Homemade Strawberry Gelato: All Grown Up with Balsamic & Black Pepper

Casey Barber | Good. Food. Stories.

This subtly flavored strawberry gelato, with hints of balsamic vinegar and black pepper, adds a subtle taste of grown-up savoriness to our favorite nostalgic summer dessert.

Strawberry Gelato Photo

Though it's not the textbook definition, I like to think of gelato as a perfectly good excuse for grown-ups to eat ice cream. It is, after all, basically the same thing, just with an Italian name. And this subtly flavored strawberry gelato, with hints of balsamic vinegar and black pepper, adds just the right amount of adult savoriness to our favorite nostalgic summer treat.

Strawberries and balsamic vinegar are a classic Italian combination. Adding a drizzle of to a bowl of ripe berries is the lazy host's way to pull together a summer dessert that feels and oh so cosmopolitan - make sure to bust out the good stuff from Modena or Reggio Emilia so your guests know you're making the effort. But turning the classic flavor pairing into gelato (the Italian word for "frozen") takes things up a notch. The agrodolce, or sweet-and-sour, vinegar and the spicy bite of black peppers subtly infuse the creamy dessert. Instead of the cloying sweetness of typical ice cream, each taste of this gelato has a hauntingly satisfying finish.

Strawberry Gelato Picture

(Science lesson! The main difference between gelato and ice cream is in the amount of butterfat; gelato contains no more than 8 percent, while ice cream can't contain less than 10 percent butterfat and still be called "ice cream," according to the USDA. When churned and frozen in true gelato-making equipment, less air is pumped into the creamy base than with commercial ice cream equipment, minimizing the size of the ice crystals being formed and making gelato simultaneously denser and softer than higher-fat ice creams.)

Don't bother hunting down an expensive gelato maker to whip up the following recipe; it'll taste just as good in your run-of-the-mill model, though it will be slightly harder than professionally-made gelato after fully freezing. Just leave it out on the counter a few minutes to soften up before scooping.

Oh yeah, and because Italian gelato is traditionally made in small batches, it's meant to be consumed within a few days of its making. So don't feel guilty about how quickly this quart of strawberry gelato disappears!

Strawberry Gelato Recipe

    8 Servings


  • 1 1/2 cups Whole Milk
  • 4 Large Egg Yolks, large
  • 3/4 cup Granulated Sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups Heavy Cream
  • 1 cup Strawberry Purée, with second cup from Strawberry Purée Recipe reserved for topping
  • 1 teaspoon Black Pepper, freshly ground
  • 1 teaspoon Balsamic Vinegar


  1. Heat the milk in a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat just until steaming, with bubbles forming around the edge of the pan. While the milk heats, whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a large mixing bowl by hand or with an electric mixer on low speed until the yolks are thickened and pale.
  2. Add the hot milk to the thickened egg yolks in a slow, steady stream while whisking constantly to make a custard base; I find this easiest to do by first pouring the hot milk into a heat-safe liquid measuring cup with a pour spout, then into the egg yolks.
  3. Return the custard base to the saucepan and place over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring constantly with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon, for about 7-10 minutes until the custard starts to thicken and become opaque. When your spatula starts to “skid” across the slippery, thin layer of custard on the bottom of the pan, you’ll know you’re about a minute away from doneness.
  4. Strain the custard with a fine-mesh metal strainer into a clean bowl and add the cream, 1 cup strawberry puree, pepper, and balsamic vinegar. Whisk to thoroughly mix the ingredients, then cover and chill for at least 8 hours.
  5. When the gelato base is fully chilled, freeze in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer the frozen gelato to a freezer-safe container with a lid and freeze for at least 4 more hours to harden.
  6. Serve with the reserved strawberry puree.


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Casey Barber

About Casey

Casey loves the Mets, Pittsburgh, and all things food, which she writes about on Good. Food. Stories. She's sharing her heritage and authentic Italian recipes as our Italian Fanatic.