Granita is a traditional Sicilian dessert and was brought to Sicily by the Arabs. It is believed that the Romans knew this delicacy but many people think that it actually originates from sorbet. The Arabs began to use the Etna snow for preparing granitas and sorbet in Sicily by scratching ice from a block and then flavoring it with fruit syrups or flowers.
Sicilian granita is considered to be the ancestor of the world-famous Italian ice cream (gelato) and real fans state that the real granita is only one: the Sicilian one. For the people of Sicily, granita is a real ritual. It is served with brioche, a sweet yeast pastry topped with a ball called a tuppo. In the past granita was served as breakfast but nowadays it can be consumed at any time of the day and in many restaurants it is served as a palate cleanser between courses. Granita is also a fantastic dessert in hot summer days and you can prepare it at home without much effort.
Connoisseurs will tell you that when you order granita you should not use the adjective “Sicilian”, as granita is Sicilian. Its consistency is similar to the one of sorbet but creamier. It must not have big ice crystals inside and it is important to know that granita is not supposed to be drunk, it should be eaten with a spoon. How do you eat granita? As we mentioned, authentic granita Siciliana is served with brioche. The brioche bun is dipped into the cream on top of the granita. The classic flavors are chocolate, almond, lemon, black mulberry, coffee and – in eastern Sicily – jasmine and cinnamon.
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Sorbet and Granita – What is the difference?
Both sorbet and granita recipes are based on ripe summer fruits, they are dairy free and with low (or no) fat content. They are easy to prepare and do not require special equipment. The difference between sorbet and granite is in the texture. While sorbet is smooth and soft, granite is crunchier. You can use an ice cream maker to achieve the soft and smooth texture of sorbet but for preparing granita all you need is a shallow pan and a fork. Sorbet usually has more sugar and less liquid, which also helps it achieve that softer texture.
According to the original recipe, water, sugar, fruit and other ingredients are frozen very slowly, stirring constantly and not allowing them to freeze completely. This is how the specific consistency of the dessert is created – creamy and at the same time crunchy, resembling snowflakes. Granita can be prepared with various nuts and almond and pistachios are the most popular ones. If you want to make use nuts, you need to blanche and peel them and then process the nuts in a food processor.
Can you add alcohol to your granita? Yes, you can. As you know, plain water will freeze solid. A small amount of alcohol prevents the mixture from freezing solid too quickly and in addition, you add a flavor to your recipe.
How long can you keep granita in the freezer? Up to one week is optimal time. Just like sorbet, granita needs to sit on the kitchen counter for 15-20 minutes before serving. You need a sharp serving spoon to scrape large curls of the ice into glasses or dessert bowls.
Now that you know the basic characteristics of granita, choose a recipe and prepare this light and delicious treat! Do not be afraid to experiment. There are numerous granita recipes – from traditional strawberries, lemon, orange, tangerine, peach, coffee, chocolate, almond and pistachio to variations with herbs like mint, basil or vegetables like carrots, beetroot, etc. You can use any fruit you like – pineapples, apricot, watermelon, blood oranges, black mulberries, figs, coconut milk, etc.
Classic Sicilian Lemon Granita Recipe
- 1/2 l water
- 300 g sugar
- 5 lemons
Wash the lemons and grate the zest of 2 lemons. Squeeze all the lemons, strain the juice to remove seeds, and set aside.
Place water, sugar, and lemon zest in a saucepan. Boil over low heat until the sugar is completely dissolved and remove from heating.
Cool the syrup and add the lemon juice.
Transfer the mixture into a shallow container and place it into a freezer. Stir occasionally using a spatula or a fork.
Serve with a brioche.
- 1 1/2 cups whole almonds
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 2 to 3 tbsp sugar
- 2 cups almond milk (or regular milk), unsweetened
- Roughly chopped almonds, to serve
Grind the almonds in a blender to a powdery texture.
Add powdered sugar, sugar and almond milk. Blend to mix.
Strains the mixture into a flat container.
Freeze uncovered for an hour or two, until the top has solidified a bit.
Scrape by using a fork and put the container back in the freezer.
Repeat every hour, for the next 3 hours.
Serve with chopped almonds.
Coffee Granita Recipe
- 3 cups strong, hot brewed coffee
- ¾ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Whipped cream, for serving
Combine the coffee, sugar and vanilla and stir until the sugar dissolves.
Pour the mixture into a 9 × 13-inch pan. Place the pan in the freezer for 1 hour, then scrape with a fork to break up the crystals and place the pan back in the freezer.
