Sicilian Ice Cream, A History Full of Sweet Surprises

If you want to learn more about Sicilian ice cream, you must know, first of all, that ice cream is only Sicilian, even the one you tasted from your favorite ice-cream man!

This delicious dessert was indeed, invented in Sicily and, afterward, spread all over the world. To discover more about history, recipes, particular styles and ingredients of Sicilian ice cream, follow this tasty post!

Sicilian Ice Cream: What Is It?

The homemade ice cream is the real pride of Sicily. It comes from a tradition handed down from generation to generation. The preparation of Sicilian ice cream dates back to the Arab domination which influenced Sicily cooking very much.

To prepare the ancient ancestor of ice cream, snow was stored in the so called neviere, a sort of holes dug in particular zones of Etna mount. This ice cream was, then, seasoned with honey, fruit and juices.

Sicilian Ice Cream History

The history of ice cream is Sicilian. We have some traces of this pastry in the Bible, where ice cream is mentioned in the story of Abraham. Hence, we can say that Sicilian ice cream arrived straight from to Bible to the island!

Moreover, the creation of ice cream is due to a Sicilian, cook Francesco Procopio Cutò, who invented an original and exclusive recipe in 1686: he replaced honey with sugar and added salt and ice to make the ice cream last longer.

Cutò moved to Paris, where opened his Cafè Procope, the first literary club in Europe. Even Voltaire loved his ice cream!

Sicilian Ice Cream Ingredients and Flavours

There are tons of Sicilian ice cream ingredients and different flavours. Lemon, pistachio absolutely from Bronte, almonds only from Avola, Modican chocolate, strawberries, milk cream and other fruit creams are the main ingredients and flavours of the Sicilian ice cream.

Other flavours are stracciatella, hazelnut and black- berry. Stracciatella is a particular type of cream streaked with chopped pieces of the main ingredient.

For example, chocolat stracciatella is made with milk cream and small pieces of dark chocolate, the one with pistachio is made with small pieces of chopped pistachio sprinkled on pistachio cream, the one of hazelnut follows the same style: hazelnut cream mixed with chopped hazelnut.

Styles and Types of Sicilian Ice Cream

Sicilian stud ice cream, spongato, pezzo duro, tronchetto. What they are? Those are the most popular types of ice cream in Sicily. Another popular Sicilian ice cream is known as Sicilian ice cream sandwich. It is made with spongy dough called brioche.

That is just the brioche you eat with Sicilian granita, also, but in this case, it is stuffed with this delicious icy cream. The latter is a special type of ice cream you find in all the Sicilian ice-cream shops. It is also called “scursunera”, which means jasmine, a flavor recalling the best Sicily’s tradition.

If you found yourself in Palermo, you must also taste the afore mentioned” pezzo duro”, “tough piece”, namely squared slices of multiflavor ice cream such as the traditional “giardinetto” (little garden in English) with strawberry, lemon and pistachio.

Spongato ice cream is the one you can taste in a small cardboard cup. To enhance the icy flavor, Sicilian pastry chefs place spongato ice cream in a metal cup. The latter is my favorite ice cream. There is also stud ice cream, namely the traditional sweet you can eat in starchy dough with the shape of a cone.

This dough is always prepared with wheat flour. I don’t know Sicilian pastry chefs who prepare it with cornstarch. Another delicious type of Sicily’s ice cream is the stunning tronchetto (see the image below).

That is not the sweet roll with biscuits, but only an ice cream with the similar shape you can create placing the creamy ingredients in a narrow rectangular mold to keep in the freezer.

Another traditional Sicily ice cream is with cake. Usually this dessert has the shape of the legendary Sicilian cassata cake, but unlike that, Sicily ice cream cake is an iced sweet.

Sicilian ice cream cake is usually made with mignon cassata cakes (see the image). You can find them in many Sicily’s pastry shops. The round dough imitates the cake, but it is simply a pastry stuffed with ice cream with has the same colors, flavors and ingredients of the traditional cassata.

Some ice cream lovers mistaken Sicilian ice cream spongato with spumonis. In reality, spumonis are a traditional ice cream of the South of Italy, but not from Sicily.

They were invented in Naples. Spumone derives from the word “foam”. That is an ice cream made with different layers of cream with different tastes and colors.

In Sicily, spumonis are made with ice cream, whipped cream, nuts and candied fruits. Usually they are berries, such as little strawberries or mulberries and blackberries.

Sicilian Ice Cream for Breakfast

You can eat the ice cream of Sicily for breakfast, because it is a nutritious and complete meal. The ice cream with brioche is just a good fit for the most important meal of morning. Sicilian ice cream is always an amazing burst of flavors, where you can add several kinds of fruits, nuts and creams.

Sicilian Ice Cream Recipes

It is not so easy discussing about the recipe of the Sicilian ice cream, because there is not only a recipe, but dozens of recipes depending on the type of ingredients we use.

Hence, I preferred discussing about the most popular recipes to make an authentic and homemade Sicilian ice cream.

The ones you’ll find in the following paragraphs are the recipes of Sicilian lemon ice cream, ice cream cake with ricotta cheese and pistachio ice cream.

Sicilian Lemon Ice Cream Recipe

Sicilian lemon ice cream is one of those timeless flavors which always have a special room in ice cream shops. It is also the most popular ice cream for summer and the quickest and easiest ice cream recipe you can prepare at home.

