20 Years of Watermelon Gelato

St. Peter's Basilica

My husband and I just celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary. This year’s celebration had to be very low-key as he suffers from leukemia and will be undergoing chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant soon. But one thing that has always remained a constant in our marking of the day has been homemade watermelon gelato. How that tradition came to be is a story that is very special to me, and I’d like to share it with you, along with the recipe.

Our honeymoon to France and Italy overflowed with art, history, culture, and culinary pleasures, and one of the latter was the watermelon gelato we ate, no, experienced, at a gelateria across from the Trevi Fountain in Rome. (I hope that place is still there.) As we sat on the steps of an ancient church, also across from Trevi Fountain, and ate our gelato, we decided, once we returned home, to try to re-create the recipe with our new ice cream maker. It took a lot of experimentation. For instance, you can’t put too much pureed watermelon in as that is essentially water and will make the gelato ice-cube hard. Now I can’t promise that what we came up with tastes exactly like the stuff at the Trevi Fountain gelateria, but it is yummy stuff and has stood the test of time at our house every August for 20 years.

2 cups 2% milk

3/4 cup sugar

1 T. cornstarch

1/8 tsp. salt

2 eggs, separated

1 cup whipping cream

1/2 of a 3-oz. package of watermelon Jello

2 cups pureed watermelon

Combine sugar, cornstarch, and salt in medium saucepan. Add milk and heat to very hot. Refrigerate egg whites for later. Beat egg yolks. Add one cup hot mixture to egg yolks, stirring constantly. Add all back into milk mixture and heat on medium, stirring constantly, to 160 degrees F. Cool two hours to overnight. Strain custard mixture. Beat egg whites till stiff peaks form. Whip cream, and add egg whites and cream to custard mixture. Add Jello and watermelon puree. Freeze in ice cream maker. Ripen in freezer. Enjoy a small taste of Italy!


  1. Happy anniversary Shelly! There’s definitely something special about true Italian gelato, although we never tried watermelon (lots of other flavors though – the favorite depends on who you ask.)

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