Sunday, March 30, 2008

When Life Hands You Lemons

The birth place of limoncello is in Southern Italy around the Bay of Naples , including Sorrento , Amalfi and the Isle of Capri. The liqueur was born early in the 1900’s on the island of Azzurra . There in the garden of a tiny boarding house, the proprietress, Maria Antonia Farace, tended a small garden of lemons. She started making a sweet lemon extract that was a hit in the house. Her nephew opened a bar soon after World War One, and featured the icy cold drink made from his aunt’s recipe and lemons!

Competing stories tell of a sweetened lemon liqueur being served by all of the best families in Sorrento around 1900. In Amalfi, the history of limoncello is even older – as old as lemon cultivation itself! The regions fishermen, it is said, always got a bracing shot of limoncello before braving the cold winds on the sea. Still other believes that we have the area’s monks to thank for the development this wonderful elixir. The one thing that is known is that Massimo Canale started a small production of handmade limoncello and trademarked the name in 1988.

Next time life hands you lemons or you are given a bottle of limoncello, try the following recipe.

1 pound of spaghetti
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 1/4 cups heavy cream (soy milk just doesn't cut it!)
1/4 cup limoncello or white wine
2 lemons, 1 peeled and 1 zested
1 cup (loosely packed) basil leaves, torn
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Cook spaghetti according to package directions. Combine garlic, cream, limoncello and lemon peel over medium-high heat in a medium-size sauce pot. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Remove the garlic clove and lemon peel from the sauce and discard. To the pot with the reserved pasta, add the sauce, the basil and a couple handfuls of Parmigiano Reggiano. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and toss to combine. To serve, top each portion with additional Parmigiano-Reggiano and some lemon zest.