Ciao Bella! Italian Limoncello Recipe

italiano limoncello recipe

It’s been a week since I’ve been back from Italy and the warm weather we’ve been having has been giving me some serious nostalgia about the Italian coast.  Part of the nostalgia is the lemon everything we encountered while on in Positano – especially the limoncello. While in Monterosso (further north up the coast), I did a little limoncello tasting at a small shop which made their own and the woman actually gave me her recipe.  I think she knew full well that I wouldn’t have access to the same ingredients (Mediterranean lemons, that is), so I wouldn’t be a huge danger to her business.  Needless to say, I got right home and flexed my lemon liquor muscles and since it takes some time to make, we need to get yours started now.

If you’ve never had limoncello, it’s an aperitif and it’s tart, sweet, and strong!  In Italy, a lot of restaurants just bring it to your table after the meal totally for gratis… and believe me, it’s appreciated.  Like I said, it takes some time to make (about a month and a half or longer) said the woman in Monterosso and you can let it steep for longer if you’re able to stand it.  There are recipes online that take a lot less time, but let me say… if it seems to be too good to be true, it is.  And good things take time… all of those cliches hold true with limoncello.


limoncello recipes

There are a few things to make sure you have on hand before you get started.  First, you need to get a microplane zester. To get the zest off the lemon, you need to get as much yellow and as little white as humanly possible which is almost impossible with any other tool. I bought mine for around $14 and use it daily (parmesan cheese, nutmeg, whatev). Go ahead and zest 8-10 lemons (depending on size). And not just any lemons, organic lemons with as smooth of skin as possible. The reasons are practical – waxes and pesticides are put onto non-organic lemons and since you’re using the zest and not the insides, it’s super important. The reason for the smooth skin is because you’ll get a more consistent zest without digging into the white (bitter) pith.

making limoncello

limoncello recipe

Once you’ve zested the lemons (into a clean container that is capable of forming an air-tight seal) pour 3 cups (about one 750ml) bottle of Everclear over top of the lemon zest.  Seal and shake. Set the bottle aside in a dark, cool place and shake up a few times in the first week, then leave it alone for the second week.

Now, I’ll say, some people do make limoncello with vodka, but the authentic way to make it is with a grain alcohol.  Everclear is one of the few more commonly available grain alcohols and is alcoholy enough to break down essential oils in the lemon zest and really bring out that flavor.  You can definitely use vodka if you’d like, but it will have a different flavor than traditional limoncello.

homemade limoncello

After the second week, get the bottle out and strain.  I use a paper coffee filter snuggled inside of a permanent coffee filter and strain the mixture twice.  Then, in a separate pan, melt two cups of sugar into 3 cups of water. Heat and stir for a while, then turn off and let it cool.

making homemade limoncello

After it’s cooled, add it to the lemon liquid and give it a shake. Now is the hard part, put it in a cool, dark place and let it sit for a full month. Don’t open it, don’t sniff it, leave it alone.  If you see sugar sitting on the bottom, give it a shake and that is it.  After a full 6 weeks, it’s ok to drink.  You can let it sit for longer too and the flavors will change.  Make sure you put the finished limoncello into a bottle that fits in your freezer and keep it in there. Pour you and your friends a little shot of ice cold limoncello on the patio after a wonderful summer meal and enjoy.

homemade limoncello recipe

limoncello homemade

authentic limoncello


I know you guys are going to love this.  Go ahead, make it now so that you have it for those hot July and August nights!

Have you made limoncello?  If not, tell me if you’ve had it and where!

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