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Top Your Thanksgiving Pie With Ricotta Gelato

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[Photograph: Max Falkowitz]

If you really want to take home the title of Thanksgiving hero, you won't just make your own pie. You'll make your own ice cream to serve with it.

In the past I've even suggested turning your pie into ice cream. But chances are you're looking to keep things simple. Most pies want something cool, creamy, and clean—nothing with a flavor that'll overwhelm what it already has going on. A simple vanilla bean might be nice, or maybe a rich scoop of lemon mascarpone gelato.

Here's a third option, lighter and more easygoing than anything above: ricotta gelato, a blank canvas for added flavors and a friend to any pie. It's a no-cook recipe that can go from raw ingredients to freshly churned ice cream in under 45 minutes.

There are plenty of ricotta ice cream recipes out there that look and taste a whole lot like frozen ricotta. They're sweet, fatty, and rather rich—full of ricotta flavor, sure, but not something you can keep eating without feeling dairy overload. You'll also find recipes that barely register on the ricotta radar, ones that you might call sweet cream or vanilla if you weren't hip to the ingredient list.

This recipe falls somewhere in between: distinct ricotta flavor with a lighter body and a plush texture, something very much like a gelato (or a rich sorbet). The ice cream is a blank canvas for other flavors, anything from a sprinkling of citrus zest to dark chocolate or cocoa nibs, candied orange peel and chopped pistachio, or a drizzle of honey. But it's also fine plain, which is where the ricotta flavor comes to the fore most clearly.

To get a light-yet-creamy texture, the recipe calls for corn syrup, which is less sweet than table sugar and good for improving ice cream's texture. Pro gelato makers have access to other sweeteners like atomized glucose or Trimoline, but for your average home kitchen, corn syrup works just fine. A note: other liquid sugars like agave nectar or honey can't be substituted without altering the recipe—they're just too sweet.

For serving, a teaspoon or two of lemon zest blended into the base compliments the brighter notes of apple pie well. Orange zest goes well with pumpkin or pecan. But don't limit yourself to Thanksgiving pie; this ice cream is worth eating all year.

About the author: Max Falkowitz is the New York editor and ice cream maker in residence at Serious Eats. You can follow him on Twitter at @maxfalkowitz.

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