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I am a bit of a gelato addict. I have been for several decades, since the days when there was a tub Peter’s Neapolitan icecream in the freezer of the family home. As a child, I always ate the pink ice cream and my sister ate the vanilla (I am not sure what became of the chocolate). In spite of whimsical childhood memories of pink ice cream, the flavour was probably quite ordinary compared to the quality you can find these days. To feed my addiction I buy tubs of ice cream at the local shop, Gundowring ice-cream made in north-east Victoria with milk from their own Holstein cows and other locally sourced ingredients being on the top of my list. Living in the inner north of Melbourne, I am totally spoilt for gelaterie (ice cream parlours) as I live a few kilometres from Gelato Messina, the Spring Street Grocer and the newly opened Pidapipo‘. And then there is always my Cuisinart Gelateria….

dulce de leche gelato-Italy on my mind

What I love about having my own ice cream maker is the sheer joy (and convenience) of making gelato at home. I love the science of churning and freezing that makes a creamy liquid into the most delightful dessert ever invented. The Italians are considered gelato masters and take gelato making very seriously (there is even a Gelato University in Bologna). However you don’t need to go to university to make a decent home made gelato. There are several good books that teach you how to make it. Top of my list is David Leibovitz’ The perfect scoop, Giorgio Locatelli’s Made in Italy, food and stories (which is a cookbook but has a useful section on making gelato) and Caroline and Robin Weir’s Ice creams, sorbets and gelati.

The two main kinds of creamy gelato are either custard based (with egg yolks) or “Philadelphia” style (without eggs). The non-egg version is a whole lot easier than the custard ice creams, which are delicious but somewhat nerve-wracking (I live in eternal fear of ‘scrambling’ the eggs during the process). So I couldn’t have been happier when I found that the recipe for my favourite dulce de leche gelato in both the Leibovitz and Weir books is made without eggs.

Italy on my mind-dulce de leche gelato

Dulce de leche, hugely popular in South America, literally means “sweet of milk”. And it is just amazing as a flavour of an ice cream. To make dulce de leche, you take a can of condensed milk and boil it for a couple of hours and when it has cooled, you open the tin and like magic, the sweet milk has turned a golden caramel colour. The recipe below is simple and seriously delicious – a sweet, smooth and creamy caramel delight. I will probably end up taking it to Christmas lunch, hardly traditional but really really good. Probably perfect for a summer Christmas in the Southern Hemisphere.

Italy on my mind-dulce de leche ice cream gelato

Dulce de leche gelato

1 can condensed milk (Nestle or Carnation)
1 and 1/2 cups full cream milk
1/4 cup soft brown sugar (loosely packed)
1/2 tsp good quality vanilla essence
1 cup thickened cream

To make the dulce de leche place a tin of condensed milk in a large pot of cold water, bring to the boil and simmer the covered pot for two hours (making sure the tin is always covered with water by adding more water as needed). Wait until the tin has cooled completely (eg. overnight) before using. You can also find tins of pre-prepared dulce de leche, so you can use these if you like.

Place the contents of the tin, milk, vanilla and sugar in a medium sized pot over low heat. Once it is quite hot, give the mixture a really good whisk so that the dulce de leche is well incorporated into the milk. Place the mixture, which should be homogeneous, into a bowl and allow to cool. Then cover and place in the fridge for 4-6 hours (overnight is best). When thoroughly chilled, add the cold thickened cream and churn in your ice cream maker until the desired consistency is reached. Chill in a lidded ice cream container in the freezer. It is best served after about an hour in the freezer.


  • Jo O'mara says:

    Definitely trying! Am making my way through the Gelato Messina book…..bought the stabiliser fromMelbourne good depot Lygon st Brunswick..

    • Ah i have never used stabiliser to make gelato, intrugued to find out more…

    • Karen says:

      Hi Jo , I started reading the Gelato Messina book. When it talked about how critical the temperature of the freezer was, it put me off. Do you use a normal domestic freezer?
      This recipe sounds yummy Paula.

      • I have not looked at the Gelato Messina book yet – interesting about the freezer temperature, I think it would put me off too! Glad you like the recipe Karen

  • salcollins says:

    Hi Paola, can I ask you something about this recipe? Do you put the condensed milk in cold water and then bring to the boil or does the water need to be hot first? Sally x

    • Hi Sally, I put it in cold water and bring it to the boil. I hope you are well and planning a lovely Christmas with your family xx PS hoe are the figs going?!

      • Hi Paola, thank you, I think I will try and make a batch of this ice-cream for Xmas. Wish me luck! The figs are starting to ripen slowly. The birds are eyeing them off. I don’t mind if they eat the top ones but I think the bats are into them at night time as well. Never mind, there are plenty to go around. As soon as there are enough ripe ones, I’ll get them to you. I hope you and your family have a lovely day on Xmas. I bet there will be some beautiful dishes served up. Sally xx

  • You’ve mentioned my two top ice cream books – Leibovitz and the Weirs! Leibovitz’s blog also has some seriously good gelato/ice cream recipes not contained in his book. This recipe looks easy and delicious and just perfect for the holidays. Buon Natale!

  • missemzyy says:

    I too used to eat all the pink neapolitan ice cream as a kid! Your gelato looks so creamy and delicious! Perfect for summer! 🙂

  • salcollins says:

    Hi Paola, the ice-cream was a big hit yesterday. Thank you for the recipe. It also inspired me to order David Leibovitz’s book. Hope you and your family had a lovely day. Sally xx

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