Affogato Recipe: Espresso With Ice Cream

A love letter to a classic Italian meeting of espresso and gelato

I've had them everywhere. At cheap-o Italian joints in Jersey, where the "gelato" is probably boxed Breyer's vanilla. In chilled silver bowls at the type of place where pastas run a cool $28. In Italy at little trattorias, for dessert or sometimes just because I want to fancy up my ice cream a little bit.

My point is: If I see an affogato on the menu, chances are I'm going to order it, then lap up every last bit of coffee mixing with melting gelato—which may even involve drinking straight from the bowl.

There are only two ingredients (gelato, espresso), but the combination is a brilliant play on temperature and texture: The hot, bitter espresso melts the gelato and creates a café crème-colored pool of deliciousness. Like the best cup of coffee you can imagine.

The most memorable I've had of late was at Pizzeria Vetri in Philadelphia, where the gelato is a swirl of fior di latte soft serve: a super creamy, melty dream.

Food editor Andy Baraghani shares my affection for the affogato. We geeked out a bit over the dessert and how to best make it at home. Despite the dessert's simplicity, there are a couple of tips that can make you an affogato aficionado:

For every scoop of ice cream, use about one ounce of hot espresso. You don't want to drown your gelato.

Chill your glass/bowl/mug and make sure your scoop of ice cream is very, very cold and on the large side. This way, not all of the ice cream will melt when the hot liquid is poured over it.

Make the espresso just before serving. This is a last-minute dessert, so you want the coffee to be as hot and fresh as possible.

Play around with flavor and texture. Straciatella (vanilla gelato with chocolate bits) and dulce de leche would be delicious, and a little drizzle of Fernet or bourbon never hurt anyone. Crumble some biscotti or amaretti cookies over the top—but don't go crazy, you don't want to overcomplicate things.

Allora. You're ready to master the art of the Italian pour-over.