Updated: Mar 24, 2021
My ABSOLUTE favorite summer treat is watermelon Italian ice. The high school that I went to in Chicago was very close to Little Italy, and every summer Mario's Italian Lemonade would open a tiny wooden shack outside of a brownstone on Taylor Street. For just a few short weeks before school was out we got the sweet, soft and snowy deliciousness during the lunch hour. The softness of Italian ice is often achieved by scraping huge blocks into a very fine ice, unlike shave ice or granita that tend to have larger, crunchier pieces. Though there is no way I could recreate the perfection of Mario's at home, I think I came close with this one!
Watermelon Italian Ice
[1 ½ - 2 pints]
2 c. watermelon, cut into ½” cubes
¼ c. sugar
¼ tsp. lemon zest
¼ c. fresh squeezed lemon juice (about 2 small lemons)
4 c. ice cubes
In a food processor add 1 ½ c. watermelon, sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice. Puree until smooth.
Add 4 c. ice cubes, and puree again, until ice cubes are completely broken up (you can tell because there should be no more banging in the machine). It will be somewhat liquidy and slushy, and should have no large pieces of ice left.
Pour mixture into a freeze proof container or freezer bag and let freeze completely, at least 4 hours.
Freeze remaining ½ c. watermelon cubes separately, by laying out on a parchment lined sheet pan.
When all is completely frozen, release watermelon mixture from container by running the outside of the container under hot water briefly. Take the hunk of frozen watermelon and roughly chop it into 2-3” chunks. Put the chunks in a food processor and pulse to break them up a bit, then turn to medium speed to blend to a fine ice, about 1-2 minutes.
If any chunks remain and have not broken up, use a fork to break them up by hand, and pulse food processor again a few times.
Stir in frozen watermelon pieces, garnish with lemon wedges, and serve.
If you are saving for later, lightly pack the Italian ice into a freeze proof container. If it becomes too frozen when removed from freezer, repeat step 5!