirsch (if using). Puree in the blender until the mixture is very smooth, about 30 seconds. Pour the mixture into a container, cover, and chill thoroughly.
  • Add the lemon juice, then churn the ice cream in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. When done, stir in the candied citrus and nuts, and transfer to a container. Cover, and store in the freezer until ready to serve.


No-egg version: Blend 2 cups (500ml) ricotta with 1 cup (250ml) whole milk (or you can use half-and-half or heavy cream, for a creamier texture) with 1/2 cup (100g) sugar, 1/4 cup (80 honey) and 1 teaspoon of grappa of kirsch. Chill thoroughly, then add 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, and freeze in your ice cream maker, according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Fold in 1/4 cup/40g (each) candied fruit and pistachios when removing the churned from the machine.
Note that this version will become quite firm after spending some time in the freezer. If you make it in advance, plan on removing it from the freezer at least 10 minutes before serving it.

Related Posts

How to make ice cream without a machine

Tips for making homemade ice cream softer

The easiest chocolate ice cream ever

Candied (glazed) citron

Chocolate sherbet

Homemade ricotta cheese (Simply Recipes)

Vanilla ice cream

What is gelato?

Pine nut syndrome



    • Elizabeth Minchilli

    Just in time! I”m heading up to Umbria today, and will stop on the way to pick up some fresh ricotta. I may be adding chocolate instead of the candied citron though, since I’m obsessed lately with chocolate chip ice cream.

    • andree-anne @ singly scrumptious

    Great alternative to the standard ice Cream! That sounds totally scrumptious, sounds a bit like a frozen cherry cheese cake, yum!

    • Lauren

    Ooh I LOVE Ricotta! I sometimes eat it plain ;) but in ice cream form sounds WAY better. It sounds amazing I cannot wait to make some.

    • Mira

    I’ve always wanted to try ricotta ice cream and this recipe is the perfect one for me. Great call on the candied lemon(orange), it adds extra freshness!

    • Vicki Bensinger

    Yum, this sounds heavenly. I’ve never tried ricotta ice cream but will definitely give this a try. Great suggestions for swapping ingredients out.

    • Cecilia

    I am at the Jersey shore and I am making this today. We have a great source of Fresh Ricotta – Joe Leone’s, Point Pleasant Beach, NJ. But in a pinch when I can not make it myself or get it from Leone’s I drain the commercial one and put it in the food processor NOT a blender and it comes out like cream. Thanks for this recipe today!

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      I know that cream cheese in a blender turns to liquid, but have not had that experience with ricotta – so that’s interesting! I made this with fresh ricotta (in Sicily, right from the farm), then here in Paris with store-bought ricotta and it didn’t liquify. But I guess that’s also not an issue when churning it into ice cream. Lucky you to be able to get close to home!

    • diane

    HI, I love ricotta in everything and this sounds tempting! Did you try the Sfinci? i mean, yummy dougnuts made with ricotta that are served for breakfast in Sicily… I am so nostalgic for them today…


    Oh my gosh, how can you do this to us. I am salivating at my computer. This has to be out of this world. I wish I could have it for desert tonight but won’t be able to make it just now. What a treat. Thank you.

    • Karen

    There are some recipes I wish I’d never seen and this is one of them. It looks too delicious for words.

    Iran is wonderful; you should definitely go. The Shirazi ice cream is great! I had an amazing tour guide – Ariya Atashsoda – highly recommended.

    Now I’m going to try and put the idea of ricotta ice cream out of my mind or I will end up making three batches.

    By the way, I am enthralled by your wonderful cookbook.

    • Helene

    David, I love making ice cream but hesitate to do do as often as I’d like because I don’t have good ideas for using all those left over egg whites. What do you do with them? I’d especially love an idea for a savory item or toe to complement delicious ice cream

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      Yes, one generates a lot of egg whites when making ice cream. (Trust me, I know!) Check out my post: Recipes to use up leftover egg whites, for a bunch of suggestions for pastries and desserts that use only egg whites.

    • Katrina

    The dessert I had at Bistrot Paul Bert two months ago was cottage cheese ice cream with fresh strawberries. It was lovely, and I can imagine that this would be similar, no?

