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Gelato, Sorbetto, Granita - What's The Difference?

When it comes to refreshing desserts in Italy, there's no shortage of icey treats to be enjoyed. But what's the difference between these main contenders?

 Gelato, Sorbetto, Granita, image credit: Elizabeth Newman

Gelato

Try: Giada's Chocolate Hazelnut Gelato Recipe

Every trip to Italy must include at least one stop to a gelateria - they inhabit just about every street in main cities, after all.

Gelato is a dairy-based churned dessert that is very similar to ice cream - but not quite the same. It has less air incorporated in the mixture than ice cream, giving it a more dense and decadent texture, and even a glossier appearance. 

Compared to granita and sorbetto, gelato is the only one of the three that has a base of dairy.

 

Sorbetto

Try: Giada's Olive Oil Sorbetto Recipe

Classic sorbetto is just fruit and sugar, but it can also contain liqueurs, herbs, and even olive oil. What can go into a sorbet is incredibly vast, and there's just one rule: no dairy! If there's the presence of milk or cream, it would no longer be sorbetto.

What sets sorbetto apart from granita, another icey dairy-free treat, is the churning process. A slow churn gives sorbetto an incredibly creamy texture despite the lack of dairy.

 

Granita

Try: Giada's Simple Coffee Granita

This refreshing treat is beloved in Sicily during the hot summers. In composition, it's very similar to sorbetto - as a matter of fact, they could have the exact same ingredients. The difference is in the technique - while sorbetto is churned, granita is generally frozen on a sheet or in a pan, and then scraped out for a granular icey texture. Think the Italian version of shaved ice or snow cones!

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