We think it’s safe to say: pizza has a gravitational pull. It certainly draws us close, keeps us orbiting around its cheesy goodness. Maybe pizza’s got a hold on you, too. We’re guessing that’s why you’re here.
Other foods are even magnetized towards pizza. We respect those classic combos—pizza and soda, pizza and pasta, pizza and wings. But, obviously, we’re busting open the boundaries on pizza and taking it to places it rarely goes. Today’s pizza-venture: Pizza ICE CREAM.
Arguably two of the world’s favorite food groups, pizza and ice cream are much-loved, yet they’re rarely paired together. (Unless it’s at a birthday or slumber party in the fourth grade. Ah, nostalgia.) Pizza and ice cream may seem like totally different species—one’s baked, one’s frozen; one’s savory, one’s sweet; one’s a triangle slice, one’s a round scoop. But (like all of us), they’ve got more in common than you might think.
So today, we are spreading the pizza love and joining forces with ice cream to bring you homemade PIZZA-FLAVORED ICE CREAM. Hang onto your hats, ladies and gents. It’s going to be a wild ride. As always, our belly-blowing recipe is shared below. And, we’ve got some mind-blowing knowledge to drop on you about these two unlikely friends. Believe it or not, pizza and ice cream go waaay back…
Pizza & Ice Cream Back in the Day, the Ancient Way
We filled you in on some of pizza’s ancient history when we shared our Grilled Cheetza recipe, but let’s recap. Ancient Greeks were baking flat, round breads topped with veggies, spices, and olive oil, then the ancient Romans came along and started melting cheese onto bread. Bada-bing, bada-boom—we’ve got the ancient ancestors of pizza.
Similarly, ancient ice cream traces back to Rome in the 1st century. Emperor Nero was in power, and he sent runners up into the mountains to fetch snow for him, which he stored in special rooms under his palace. Why was the emperor hoarding snow? Because he liked flavoring that snow with fruits and juices as a sweet treat! Smart dude.
Clearly, humankind has been diggin’ pizza and ice cream for a LONG time. (Pizza for a few centuries longer—just sayin’.) It seems like our hunger for these cheesy creamy delights was instinctual. But, those ancient ancestors had to go through some serious evolutions before they were finally called “pizza” and “ice cream.”
Italy Turns the Drab into Fab
During the 16th century in Naples, Italy, “pizza” was first known as a plain old galette flatbread with no toppings that was sold by street vendors. Legend has it, these pizzas were so popular among the peasants during the 1800s that Queen Margherita herself wanted to try it. She was a huge fan, but the Queen eating “peasant’s food” was pretty scandalous at the time. So, she ordered some specialty pizzas from Chef Raffaele Esposito, a Neapolitan pizzamaker. He baked on some mozzarella, tomatoes, and fresh basil to represent the colors of the Italian flag, won over the Queen’s taste buds, and gave us the ever-delicious Pizza Margherita!
It’s thought that ice cream (like dear pizza) has its roots in Italy, when Marco Polo returned from the Far East with a sherbet-like recipe. At that time, sherbet came from Arabic cultures and was more like a fruity, chilled drink. Europeans eventually mixed those drinks with sugar and froze them into sorbet, then came milk-based sorbets, and finally gelato—the Italian version of sorbet. (In England, it was originally known as “Cream Ice,” and was a treat reserved for royalty.)
Gelato made it big in Italy and spread across Europe. By the 19th century, Italian ice cream makers needed to take the frozen treat to the next level. What was the next move? Genius: combine multiple flavors into one package. Hence, Neapolitan ice cream was born! The earliest forms of the tri-colored treat were made from pistachio, vanilla, and cherry ice cream. Why? You guessed it—the green, white, and red of the Italian flag! (This is now known as spumoni.) Thanks, Italy, for bringing so much deliciousness into the world.
Melt-In-Your-Brain Ice Cream Facts
Now that you know where ice cream’s coming from, before we get to pizza-fying it, check out these sweet tidbits:
- 87% of Americans have ice cream in their freezer any given time!
- On average, each person in the USA eats 48 pints of ice cream every year (and 23 pounds of pizza).
- How many licks does it take to get to the center of an ice cream scoop? About 50.
- 1 in 10 people admits to licking the bowl clean after eating ice cream. (Key word: We know you’re out there, secret bowl-lickers.)
