To make the pistachio paste: Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Add the shelled pistachio nuts and simmer for two minutes. This is going to blanch the nuts and make them easier to peel and grind later on. After two minutes, drain and rinse the nuts under cold water to cool them completely.
Dry the nuts with paper towels. If the nuts still have their skin on, you need to peel them because using the nuts with the skin on will change both the color and texture of the gelato. To peel a pistachio, simply pinch it between your fingers: the skin should come right off. This steps take a bit of work, but it's worth it. Alternatively, you can look for peeled pistachios, which are going to save you the extra step (it is still necessary to blanch peeled pistachios).
Put the blanched and peeled nuts in the bowl of a food processor, then add the sugar. Pulse until the nuts are finely ground, stopping from time to time to scrape down the bowl.
Add the whole milk and the pistachio or almond extract, if using, and process until the mixture is as smooth and creamy as the food processor will make it (some tiny pistachio bits will remain but that’s ok). If you want an even smoother texture, transfer the pistachio paste to a mixing bowl and puree it further using a stick blender.
To make the pistachio gelato: Whisk the pistachio base into a batch of Sicilian-Style or Classic Gelato Base. Pour into the bowl of an ice cream maker. Freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Stop the machine when the gelato is icy but still soft.
Transfer the gelato to an airtight container and freeze until firm, about two hours. The gelato will keep, frozen, for up to two weeks. Always take the gelato out to room temperature 10 to 15 minutes before serving to soften it and make it easier to scoop.
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