This is a delicious way to enjoy one of summer’s best aromas in an unexpected but intoxicating form. Serve with black pepper shortbread or, for added oomph, serve it affogato (Italian for “drowned”) with limoncello or a sweet dessert wine. Get started on this recipe least two days in advance. It will allow the infused basil flavor to develop and the ice cream to firm up before serving.
Photography By Rupert Whiteley | June 13, 2016


To prepare the ice cream custard base, combine milk, egg yolks, 1 cup heavy cream, sugar, salt and lemon zest in a heavy-bottomed sauce pot and whisk thoroughly to combine, making sure the yolks are well integrated. Over medium heat, warm the mixture, whisking steadily, until it thickens—it should coat the back of a wooden spoon when ready. Don’t let it boil, but don’t panic if you get a few lumps. Remove the mixture from heat and stir in the remaining cream and lemon juice. Allow to cool slightly.

Place basil in a mixing bowl and using the back of a wooden spoon, lightly bruise the leaves just to release the oils. Pour the cream mixture over the basil. For great “scoopability” and to add lightness, add 1 tablespoon gin. Cover mixture and place in the refrigerator overnight (or up to 24 hours). Taste from time to time to check the strength of flavor. Remember that freezing the ice cream will dull the flavors a bit.

Strain the mixture through a fine sieve and press lightly on the basil leaves. (Your base might turn faintly green from the chlorophyll!)

Prepare in an ice cream machine according to manufacturer’s instructions. Remove to a freezer-proof container with a lid. Freeze several hours or overnight to harden before serving. Makes about 1 quart.

Note: If you do not have a machine, pour base in a freezer-safe container and freeze. Every 30 minutes, remove and stir vigorously, re-freeze and repeat, until it resembles soft-serve ice cream. Then let it freeze completely.

Co-owner Kate O’Donnell, bywater, Warren

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bywater in Warren

Eschewing the traditional chef-driven restaurant model, Brian & Katie O’Donnell chart their own course with their neighborhood eatery.


  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 2 cups heavy cream, divided
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • Pinch table salt
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • ½ tablespoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves, large stems and any blemishes removed
  • 1 tablespoon of good quality floral or citrusy gin (optional)
  • Black Pepper Shortbread (optional, for serving)*
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