Spending the week cooking from Molto Gusto by Mario Batali and Mark Ladner has been an absolute joy. I was able to replicate dishes from Otto and every recipe I tried tasted nearly identical to the restaurant original—not a small feat considering the most restaurant cookbooks have a tendency to dumb down their recipes for the ease of home cooks.
I waited until the end of the week to test out the recipe that I was most excited (and curious) about, olive oil gelato. The gelato at Otto is made by Meredith Kurtzman, and is worth a trip on its own. The gelato flavors rotate seasonally and are without fail some of the best in the city, but the olive oil gelato is a constant and my desert island dessert. The texture is always perfectly creamy, with haunting notes of fruit and pepper from the oil.
This recipe motivated me to go out and purchase an ice cream maker. I figured if I could make a passable version of Kurtzman's gelato it would make a very worthwhile investment.
The base for the gelato is a custard made from milk, cream, egg yolks, salt, and vanilla. It's heated and thickens quite rapidly, so constant stirring is a must. Once the base is cooled it's transferred to the ice cream maker and frozen halfway before the olive oil is added.
When choosing an olive oil for this recipe, go with the good stuff—the flavor of the gelato depends entirely on it. I chose an oil from Umbria for its notes of pepper and bitter almond.
The gelato froze thick and creamy and upon first taste it was bright with all of the flavors from the olive oil. This recipe makes about a quart and a half of gelato which might seem like a bit excessive but somehow I don't think that there will be any problem finishing it, especially when drizzled with a little more olive oil and sprinkled with Maldon sea salt.
- 3 1/2 cups milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 vanilla bean, split, or 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup sugar
- 10 large egg yolks
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
- Maldon or other flaky sea salt
Combine the milk and cream in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan and bring just to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from the heat.
If using a vanilla bean, scrape the seeds from the bean with a paring knife and add the seeds to the hot milk. Cover and let steep for 30 minutes.
Add 3/4 cup of the sugar to the milk and bring just to a simmer over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks, the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, and the salt together in a medium heatproof bowl. Gradually whisk in about 1 cup of the hot milk mixture, then return the mixture to the saucepan and cook, stirring constantly with a heatproof spatula or a wooden spoon, until the custard registers 185°F on an instant-read thermometer.
Immediately strain the custard through a fine-mesh strainer into a heatproof bowl. Stir in the vanilla extract, if using, and chill over an ice bath, stirring occasionally, until cold. Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours, or, preferably, overnight.
Freeze the gelato in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions, stopping to add the olive oil about halfway through the freezing process. Pack into a freezer container and freeze for at least 1 hour before serving. (The gelato is best served the day it is made.)
Sprinkle a few flakes of Maldon salt and drizzle a stripe or two of olive oil over each serving of gelato.