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Spumoni Ice Cream is a triple threat of flavor inspired by the traditional Italian recipe! Made with three different kinds of delicious, creamy homemade ice cream, you will need an ice cream maker for this one. But the end result is to-die-for!
Ciao, bella! Today we’re off to Italy. Or, nearly, with this supremely delicious, extra creamy, Italian-inspired dessert. My homemade spumoni ice cream brings together three different varieties of ice cream, in an easy recipe that’s literally a triple threat of color and flavor. It’s one of my favorite ice cream recipes for the ice cream maker, but it does take some overnight prep, so let’s get started.
What is Spumoni?
Traditional spumoni is an Italian dessert, falling somewhere between a sorbet and ice cream. Technically, it’s a gelato – creamier than a sorbet, as it’s made with added dairy like milk or buttermilk, yet less creamy than ice cream. Spumoni is traditionally made in three colors, or layers, hardened in the freezer before serving. Sometimes it is served in a terrine or bombe, other times it is served as you see here, in scoops of ice cream with three distinct flavors/colors.
I like to serve spumoni ice cream with a dollop of whipped cream and a cherry on top, just like they do at the Old Spaghetti Factory. This US-based Italian chain restaurant is where I first tasted spumoni ice cream as a child.
What 3 Flavors Are in Spumoni?
The three flavors in classic spumoni ice cream are pistachio ice cream, cherry ice cream and either chocolate or vanilla ice cream. When made with vanilla ice cream, the three colors – green, red and white – represent the Italian flag.
I’ve included the ingredients you’ll need for the three varieties of ice cream. For full amounts and details, please see the recipe card further down in the post.
For the Cherry Ice Cream
- Cherries – You’ll need pitted and quartered fresh cherries when making the ice cream. I also like to toss in some chopped candied cherries as the ice cream finishes up in the machine, for extra flavor. That part is optional!
- Lemon Juice – Lemon brightens the fruity flavors.
- Sugar – Since this recipe calls for the ice cream mixtures to be blended ahead of time, regular granulated sugar will have time to dissolve.
- Whole Milk – For the creamiest ice cream, I opt for whole milk instead of alternatives with a lower fat content.
- Heavy Cream – Also a major player in creamy homemade ice cream!
- Vanilla Extract – For the best flavor, I highly recommend using real vanilla extract and not imitation vanilla.
For the Chocolate Ice Cream
- Cocoa Powder – I use unsweetened Dutch cocoa powder.
- Brown Sugar – For the caramelized flavor.
- Whole Milk
- Heavy Cream
- Vanilla Extract
For the Pistachio Ice Cream
- Whole Milk
- Heavy Cream
- Vanilla Extract
- Almond Extract – Adding almond extract in addition to vanilla brings a rich, nutty flavor to the ice cream.
- Pistachios – You can either buy raw pistachios that are already shelled, or shell them yourself. Then give them a rough chopping.
- Green Food Coloring – Optional for the color, see the note below!
Do I Have to Use Green Food Coloring?
Adding food coloring to your pistachio ice cream is optional. Doing so enhances the green color for that authentic ice cream parlor look! However, it’s purely cosmetic and the flavor will remain the same if you choose to skip the coloring.
Can I Just Make One Flavor?
For sure, if you don’t want to make spumoni ice cream with all 3 layers you could just make chocolate ice cream, just make cherry ice cream or just make the pistachio ice cream. Using the ingredient amounts in the recipe card below, each of these ice creams will make a small batch of homemade ice cream.
How to Make Spumoni Ice Cream
This recipe is a two-day affair because of the chilling and churning involved, and so worth it!
Begin by placing the freezer bowl of your ice cream maker at the back of the freezer overnight. You’ll also prepare the ice cream mixtures the night before – making your ice cream mixtures ahead will leave them enough time to chill while the flavors develop. Here’s how to get started:
- Prep the cherries. Allow the pitted cherries to macerate for a couple of hours, then strain and reserve the juice. Puree half the cherries in a food processor.
- Make the cherry ice cream mixture. In a bowl, combine the whole milk and sugar, followed by the heavy cream, cherry juice, cherry puree, remaining chopped cherries and vanilla. Once everything is combined, pop the bowl into the fridge, covered, to chill overnight.
