Spaghettieis May Look Like Pasta But It's Really Dessert

If you've ever seen the movie "Elf," you know that spaghetti can be used to make a dessert pasta complete with maple syrup, chocolate syrup, M&M's, marshmallows, and a chocolate Pop Tart. While the movie concoction is made up (and most of us eat these noodles with savory sauces like carbonara or marinara), it turns out that dessert spaghetti is a real thing. Surprisingly, this dish wasn't originally created in Italy (or the North Pole).

In 1969, a German ice cream establishment in Mannheim dreamed up spaghettieis — aka "spaghetti ice cream," since "eis" means "ice cream" in German. The dish isn't too far off from the sugar bomb you saw in the "Elf" movie, except that it doesn't use actual noodles. The "pasta" is made from vanilla ice cream, which gets pressed through a potato ricer or spätzle maker (a German egg noodle maker) and emerges in long, thin strands that look like spaghetti. Spaghettieis may sound like a rare novelty, but Germany today sells 30 million cups of the fun dessert, according to Spaghetti Eis Co., and it has expanded internationally as well.

How were spaghettieis created?

The creator of spaghettieis, Dario Fontanella, first whipped up the dessert in Germany. However, the innovator has an Italian immigrant father and originally thought of the concoction while on a trip to Northern Italy. He comes from a long line of skilled ice cream makers, as his grandfather, father, and uncle all owned gelaterias in Italy and Germany. Fontanella joined his family's business in 1970, a year after he created spaghettieis, and sold his creation at his shop, Eis Fontanella Eismanufaktur Mannheim.

He was inspired to create spaghettieis by a dessert called Mont Blanc, which includes thin strands of chestnut paste wrapped around a whipped cream and meringue filling. On his Italy trip, he ordered Mont Blanc from a restaurant that used a spätzle maker to produce the paste, which made it look even more like spaghetti. Fontanella was only 17 years old at the time, and began experimenting with ice cream "spaghetti" in his father's ice cream shop when he got back. However, the treat wasn't an instant success. "In the early days of the spaghettieis, children often started to cry when he served them," his wife, Desi Fontanella, told Smithsonian Magazine. "Since they ordered a sundae, they were rather disappointed about getting served a pasta dish." As the children realized they were, in fact, receiving ice cream, however, they quickly changed their tune.

What ingredients does spaghettieis use?

We know that the base for spaghettieis is long, skinny strands of vanilla ice cream, but that's not all that goes into this pasta-inspired dessert. The first item laid down on the plate is a dollop of whipped cream, which freezes beneath the noodles and forms a crackly shell. To really make the dish look like a plate of spaghetti, the ice cream is topped with strawberry coulis to look like tomato sauce, and a shower of white chocolate shavings meant to resemble grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. 

The classic version of spaghettieis is delicious enough, but there are creative variations you can try as well. Garnish your ice cream with a sprig of mint (meant to look like basil), and add a few truffles to give the dish a meatball upgrade. If you normally eat your pasta with a side of garlic bread, stick a shortbread cookie or biscotti on the side of your plate. And if you're not a fan of white chocolate, top your sauce with coconut flakes instead. The dish is meant to be served and enjoyed right away, before all those precious ice cream strands start to melt.