Repeat every 30-60 minutes until it is completely frozen and granular throughout. Wrap well and keep frozen for a few hours, until ready to serve.
Spoon the granita into bowls or stemmed glasses and top with a dollop of whipped cream.
Strawberry Granita Recipe
- 1 lb fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced.
- 3/4 cup sugar
- pinch salt
- 1 1/2 cups cold water
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- Strawberries and fresh mint leaves, for garnish
Place sliced strawberries, sugar and salt into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until pureed. Add water and lemon juice and process again until combined.
Strain the strawberry mixture through a fine mesh sieve and pour the strained liquid into a baking pan. Cover with plastic wrap or foil and place in the freezer.
Scrape the surface of the granita every 45 minutes to 1 hour.
After five hours, the granita will be set and fluffy.
Serve with fresh strawberries and mint leaves.
Raspberry Granita Recipe
- 1 1/2 cup water
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1 heaping cup fresh raspberries
- 1 T lemon juice
- Fresh raspberries, for serving
In a medium saucepan heat water and sugar until sugar dissolves. Add raspberries and cook for about 2 minutes. Stir and break up the raspberries a little.
Pour the raspberries and liquid mixture into a blender and blend until berries are broken down into a puree. Strain puree into a bowl.
Add lemon juice to the fruity mixture.
Pour mixture into a flat rectangular dish and place in the freezer. After 1 hour, scrape any ice crystals that have formed toward the center of the dish.
Repeat scraping until all of the liquid has formed ice crystals.
Serve with fresh raspberries.
Watermelon Granita Recipe
- 1/2 Seedless Watermelon, cut into chunks
- 1 whole lime, juiced
- 1/3 cup Sugar
Place the watermelon, lime juice and sugar in a blender. Process until smooth.
Transfer mixture to a 9 x 13 baking dish. Freeze for two hours, then lightly scrape the top, frozen layer. Return pan to freezer with the shaved ice on top.
Repeat scraping until the entire mixture is shaved.
Store in the freezer, covered in plastic wrap, until serving.
Serve in pretty glasses with a twist of lime.
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 pineapple, peeled, cored and chopped into chunks
- 1/2 cup caster sugar
- 1/2 lime, juiced
Combining sugar and water in a sauce pan over a low-medium heat. Once the sugar is dissolved take the sauce pan off the heat and allow it to cool completely.
Pour the cooled sugar syrup along with the pineapple chunks and lime juice in a food processor. Blend until everything is pureed.
Pour the mixture into a shallow baking pan, place in the freezer and allow to partially freeze.
Remove from the freezer and scrape with a fork. Repeat until completely frozen.
Orange Granita Recipe
- 4 cups freshly squeezed orange juice
- ½ cup sugar
Add the sugar to the freshly squeezed orange juice, stir, and let the mixture sit for 15 minutes so that the sugar dissolves.
Pour the orange juice into a wide, shallow, freezer-safe dish. Put the dish in the freezer. After 45-60 minutes, take the dish out of the freezer and stir it with a fork. Return the dish to the freezer.
After 30-60 minutes, take the dish out of the freezer and stir with the fork again before returning the dish to the freezer.
Continue freezing, stirring it with a fork every 30-60 minutes, until completely frozen, about 3 to 4 hours total.
Pistachio and Nutella Granita
- 200 g pistachio nuts
- 1.2 l water
- 400 g caster sugar
- 240 ml almond milk
- 3 tbsp nutella
Grind the pistachio nuts in a blender to a powdery texture.
Pour the water into a small saucepan and add the sugar. Heat to a simmer until the sugar dissolves, then remove from the heat and leave to cool to room temperature.
Stir the almond milk into the mix, then split the mixture between two bowls.
Whisk the pistachios into one half and the Nutella into the other half and pour it into shallow containers.
Freeze, stirring every 30 minutes for 4-5 hours.
Serve with brioche.
Peach and mint granita
- 4 peaches
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1/3 cup water
- 20 mint leaves, finely chopped
Place the sugar and water in a saucepan over medium heat for about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile slice the peaches into thin slices and ad to the saucepan and cook a further 1 minute, and remove from the heat.
Puree the peach and sugar mix in a blender or processor and pour into a shallow freezer proof dish or tray.
Place the tray in freezer and leave for 15 minutes, add the mint and stir with a fork.
Replace to freezer and continue to scrape with fork every 30-60 minutes to ensure even crystals.
Serve in a martini glass or bowls.