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Semifreddo: “The Fluffy Stuff in the Gelato Case”

So, you’ve studied your gelato flavors, learned the process for ordering gelato and even memorized the tips for finding the best gelato shops in Italy. Now you’ve walked into a gelateria and you’re faced with something new – what the heck is that fluffy whipped-cream looking stuff?

That, my friends, is semifreddo.

Semifreddo literally means semi-cold, but practically speaking it’s quite cold – it’s just not fully frozen the way gelato is. It can be mousse-like in its consistency, but is usually colder. Think of what might happen if you left mousse in the freezer for awhile – not so it froze completely, but so it had a less fluffy quality to it. Then you’d have semifreddo.

Nice and vague, huh? Really, you’ve just got to try it for yourself.

Semifreddo in Italian gelaterie is often on display right next to the tubs of gelato, and it’s not always labeled as semifreddo. You can usually tell which one’s which because the semifreddo is piled super-high in the tub while the gelato next to it isn’t (and this is because you’re avoiding those places that put mountains of gelato on display, right?). The good news is that there aren’t any rules about ordering one scoop of semifreddo along with one scoop of gelato – the only thing you’ll need to keep in mind is that because the semifreddo isn’t quite as frozen as the gelato it could melt faster. You’ll need to be a quick licker.

The term “semifreddo” can also refer to any number of partially frozen desserts, sometimes pre-made with fruit or other additions and served in little cups which are on display in some Italian gelato shops. I say there’s no shame in making an entire meal out of the variety of goodies in Italy’s gelaterie, so go for it – make semifreddo your first course, and gelato your second. I certainly won’t fault you for it. In fact, if I had a trophy to give you, I would. Seriously.

If you want to try your hand at making semifreddo at home, my friend Sara made some chocolate & pistachio semifreddo earlier this year that continues to taunt me with its delicious appearance. And I’m not even a pistachio fan.