- Make the chocolate ice cream mixture. Next, prepare the chocolate ice cream by combining the cocoa powder and both sugars, then mix in the milk. Once the sugar and cocoa has dissolved, add in the heavy cream and vanilla. Cover and refrigerate this mixture also.
- Prep the pistachios. Gently toast the raw, chopped pistachios in a skillet for a few minutes, until browned and fragrant. Leave them to cool.
- Make the pistachio ice cream mixture. Combine the milk and sugar, followed by the heavy cream, vanilla, almond extract, and food coloring if you’re using. Stir in some of the toasted pistachios, saving the remaining nuts for when you’ll make the ice cream. Cover the mixture and store it in the fridge.
The following day, when your ice cream mixtures have chilled overnight and your ice cream maker bowl is frozen, it’s time to get started on your spumoni ice cream:
- Churn the cherry ice cream. Add the cherry mixture to your freezer bowl. Not all ice cream makers are the same, so follow the instructions for your machine to run the ice cream for about 20 minutes. If you’re including candied cherry pieces, add these in during the last few minutes of churning. Transfer the finished ice cream to another bowl to store in the freezer.
- Churn the chocolate ice cream. Repeat the churning process with the chocolate ice cream mixture, then transfer the finished ice cream to the freezer.
- Freeze ice cream maker bowl again. At this point, your freezer bowl may need refreezing. If needed, pop it back into the freezer for a couple of hours while you get things organized for your pistachio ice cream.
- Strain pistachio mixture. Pass your pistachio mixture through a mesh strainer and into a bowl, and discard the soaked pistachios.
- Churn the pistachio ice cream. Once your freezer bowl is ready for action, churn the pistachio ice cream in the ice cream maker. As it nears the end of the churning time, add in the rest of the chopped and toasted pistachios that were set aside the day before.
- Assemble the spumoni ice cream & freeze. Scoop alternating flavors of ice cream into a baking pan to create a “swirled” effect. Continue until the dish is filled completely, then cover the spumoni ice cream and place the whole dish into the freezer. After about 2-4 hours the ice cream should be firm – time to scoop and enjoy!
What Does an Ice Cream Maker Do?
A household ice cream maker turns a custard base (milk, cream, egg yolks, and sugar) into frozen ice cream by chilling and churning. A spinning paddle churns the ice cream, plus any flavorings, to create a light, airy textured ice cream.
This is in contrast to no churn ice cream, another style of homemade ice cream made without the need of an ice cream maker. Check out my recipes for no churn bourbon vanilla ice cream and no churn strawberry ice cream.
Tips for Success
Here are some quick tips for making the best spumoni ice cream at home:
- Use pre-roasted pistachios. This can save a bit of time, but make sure to use the ones that are either unsalted or lightly salted.
- Save any extra ice cream. If you’re left with leftovers after your baking dish is completely filled, store any extra ice cream in an airtight container to freeze.
- Fast-forward as needed. If you’re short on time and can’t leave your ice cream mixtures to steep overnight, it’s fine to skip this step in a pinch. Just bear in mind that the flavors won’t develop to their full potential (especially the pistachio ice cream)!
- For the quickest and creamiest results. Make sure that your three ice cream flavors are kept chilled right up until they’re added into the ice cream maker freezer bowl.
- Serving suggestions. Serve your spumoni ice cream in a cone topped with chopped pistachios, or parlor-style in a dish with whipped cream and a cherry.
Frequently Asked Questions
Fun fact: Neapolitan ice cream is inspired by spumoni! Neapolitan is the Americanized version, featuring the (much more) American flavors of vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry ice cream.
The pink color and pink flecks you see in traditional spumoni is from the cherries (both the juices and the macerated cherry bits!).
Storing Homemade Ice Cream
Store your spumoni ice cream in an airtight container in the freezer for up to one month. When it comes to homemade ice cream, it’s a good idea to take some precautions to prevent freezer burn. See below for tips!
Preventing Freezer Burn
When storing homemade ice cream in a container, I like to blanket the surface of the ice cream with saran wrap before closing the lid. This minimizes the formation of ice crystals that can lead to premature freezer burn.
