Limoncello is usually enjoyed as a digestive, at the end of the meal, but it can also be served as an aperitif. The origins of limoncello are unclear; the authorship of the recipe of this famous liqueur is, in fact, contested between three splendid places in Campania; Amalfi, Capri and Sorrento. These places are famous because of the abundance of fragrant lemon trees and for a production of Limoncello handed down for generations. There are several popular stories and legends that tell the birth of this famous liqueur.
The origins of limoncello date back to the early 1900s, in a small guesthouse on the Azure Island of Anacapri. On this island Mrs. Maria Antonia Farace cared for a garden rich in lemons and oranges. A relative opened a catering business and presented Limoncello as the specialty of the house made with the ancient recipe of the grandmother. Later a small artisan production of Limoncello was registered as a brand. Also simultaneously, in Amalfi and Sorrento were born the first legends and the first stories about the traditional production of this famous yellow liqueur. The story in fact tells that the great Sorrento families never let guests miss a taste of the then experimental limoncello. In the city of Amalfi there are even those who claim that the origins of limoncello are even older.
This legend tells that limoncello was used by fishermen and peasants especially in the morning to fight the cold. Finally, there are those who claim that the first recipe was born inside a monastery to delight the friars between prayers. Beyond all these narratives, limoncello has now become a pride of Campanian and Italian culture. Furthermore, in order to defend against imitations, its name has been guarded by the Protected Geographical Indication (PGI). Therefore, the real and original limoncello is the one produced in the Sorrentino territory and only in some areas of Campania.
The success of an impeccable limoncello lies precisely in the quality of lemons that, on the Amalfi coast, abound and are characterized by large dimensions, an elliptical shape, a wrinkled, thick, fragrant, and bright yellow skin. The skins are rich in essential oils that give limoncello its scent and unique and decisive taste. It’s important to pick the first
flowering lemons because they are richer in flavor, collected preferably at dawn when the scents are more concentrated. Limoncello is made with untreated lemon peel whose alcohol content ranges between 20% and 32% vol. A sweet liqueur, with a characteristic yellow color, which is obtained by letting the lemon peels macerate in pure alcohol with the addition of a syrup based on water and sugar.
Prosecco is one of the most loved Italian white wines in the world. Suitable for celebrating important holidays and occasions, Prosecco is today considered an excellent accompaniment for any meal, thanks to its fruity aroma and slightly sweetened flavor. Prosecco owes its name to a small town near the city of Trieste where it is grown, and the former name of the region's primary grape variety. The main grape used to make Prosecco is a white grape called Glera which gives Prosecco its characteristically fresh and aromatic flavor. A thin-skinned green grape grown in the Veneto and Friuli regions of northern Italy for hundreds of years. The Glera base wine may be mixed with a small quantity of other grape varieties to give further complexity to the final product. All Proseccos must be at least 85 per cent Glera grapes blended with other local grape varieties such as; Verdiso, Perera, and Bianchetta, or even Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio or Chardonnay. Most Proseccos are blends, but after a really exceptional harvest some winemakers produce ‘pure’ Prosecco, made from 100 per cent Glera grape.
Prosecco sparkling wine may have only been catapulted to fame in recent years, but it has a history going back many hundreds of years. North Eastern Italy has produced wine for millennia and many of its vineyards were already well established when the area was colonized extensively by the Greeks around 800 BC. The Glera grape is believed to be of Slovenian origin and was probably cultivated in the vineyards of the Italian village of “Prosecco” in Trieste which shares a border with Slovenia. It is believed to have been referred to by the Romans of the area, as far back as 200 BC, as “Pucino”. The first documented mention of Prosecco comes in a poem written in 1754 by Aureliano Acanti.
On the nose Prosecco has fruity and floral notes; in the mouth it is dry and decisive, excellent to taste with antipasti of prosciutto, salami, and cheeses. Prosecco can also be used to make cocktails, to cook savory dishes especially risotto, and to be enjoyed as is.
Limoncello and Prosecco are always available in my refrigerator. I love to experiment using them in savory dishes and sharing these dishes with my students or clients. Here is a simple drink or it can even be considered a dessert that can be made any time of the year. I have named it “Procello e Gelato”, enjoy it!
Procello e Gelato
1½ ounces Limoncello
3 ounces Prosecco
1 scoop of lemon gelato or Sorbet
1 slice lemon
Sugar for garnish, optional
Prepare sugar rim by rubbing the rim of a chilled martini glass with lemon juice, then dipping it in sugar.
Scoop the gelato or sorbet into chilled glass. Add a shot of Limoncello, and slowly top with prosecco. Serve with a spoon.