- Almost 1 in 5 people eats ice cream in bed.
- Brain freeze occurs when ice cream touches the roof of your mouth. Those nerve endings aren’t used to being cold, so they warn the brain that the body is losing heat, your blood vessels contract, then the blood rushes back in your head and gives you that freezy headache.
- July is National Ice Cream Month, and National Ice Cream Day is the 3rd Sunday of every July—as designated by Ronald Reagan in the 80s! (February 9th is National Pizza Day, but October is National Pizza Month. It's so good, it's worth celebrating year round.)
- February 4th is National Ice Cream for Breakfast Day.
- In 2008, Missouri deemed the ice cream cone its Official State Dessert.
- It used to be illegal to serve ice cream on cherry pie in Kansas. (Probably because it was just too darn tasty.)
- In colonial times, some popular ice cream flavors—besides vanilla and strawberry—were oyster, parmesan, and asparagus.
- The ice cream cone became popular in 1904 at the St. Louis World Fair, thanks to a generous waffle maker. An ice cream vendor at the fair had run out of dishes, so the waffle maker started rolling up his waffles into horns to serve the ice cream!
- The beloved chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream was first invented by Ben & Jerry’s—when someone left on anonymous suggestion on a board in one of their shops in Vermont!. Whoever you are, mystery suggestion-maker, thank you for your service. We love you.
Pizza Ice Cream: Sugar, Cheese, & Everything Nice
Now that we’ve all gotten to know each other, it’s time to get together: you, us, pizza, and ice cream. If you’re skeptical, good. You should be. Pizza ice cream may not be for everybody, but you’ll surely want to have a taste. Really, savory ice cream is a thing. We’re not the first ones, by any means, to bring sweet ice cream together with a savory flavor. And, we’re not even the first to pizza-fy ice cream.
In L.A., Coolhaus served up pizza ice cream (among many other crazy, savory flavors), and now Little Baby’s Ice Cream in Philly has a pizza scoop available! The ice cream is made from crushed tomatoes, salt, crushed red pepper, oregano, raw garlic paste, and basil. The ice cream shop is right down the street from Pizza Brain, a pizza joint and pizza museum—home to the largest collection of pizza memorabilia in the world, certified by the Guinness Book of Records! Clearly, the ice cream shop respects the pizza, so we’re fans. And, their pizza ice cream is so legit, people are even topping off their actual pizza pies with it for a slice a la mode…
Maybe our recipe will be just as good? We can’t be sure. We've got mozzarella ice cream topped with homemade tomato jam sauce and mini pepperonis for ya, adapted from a Salty Canary recipe. If you give it a whirl and eat the pizza ice cream, let us know!
Mozzarella Ice Cream
- 1 cup full-fat mozzarella cheese, shredded
- 1 cup milk of choice (we used coconut almond milk!)
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream
- 1 cup sugar, divided
- 4 egg yolks
- 2 pinches of salt
Tomato Jam Sauce
- 1 cup tomato sauce
- 2 Tbsp sugar
- 1 lime juiced
- 3 Tbsp jam of choice (we used strawberry!)
- mini pepperonis
- To make your mozzarella ice cream, combine the milk, heavy whipping cream, half the sugar, and salt in a saucepan. Whisk to combine, then add your cheese. Bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking intermittently.
- While heating, separate your egg yolks. Combine yolks with the other half of sugar in a bowl and whisk to combine.
- When the milk mixture has come to a boil, pour ⅓ of it into the egg mixture and stir. Then pour another ⅓ and stir, and then the final ⅓ and stir.
- Next, pour the entire mixture back into the saucepan and heat, stirring constantly for 2 minutes, but do not let it come to a boil.
- Then transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Allow it to come to room temperature, and then refrigerate for 1-2 hours.
- After the custard mixture is chilled, follow the manufacturer's instructions on your ice cream maker to make the ice cream. Then transfer ice cream to a freezer safe container for storing.
- While ice cream is churning, make your tomato jam sauce. Combine sauce ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat on the stove. Allow to cook and thicken to desired consistency. Strain to remove seeds if desired. Refrigerate.
- Allow ice cream to harden in the freezer overnight.
- Serve in an ice cream cone with a spoonful of tomato jam and mini pepperonis on top.
Yields about 4 cups mozzarella ice cream