Last week, I enjoyed an unforgettable dinner at Sonny’s on the Avenue, an Italian ristorante in Verona, New Jersey owned by Tommy Malanga and his wife Alyssa Alia, a food stylist, chef, and all-around wonderful person. The meal was amazing from start (those eggplant meatballs!) to the finish (that silky ricotta cake!)
photo courtesy of Eugene Knowles Photography
At the end of the meal, when I thought I could not possibly consume even one more small sip or bite, Alyssa presented our table with a basket of fresh biscotti and a frosty bottle of her prized Limoncello. Unable to resist, our table dutifully dipped the biscotti in our glasses of Limoncello. Ah, la dolce vita!
The always gracious Alyssa was kind enough to share her recipe with me so I could post it. Limoncello needs time to age, so get started soon!
Limoncello is an Italian liqueur made from lemons native to the Amalfi Coast (Capri, Sorrento and Liguria). Limoncello is always served ice cold from the freezer after dinner.
45 large lemons (scrubbed and washed)
2 (750ml) bottles grain alcohol, such as Everclear (151 proof)*
1 (1.75 liters) or 2 (750ml) 80-proof good quality vodka
6 cups bottled or distilled water
8 cups sugar
Large gallon glass jar (such as a Sun-tea jar)
*Due to its high alcohol content, grain alcohol can be hard to find in many areas, and may be illegal in your state. If so, it’s fine to substitute vodka for the grain alcohol.
1. Pour all alcohol in jar.
2. Using vegetable peeler or paring knife, carefully peel off just the yellow skin of the lemons. (It is very important that you do not have any white part left underneath the lemon peels, as this will make the mixture bitter). Try and make the peels as large as you can; this will make it easier to strain the mixture later.
3. Place peels in alcohol.
4. Cover jar tightly and place in a cool (not cold) dark place.
5. Allow mixture to sit for a minimum of 3 weeks or up to 3 months. Stir gently every few days. The longer the lemon peels sit the better the color and flavor. A good readiness test is to take one lemon peel and see if it snaps when you bend it. If it does, it is ready.
6. In large saucepan, bring water and sugar to a boil over medium high heat for 5 minutes. Let cool completely.
7. Strain lemon mixture into another glass container, using a large fine mesh strainer and paper coffee filters. (Note: this takes time and is a little messy). Repeat the straining process back into the original glass jar.
8. Add cooled syrup and watch your Limoncello come to life! Return jar to a cool dry place for at least another 2 weeks. After 2 weeks, pour Limoncello into small bottles and store in refrigerator or freezer for up to 3 months.
9. Limoncello should be served ice cold from the freezer. It’s terrific as a cordial after dinner, and great on vanilla ice-cream.
– I make a double batch (90 lemons at time—a case of lemons usually has around 90 lemons) and usually start my batches in the summer to give out at Xmas time.
– Limoncello makes a perfect gift. Start saving decorative bottles from inexpensive stores such as Home Goods, Marshals, Target, the Container Store, or the Christmas Tree Shop. Make sure tops are airtight—you can even wax the corks to make sure they are well sealed.