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Basil-Vanilla Whey Ice Cream

basil vanilla whey ice cream

Basil-Vanilla Whey Ice Cream

Gus Rancatore, owner and operator of Toscanini's, credits French pastry chef Pierre Hermé with suggesting this herbal-sweet combination. You can substitute buttermilk or more whole milk for the whey, if unavailable.


  • 1 cup packed basil leaves
  • cup sugar
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 vanilla beans split lengthwise
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup whey
  • Zest of 1 lemon


  • Prepare an ice bath: Fill a large bowl with ice. Find a medium bowl that will nest inside it, along with a sieve. You’ll use these to cool the custard later.
  • Blanch the basil. Immerse the leaves in boiling water until they become brighter in color (a few seconds). Then place them immediately in a bowl of ice water until the leaves are cool enough to handle. Pat them dry between paper towels. Combine the basil leaves, sugar, and 1 cup of whole milk in a blender or food processor.
  • Combine the basil-sugar-milk mixture and the vanilla beans in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Heat until the mixture begins to cling to sides of pan. Remove the vanilla beans and set aside. Whisk the egg yolks in a separate bowl.
  • Whisk the basil mixture gradually into the egg yolks, a little at a time, to form custard base. Return the custard and the vanilla beans to the saucepan, and cook over low heat. Be careful not to overheat and scramble eggs. The custard is ready when it’s thick enough to write an initial in it on the side of a wooden spoon. Remove the vanilla beans. (To store them for future use, rinse the pods well using water or vodka. Pat them dry and refrigerate the beans in a container filled with white sugar. The sugar will also absorb the vanilla flavor, making it great for baking.)
  • Add the cream to the medium bowl set over the ice bath. Pour the warm custard through sieve into the bowl and whisk to combine with the cream. Stir in the whey and lemon zest until combined.
  • Cover and refrigerate until the mixture reaches 40°F, at least 12 hours. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer instructions.

Chef Gus Rancatore

Chef Gus Rancatore is the owner of Toscanini's Ice Cream in Cambridge, Massachusetts. There he creates house-made ice creams with diverse ingredients such as cardamom, Grape-Nuts cereal, and goat cheese.

Photographer Ekaterina Smirnova

Ekaterina Smirnova (Kate) was born in Russia in a city called Yaroslavl. She came to the US when she was 17 years old to go to college. After graduating with a BA in Communications, she studied photography at NESOP. After assisting and shooting in corporate in-house studios, Kate chose to follow her passion and has been shooting food for the last five years.

Stylist Catrine Kelty

Stylist Catrine Kelty likes to create an environment that a person can relate to and want to be part of; where the food is a hero. She is always on the lookout for new food and fashion trends via publications from around the globe. An unusual surface, a special colored linen, an antique utensil, are all an incredible source of inspiration to accompany the perfect dish. She always looks forward to the challenge of translating the client’s vision through my collaboration with the photographer into the perfect image.