    • Angel Reyes

    I’m definitely making this. The sour cherries will start hitting my market soon, so it will be perfect! Thanks for sharing and guiding us through with helpful tips, man!

    • Sinead

    Funny, I was looking at ricotta in the supermarket just yesterday and wondering what I could make with it! I love this idea :-)

    • Laney (Ortensia Blu)

    Aside from the fact that this looks incredible, the word MANHATTAN jumped out – so have you come up with a Manhattan flavored ice cream recipe? Just sayin’….

    • genoa

    I just wanted to say about the fruits of summer (not to change the subject, but..)
    I made an easy mango peach tomato salsa last night to go on the protein du jour, it was 80 lean, 20 fat burgers, but tonight it will be shrimp and it does not matter a bit.
    One mango one peach, one half giant summer tomato, 1/4 red onion, salt, pepper, basil,olive oil and white balsamic vinegar.
    I chopped rough and pulsed a couple times each in the Cuise (enart) voila! and OMG
    thanks for the inspiration!

    • laline

    David, this ice cream looks delicious and inspiring to make! I love the tall footed metal sorbet/sundae dish in the photo. Where did you get it? It looks like a vintage piece. I started collecting metal dessert dishes too but the ones I’ve seen in the USA are much shorter.

    • Matea

    I love ice-cream and this one is no exception! I would probably substitute cherry compote for candied cherries, but both would be delicious!

    • ItalianGirlCooks

    Love ricotta and gelato…although 100% Sicilian, I always use eggs in my gelato. This one is so different and sounds and looks delicious.

    • amy

    This looks absolutely divine, thank you! I’ve eaten exactly one amarena cherry in my entire life to date–on top of pistachio ice cream at our favorite Italian place in Seattle–and it was nothing short of revelatory. Thanks for jogging my memory; I’ll have to seek these out!

    And as always, an ice cream maker sounds more and more reasonable every time I pull up your blog. Someday…

    • Steve Martin

    Well…I never!

    (but…maybe I should…)

    Baskin Robbins…eat your heart out!

    • kate

    mouth watering! i’ll make it!

    • Jessica A

    Does this recipe work for ricotta cheese in brine? I have quite amount of ricotta cheese in brine and was thinking what to do with it :(

    • Sarahb1313

    This is great!
    I do like the idea of the no egg version, though. Will be making it this next week!
    This week I made Dulce de Leche ice cream that turned out almost just like the Argentinian one that I dream about:
    1 1/2 cups each cream and milk, 1/2 cup sugar, vanilla bean, heated.
    2 cans Nestle Dulce de Leche, 380gm each. (If I could get a better quality I would use another, like Salmandra). Mixed in completely.
    Churn. When almost done, add about 2 ounces of semisweet chocolate, flaked/chopped with a knife.
    Oh, and 2 tablespoons of vodka.

    It was really sublime. You could certainly make it with home made Dulce de Leche too… I think you may know a bit about that!

    • J.S. @ Sun Diego Eats

    I imagine the extra fat in the ricotta helps make this less icy as well? They really need to start making freezers with an ice cream shelf where its slightly less cool so that homemade gelato or coconut milk ice cream is scoopable sans microwave or having to wait an agonizing 10 minutes before digging in.

    • Annabel Smyth

    Would you use your own recipe for ricotta cheese in this?

    • Ohiogirl

    OMG – you made spumoni!

    An amazingly high level version, but spumoni nonetheless : )

    • Cassidy Re

    Yuuuuummy! Although I might try a non-dried fruit version… Not really that kind of gal… But the pistachios and cherries too! Um yes!

    • Ana

    David, are there any good Persian restaurants around Paris? I’ve discovered so many interesting dishes (e.g. chicken cooked in pomegranate molasses with ground walnuts), I wish I could share them with you one by one! My most recent favorite is Mast-o-Musir (a thick, soft, creamy blend of yogurt and shallots).

    I suppose finding a place with good, authentic Persian food is the next best thing to a trip!

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      I’ve haven’t found any truly excellent Persian places in Paris, but Mazeh is not bad. (The ice cream, though, is quite good.) There are other Persian places on the rue des Enterpreneurs, but I haven’t been to them.

