easy desserts & recipes: lemon sorbet & italian lemon ice

easy desserts & recipes: lemon sorbet & italian lemon ice I grew up in New Jersery, a mere 8 miles from my Nonna (grandmother), but as anyone from the metropolitan area understands, 8 miles is a world away. And, a summer evening spent at Nonna’s was indeed a different world. I lived in the suburbs. Nonna lived in a city, in a neighborhood that was primarily populated by Italian immigrants and their families. I loved the brownstone homes, some of them attached, some divided ever so slightly by a narrow alley, but all with their windows open, hoping the evening breeze would blow through the lace curtains. In the summer most of the Italian families in the neighborhood transformed their small postage stamp backyards into vegetable garden jungles. Tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, eggplants, basil, parsley were planted and tended to with care. I can still recall the scent of the garden on a hot, humid evening, crickets chirping, lightening bugs glowing. During those magical twilight hours the adults sat in the yard, on old kitchen chairs, sipping a cool drink of water, discussing, in Italian, the best way to grow tomatoes. The laundry hung from the second floor window on a line tied to the cherry tree that stood like a giant in the middle of the yard. The neighborhood would be abuzz with the sounds of conversations, kids playing and faint music coming from a few houses over. The kids, well we sat on the front stoop, after playing hop scotch on the sidewalk or jumping rope, too hot to do anything more than talk as we savored a lemon ice purchased at Grillo’s. Grillo’s was a family run lemon ice stand that resided in a small, gray shack of a building on the corner of a street that was a dead end. The building was closed up during the winter, but when it opened it nothing less than a declaration of summer arrival. The Grillo family made lemon ice, pure and simple. It was fresh, homemade and when it was sold out it was out until the next batch was ready. It was heavenly on a hot summer’s night. When we visited Nonna my father first stopped at Grillo’s just 2 blocks away from Nonna’s home and picked up the largest container (or two) of lemon ice. Sitting on Nonna’s front stoop, eating homemade lemon ice from Grillo’s, hearing the sounds of a city summer night...ahhh those were the days. Here are two recipes: One is for lemon ice and the other is for lemon sorbet. I love them both!

Lemon Sorbet

  • 12 lemons (I like to use Meyer lemons)
  • Lemon zest from 6 lemons, reserve the other 6 lemons for the cups
  • 1 cup lemon juice, strained
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups water


  1. Cut off the top 1/3 of the lemons that you are using for the cups. Save the tops for the caps of the cups. Slightly cut the botton to create a flat surface so that the lemons will stand (do not cut deeply)
  2. Hollow out each lemon, reserve the juice, discard the flesh. Place the cups in the freezer.
  3. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine sugar and water until sugar dissolves. Stir in the lemon zest and bring to a boil. Let boil for a few minutes.
  4. Add the lemon juice and stir to combine well.
  5. Remove from heat and let cool before pouring into a bowl in which you can freeze. Let the mixture become semi-frozen. Do not freeze through.
  6. Place frozen mixture into food processor and and blend until smooth. Spoon mixture into lemon cups and refreeze.

Lemon Ice

  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest


  • Combine 2 cups of the water with the sugar in a medium saucepan; bring to a simmer.
  • Cook until the sugar is completely dissolved.
  • Stir in the remaining water and let cool to room temperature.
  • Cover and refrigerate for a minimum of 1 hour.
  • Meanwhile, place a shallow metal container in the freezer to chill.
  • Add the lemon juice, lemon peel, and extract to the chilled sugar mixture; stir until well blended.
  • Pour into the chilled metal pan.
  • Place the pan in the freezer for 30-60 minutes, or until ice crystals form around the edges.
  • Stir the ice crystals into the center of the pan and return to the freezer.
  • Repeat every 30 minutes, or until all the liquid is crystallized but not frozen solid.
  • rss
  • flickr
  • twitter
  • facebook


  • June 19, 2012 at 7:53 pm //

    So beautifully styled…I’d love to sample BOTH!

    • June 25, 2012 at 7:40 am //

      Thank you so much for popping over to say hello Liz =) Hope you are having a fab summer thus far!

  • June 19, 2012 at 8:18 pm //

    I absolutely loved reading this story! Thanks for sharing it.

    • June 25, 2012 at 7:39 am //

      Thank you Emma =)

    • June 25, 2012 at 7:39 am //

      Thank you so much for popping over to say hello =)

  • June 20, 2012 at 7:41 pm //

    Lovely memory, I can almost see the street in my mind! Lemon is easily one of my favourite flavours and both recipes sound lovely :)

    • June 25, 2012 at 7:39 am //

      Thank you JJ, grandparents are the best, summers were just wonderful.

  • June 20, 2012 at 9:18 pm //

    Wow, this sorbet looks delicious, and your photos are stunning. Aren’t grandparents just the best?

    • June 25, 2012 at 7:38 am //

      Grandparents are the absolute best, we really have fond memories, sadly they are no longer here with us but left us with the fondest memories.

  • June 21, 2012 at 1:39 am //

    Citrus desserts are my favorite! I’m finding the lemon and orange filled with luscious, icy sorbet just irresistible! A perfect summer story that ends with a sweet treat.

    • June 25, 2012 at 7:37 am //

      Thank you so much Deb, any plans this summer?

  • June 21, 2012 at 3:19 am //

    The lemon ice sounds wonderful! I grew up in the country… I love stories like this. I wish I could get Meyer lemons…. maybe I’ll plant a tree and grow my own.

    • June 25, 2012 at 7:37 am //

      Did you grow up in a mountainous area? We would visit Upstate New York or see family in Pennsylvania in Lancaster County, which was a refreshing visit to the country.

  • June 21, 2012 at 2:17 pm //

    Yum! Looks really refreshing.

    • June 25, 2012 at 7:34 am //

      Thank you Ane.

  • June 30, 2012 at 6:17 am //

    These are so cute and festive!

  • August 12, 2012 at 1:10 am //

    hello- :)

    my grandparents (yes, Italian!) lived on McRae Place in Plainfield, NJ- Grillo’s was on Terrill Rd just around the corner from where they lived- The Grillo’s lived at the intersection of E. Second St and Terrill but their small stand faced Terrill Road- I don’t know if that side of the road was considered Plainfield or Scotch Plains because it was sort of on the border of both- anyway … lol … i was sitting here craving Grillo’s lemon ice … it’s the best i ever had my entire life- pits and all- in those white paper accordion style cups- heaven! like yourself i’ve loving memories of summers with my grandparents and family- yes, the gardens … i remember … it was wonderful- i wonder if our families knew each other … lol …