Easy Lemon Italian “Icee”

A few years ago my wife developed an obsession for Lemon Italian Ice, to the point that I was going to Rita’s about three or four times per week. They got to know me pretty well that summer. In fact, when I pulled into the parking lot, they started scooping my quarts for me. She likes a lot of flavors — mango, raspberry, peach, cherry, to name a few — but her favorite by far is Alex’s Lemonade. I bought three to four quarts every time I visited Rita’s.

Although we did our best to keep Rita’s in business, summer came to an end, and the Italian ice stand closed for the year. I tried to stock up on lemon ice as best I could, but we were out of “icee”, as my wife calls it, by the end of October. Those were desperate days in our house. We tried some store brand Italian ices, called around, and checked the internet for other places we could get icee. But all to no avail. There was no good substitute for Alex’s Lemonade to be had.

Finally, my wife and I were talking about it, and I asked, “How hard could it be to make Italian ice? I mean, it’s basically sugar, water, and lemon juice, right?” And thus began several months of experimentation — the details of which I will spare you — which resulted in the following recipe.

Note that this recipe can be made in an ice cream freezer, but it’s just as good using the “lazy man’s” freezing method described below.

Lemon Italian Icee

Makes about 2 quarts


  • 2 cups sugar (or mixture of sugar and Splenda; see below)
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 4 cups cold water
  • 1 1/3 cups lemon juice
  • zest of 1 lemon (optional)


  1. Put sugar in a large bowl. Add boiling water and stir until sugar is completely dissolved.
  2. Add cold water, lemon juice, and zest, if using. Mix well.
  3. Lazy Man’s Method:  Pour mixture into one-quart containers and freeze. To serve, microwave at 70% power for 2 minutes.
  4. Ice Cream Freezer Method:  Refrigerate mixture until well chilled, then freeze in ice cream freezer according to manufacturer’s instructions.

I make about 16 quarts of icee — using the lazy method and no zest — about once per week. Since we eat so much of it, I substitute Splenda for most of the sugar. I have found it doesn’t freeze well if I omit all of the sugar, but I successfully use Splenda for up to 3/4 of the sugar in the recipe.

As I mentioned above, this recipe is the result of a lot of experimentation. Many of the recipes and methods I tried were a lot more complicated, but this one, in addition to being almost embarrassingly simple, produces the best-tasting lemon ice. And unfortunately for Rita’s, my wife likes my icee even better than Alex’s Lemonade.


  1. Kayte said,

    May 18, 2010 at 5:40 pm

    Just in time for summertime! Thanks.

  2. Anne Marie said,

    May 18, 2010 at 3:44 pm

    Would you believe me if I said that Rita’s is the only reason that I visit my sons at University of Pittsburgh???

    • gaaarp said,

      May 18, 2010 at 4:59 pm

      Yes, I’d believe it!

  3. ap269 said,

    May 18, 2010 at 12:36 pm

    BOOKMARKED!!! I love popsicles. If the weather was only warmer here, I’d go right in the kitchen and try this recipe… I’ll keep you posted how we like it, I think I might make it this weekend.

  4. Tes said,

    May 18, 2010 at 12:21 am

    This is so perfect! I’m been looking for something fun & yummy for my family. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Abby said,

    May 17, 2010 at 9:15 pm

    Yum! I’d bet my kiddos would love this! (They love all popsicle/icee-type treats.) Do you juice real lemons or used the bottled stuff? Have you experimented with any other flavors?

    • gaaarp said,

      May 17, 2010 at 9:34 pm

      Part of my experimentation was juicing my own lemons, but I’ve found it works just as well with bottled juice. If I were only making a batch evey once in a while, I’d use fresh lemons. But in the volume I make it, bottled is the way to go.

      I haven’t tried other flavors. We’re stuck on lemon.

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