    • Dajana

    You just reminded me that I’ve been meaning to make ricotta ice cream for a while. I actually have made one in the past with pistacchio paste (bought in Sicily), but I want to make pure ricotta ice cream this time. I think I’ll try making eggless version based on this recipe , it was pretty good and scoopable even after 2 weeks in the freezer

    • ParisBreakfast

    Restaurant Cheminée, 60 bis rue des entrepreneurs isn’t bad either but perhaps the best Persian restaurants outside Iran are in LA.

    • Jeanne Horak-Druiff

    Oh I love this! It’s like a classier version of the ersatz cassata I loved so much as a child growing up in South Africa (although I had never even heard of a pistachio then, let alone tasted one!!)

    • vrinda

    Just checking

    Are there caps for the yogurt jars that one sees in the French marches ?
    I have brought back a few lovely colored jars but cannot reuse them without caps.
    Love to know if anyone else has managed to cover these pretty little things

    • Lonnie Rosenwald

    I’ve made tons of your ice cream recipes, and I really believe that this one is the best. I think putting the nuts in the ice cream, rather than sprinkling them over the top, as the recipes in The Perfect Scoop call for, is a good idea.

    • evy

    What a beautiful vessel (champagne coupe) for this glorious ice cream recipe.

    • Liz

    Thank you for posting this!! My all-time favorite gelato is the ricotta at Da Gianni in Bologna, where I studied 20 years ago! (gulp!) I will give this a try and see how it compares. (And I just made an almond ice cream with almond brittle, which I was very pleased with. Why not caramelize the pistachios here?)

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      Pistachios have a pretty delicate flavor, at least to me, and cooking or toasting them tends to make the flavor fade, unlike other nuts. So I prefer not to cook them. And if I have to toast them, I do it lightly. But you could certainly caramelize them or make a brittle, and use that.

    • Earlhayes

    I love ice cream and this recipe look awesome, definitely I try this. Thanks for Posting.

    • thefolia

    Love my gelato! I just tried chia ice cream (more like frozen custard) still not crazy about chia (happy that my little ones gobbled it up though.) This little bowl of sweetness might please me more especially when served in silver! Happy Nesting.

    • Katie

    I was surprised by how much I enjoy ricotta in sweets. Thanks for this recipe!

    • James

    Yummy, My Favourite ricotta ice cream.

    Thanks for Sharing the recipe too!

    • Anna

    Hi David

    I wanted to ask you which cream you use in France. I live in France and I made some vanilla ice-cream from your book last week, and used Crème Epaisse in a pouch from Elle et Vire which is 30% MG but while it was infusing, it split. I whisked it back together and the custard was ok albeit a little granular, but I didn’t have time to start again. I since bought some Yoplait Crème Fluide “très onctueuse” 30%MG in those white plastic bottles to try. What would you recommend?


      • David
      David Lebovitz

      It’s highly unusual to have heavy cream break (or split) when it’s being heated; the fat content usually prevents that. Which is why chefs add it to sauces; because it can be heated to higher temperatures than milk, which will curdle. In France, I use all kinds of cream, from Elle et Vire to the stuff sold in professional supply shops, to regular crème fluide from Monoprix. I’ve not had cream “break” when I’ve heated it in France, so I can’t advise what happened. But generally the higher the fat content, the more you can heat it. So look for cream with the highest fat content. (Most cream available to consumers in France has less fat than US cream.)

    • Jeff @ Cheese-burger

    In these last days of summer. I’m scrambling to get my hands on as many summer treats as I can. This dessert is probably the most delicious ice cream that I’ve ever tasted.

    • FHStowe

    I had great results from this recipe; we are fortunate to be able to get very good, very thick cream but not great ricotta so, since I too don’t have the fancy blender I put the ricotta through a very fine sieve and increased the cream a bit.

    For years I’ve made a simpler dessert which is similar to this and others might enjoy. It requires excellent ricotta, so when I do this I make the ricotta the day before. Drain it well, sweeten it lightly and stir in a spoonful of pear brandy, kirsch, marc, etc. Add fresh cherries, pitted and roughly halved, and shaved (vegetable peeler) dark chocolate. I have substituted preserved sour cherries, chopped dried apricots soaked in a little marc, and probably other things as well to extend the season for this a bit.


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