There’s a funny little scandal making its way through town this week. Our local gelato shop released a new flavour: gelato di melone or cantaloupe ice cream. Now that is cause for celebration around here! Our town is so small that hardly anything ever happens.
But not everyone was excited. As it turns out, the owner called his creation “gelato di popone”. Popone is a Tuscan dialect word for melon, but it also happens to be a not-very-nice nickname for one of our residents.
The timing couldn’t have been more perfect since the gelato maker and so called Popone had had a bit of an argument the week before over politics.
Suffice to say, when he saw photos of the gelato on Facebook, he got very upset and no one has been able to talk about anything in Manciano ever since!
So what does that have to do with my gelato di melone recipe? Nothing really. I had been meaning to make cantaloupe ice cream for the longest time. They don’t seem like much of a Tuscan fruit, but they absolutely adore them over here.
After persimmons, they’re Giulio’s all time favourite fruit and I routinely watch him and my parents-in-law demolish an entire cantaloupe at lunch throughout summer.
I can’t say I’m a fan. I’ll have a slice with prosciutto just to be garishly retro, but I don’t really go out of my way to eat cantaloupe on its own.
But since we had a million in the garden, I thought why not make my own gelato di melone recipe… sans the social media WWIII?
You can make an Italian gelato with absolutely any fruit. In Italy, fruit flavoured gelatos aren’t as popular as flavours like hazelnut, pistacchio and chocolate, but whenever you visit a really good gelateria, you’ll usually have a choice of 5 or 6 seasonal fruit gelatos.
The number one tip I’ve learnt from all my years living in Tuscany is that you can always tell the difference between a good gelateria and a bad one from the colour of its banana gelato. It should never be bright yellow, otherwise it’s not made from real bananas. And if the banana gelato isn’t made from real bananas, neither is any of the other gelatos.
Don’t be fooled by the sign “gelateria artigianale” either. It doesn’t really mean the gelato is homemade since the regulations on using the term are very loose and no one follows them anyway.
Another good tip is to look at home the gelato is being preserved. Those huge mountains of gelato look impressive, but they’re actually a sign that the gelato is full of preservatives. A real homemade gelato made from fresh fruit and milk is not going to be able to stand up in a tower.
But back to my gelato di melone recipe! If you can’t get to Italy this summer to try some gelato, you’re going to love my gelato di melone and and since it’s a no-churn recipe, you don’t need to have an ice cream maker either.
To be honest, I had a lovely ice cream maker, but I lost the little spatula that sits inside the bowl and churns the ice cream. I was heartbroken when I went to churn this gelato di melone and couldn’t find it. I’ve had that ice cream maker since I was like 12 and I had named it Snowy and it was a whole big thing.
But no churn ice cream is a lot easier to make then you might think and the final texture is very close to a properly churned ice cream. You just have to make sure you take it out of the freezer every half an hour and really break it up those ice crystals. If you don’t do that, your gelato di melone will be crunchy and icy like a granita. By breaking up the ice crystals as they form, you ensure your gelato is smooth and easy to scoop.
Since I’m not obsessed with cantaloupe like Giulio, I’ve pimped my gelato di melone with a little bit of mint and a hint of lime juice.
Cantaloupe is really sweet on its own, so you need the savoury hint of mint and the brightness of the lime to transform what would otherwise be a bit of a blah gelato into something spectacular.
For an extra touch of seasonal sweetness, I’m serving this with a strawberry salad. Now there’s a summer fruit I can get behind. I love strawberries.
But I picked up a tip from my mother in law. If you mix your chopped strawberries with a little icing sugar and leave them to macerate for about 30 minutes, they soften a little and you’re left with a deliciously sweet syrup that accentuates the flavour of the fruit.
I’ve tossed mine with a hint of my homemade elderflower liquor and a touch of freshly ground black pepper because I’m feeling incredibly retro this week!
gelato di melone recipe with strawberry salad and mint
1 cantaloupe, deseeded, flesh roughly chopped
1 cup sugar
juice of 1 lime
sprig of mint
For the strawberry salad
icing sugar, to taste
3 tablespoons elderflower liquor or cordial
mint leaves, to serve
Place the sugar and water in a small saucepan over high heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves and then simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the mint and leave to cool and infuse for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, blend the cantaloupe in small batches until smooth.
Remove the mint leaves from the sugar syrup and stir into the cantaloupe puree along with the lime juice. Pour into a loaf tin and freeze for 45 minutes.
Remove from the freezer and stir the mixture with a fork vigorously to break up all the ice crystals. Return to the freezer and repeat this process every 30 minutes until your melon gelato is frozen (about 2-3 hours).
For the strawberry salad, combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and leave to marinate for at least 30 minutes in the fridge. Add a pinch of freshly ground black pepper and mint leaves just before serving with your melon gelato on the side. Serves 8.
Tip: Take your melon gelato out of the freezer 10 minutes before serving. It’ll be easier to scoop.
Looking for more Summer dessert recipes? Try my Butterscotch cinnamon plums with limoncello custard or Mini mimosa pan di spagna (Italian sponge) cakes