Spumoni Ice Cream
Cherry Ice Cream
- 1 ½ cups fresh cherries, pitted and quartered
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- ¾ cups sugar, divided
- ¾ cups whole milk
- 1 ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- ¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ cup candied cherries, roughly chopped *optional
Chocolate Ice Cream
- ½ cup unsweetened dutch cocoa powder
- ⅓ cup sugar
- ¼ cup brown sugar, firmly packed
- ¾ cups whole milk
- 1 ½ cup heavy cream
- ½ tablespoon vanilla extract
Pistachio Ice Cream
- ½ cup + 3 tablespoons whole milk
- ½ cup + 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 ½ cup heavy cream
- ¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon almond extract
- ¾ cup shelled raw pistachios, roughly chopped, divided
- 3-5 drops of green food coloring
- Whipped cream
- Maraschino cherries
- Prep your tools the night before. The night before you plan to serve your ice cream, be sure your ice cream maker freezer bowl is frozen. Store in the back of your freezer where the temperature is coldest.
- Prep the ice cream mixtures the night before. You will also make the ice cream mixtures the night before. This allows them to chill and for the flavors to develop overnight.
- Prep the cherries. In a small bowl, combine pitted and quartered cherries with lemon juice and 1/4 cup of sugar. Stir to combine and allow the cherries to macerate in the juices for about 2 hours. Strain the cherries over a bowl and reserve the juice, set aside. In a high speed blender, puree half of the cherries, set aside.
- Make the cherry ice cream mixture. In a medium bowl, using a hand mixer on low speed, combine whole milk and 1/2 cup of sugar. Mix until combined, about 2-3 minutes. Stir in heavy cream, reserved juice, cherry puree, chopped cherries and vanilla. Cover bowl and place in refrigerator to cool overnight.
- Make the chocolate ice cream mixture. In a medium bowl, stir together coco powder, sugar and brown sugar until combined. Using a hand mixer on low speed, add in whole milk and combine until the coco and sugars have dissolved, about 2 minutes. Add in heavy cream and vanilla, mix until combined. Cover and refrigerate.
- Prep the pistachios. Toast raw pistachios in a dry medium pan on medium-low heat for 3-4 minutes. Pistachios should be slightly browned and start to give off a nutty aroma. Set aside to cool.
- Make the pistachio ice cream mixture. In a medium bowl, using a hand mixer on low speed, combine whole milk and sugar. Mix until combined, about 2-3 minutes. Stir in heavy cream, vanilla, almond extract, food coloring and 1/2 cup of the roasted pistachios. Cover and refrigerate. Reserve remaining roasted pistachios in an air tight container until ready to make ice cream.
- The next day. After your ice cream maker bowl has frozen overnight and your ice cream mixtures have chilled overnight, it's time to make the spumoni ice cream.
- Churn the cherry ice cream. Using the instructions on your ice cream maker, add the cherry mixture to your freezer bowl and run for 20-25 minutes. The ice cream should be the consistency of soft serve. In the final 5 minutes of churning your ice cream, add in chopped candied cherries (optional). Add cherry ice cream to a medium bowl and place back in freezer.
- Churn the chocolate ice cream. Using the instructions on your ice cream maker, add the chocolate mixture to your freezer bowl and run for 20-25 minutes. The ice cream should be the consistency of soft serve. Add chocolate ice cream to a medium bowl and place back in freezer.
- Freeze ice cream maker bowl again. You may need to refreeze your freezer bowl at this point. Put it back in the freezer for 1-2 hours.
- Strain pistachio mixture. While you are waiting for your freezer bowl to chill, strain the pistachio mixture with a mesh strainer over a bowl and discard soaked pistachios.
- Churn the pistachio ice cream. Then using the instructions on your ice cream maker, add the pistachio mixture to your freezer bowl and run for 20-25 minutes. The ice cream should be the consistency of soft serve. In the final 5 minutes of churning your ice cream, add in reserved chopped pistachios.
- Assemble the spumoni ice cream. In a medium baking dish or bread loaf, scoop alternating flavors to create a swirled effect. Continue until you have filled the dish. Cover and place back into the freezer for 2-4 hours until firm.
- Serve. Scoop and enjoy! I like to add whipped cream and a cherry on top, but you could also add chopped pistachios or even serve this ice cream in a cone.
- You can use pre-roasted pistachios, just be sure that they are lightly salted or no salt.
- If in a pinch for time, you can skip aging the ice cream mixture overnight. Your flavors may not develop fully, especially for the pistachio mixture.
- Be sure that your ice cream mixtures are cold before adding them to the ice cream maker freezer bowl. This will insure the quickest churn time and the creamiest results.