It is very important you use organic lemons because, here, you’ll need to use the lemon peel.

For a 4 person lemon ice cream recipe, you need:

  • 3 lemons
  • 150 grams of caster sugar
  • 1 albumen

Wash and dry lemons, grate the peel and place into a bowl. Pour a water glass, cover and leave to infuse for a night. After that, filter the liquid and mix the lemon juice, filter through a colander and add up to 5 dl of water. Add sugar and simmer until the mixture boils.

Cool it and pour the mixture in an ice cream maker. As soon as it started thickening, add the whipped albumen. Complete the work with the ice cream maker and place in the freeze before serving it.

If you want to prepare this Sicilian lemon ice cream without ice cream maker, pour the compound in a bowl to place into another larger bowl with ice and salt. The salt makes ice cream last longer and helps you keep the same temperature while you blend it. In short, that is the same process of the ice cream maker.

At this stage, add the whipped albumen and blend the mixture continuously with an electric hand blender. When you obtained a creamy mixture, put it in the freezer until the moment it will be served.

Sicilian Ice Cream Cake Recipe

To prepare a delicious Sicilian ice cream cake made with ricotta cheese, you need:

  • 6 eggs
  • 85 grams of flour
  • 200 grams of sugar
  • 500 grams of ricotta cheese
  • 85 g of dark chocolate
  • Candied cherries and almonds
  • Citrus peels
  • Whipped cream
  • Maraschino
  • Leavening flour
  • Genovese pasta

Whip sugar and yolks until they have become spongy and clear, whip albumen and add them to the previous mixture. Sieve flour in a bowl and pour the compound into it.

Place into a cake mold and cook in the oven at 180 degrees for 30 minutes. After that, remove the cake, place it on a grill and leave it cooling.

For the stuffing: stir the ricotta cheese with sugar and 425 ml of maraschino, then, add dark chocolate and candied fruit.

Cut Genovese pasta into strips with a width of 1.25 cm and use the remaining part to coat the bottom and sides of a cake mold of 900 grams. Place the stuffing into the cake mold and flat it.

Cover it with the previous strips, spray further drops of maraschino and keep in the fridge for the entire night. The day after, place the cake into a plate and coat the sides and the surface with whipped cream. Decorate with almonds, cherries and citrus peels.

If you want to obtain the shape of a tronchetto ice cream, place the cake in a rectangular mold and keep in the freezer, instead.

Sicilian Pistachio Ice Cream Recipe

A traditional Sicilian ice cream recipe is the one with pistachio from Bronte.

To prepare the recipe for 4 persons, you need:

  • 100 grams of Bronte pistachios
  • 250 ml of milk
  • 100 grams of sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 350 ml of fresh whipped cream
  •  A pinch of vanilla

Toast pistachios lightly and chop them as finely as possible. Add them to heated milk and leave to infuse for 30 minutes. Whip the egg yolks with sugar until when they become creamy.

Add them to the mixture of milk and pistachios along with a pinch of vanilla. Simmer the mixture and as soon as the cream started thickening add the whipped cream and blend it completely.

When the mixture is completely amalgamated, pour it into in the ice cream maker for 8, 10 minutes. After the completion of this step, decorate the surface of your ice cream with further chopped pistachio and keep in the freezer.

You can use this procedure to prepare chocolate ice cream, for instance. In this case, add dark chocolate cream to milk instead of pistachio.

Many people also search for Sicilian lemon and mascarpone ice cream, but this is not a recipe from Sicily and seen that here I talk only about the authentic Sicilian ice cream, I am very sorry to disappoint you.


I hope you enjoyed this delicious parade of Sicilian ice cream recipes. By the way: the Italian name of this dessert is gelato, it is a very national delicacy and a real cult in Sicily.

The name of ice cream is “gilatu” in Sicilian and brings with itself the entire warm of my wonderful island. Sicilian ice cream is different from granita. The latter has the texture of small pieces of chopped ice, while ice cream is more fluid and creamy.

If you have been so lucky to taste it, let me know!

Photocredits in order of appearance:



6 thoughts on “Sicilian Ice Cream, A History Full of Sweet Surprises

  1. Maddalena Combs

    Thank you for this gr and its invention in Sicily. I must try a recipe this summereat story on ice cream, and its invention in Sicily. I must try a recipe this summer. Brings back many memories.

    1. Rosalba Mancuso

      Thank you, Maddalena, for your kind comment and for appreciating the history of the Sicilian ice-cream. Yes, this ancient recipe brings back many memories. I hope you’ll prepare and enjoy the traditional Sicilian ice-cream, this summer.


    What do you mean albumen– are you talking about egg whites? pasteurized egg white or something else

    1. Rosalba Mancuso Post author

      Hi Gerald, I mean egg whites. When I wrote the article, some sources suggested me ‘albumen’.
      But, you are right to ask this question. The proper term is egg whites.

  3. Hayate

    Buon anno Rosalba! Grazie for sharing some gelato recipes and the interesting some history about it. I recently bought a 1 litre ice-cream maker (with a compressor) to make gelato from home. Do you know of any Sicilian authentic cookbooks I can buy to make traditional Sicilian gelato. Or an Sicilian website that has more recipes?

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