Category Archives: italian

How to make limoncello

Once again, I have been neglecting fraises et tartines for far too long. Now that the school year is over and we’re home from our various trips, I have no more excuses and so, here I am. Not that blogging has somehow become a chore, it just hasn’t been a priority for, oh, the last 6 months (I suppose that much is clear). What I didn’t realize prior to the vacation we returned from last night was how many people around the country (both known and unknown to me!) follow my blog. Over the last 3 weeks, we have been to 7 states (some just driving through) and seen friends and family along the way. I was a bit shocked but mostly humbled that at each stop along the way there was someone giving me a finger wagging and an “evil eye” for neglecting my blog for so long. I even got some, “My friend follows your blog and says you haven’t updated in months!” Wow! Hopefully this will give me the kick in the pants I needed.

I thought that given my long absence, a guide to making limoncello would be an appropriate first post back, since this recipe is largely a test in patience. It takes about two and a half months to make, but the result is completely worth the wait. Strong, flavorful, smooth and refreshing, limoncello makes a superb after dinner drink.

To start, you’ll need a large, 1.5 L, mason jar, 10 lemons, a 750 ml bottle of Everclear (get the strongest your state will sell you…here in CA that’s 150 proof, but in New Jersey we found 180 proof, whew!), and a very sharp paring knife. Start by carefully peeling all the lemons. Make sure you don’t have any white pith on the back of your lemon zest. This will make your limoncello bitter, and well, after two and a half months of waiting, that would be…bitterly disappointing. If you have pith on your zest, turn it over and shave it off with your knife. This is a labor of love, but it will be worth it. Once all of your lemons are peeled, put the zest in your mason jar, pour in the Everclear, and close it up. Now here’s the hardest part….wait 2 months. I know it’s long, but again, it’ll be worth it! I usually use masking tape to label my jar with the date the limoncello is ready for step 2.




2 months later…take your mason jar out of hiding and prepare a simple syrup. I usually use a 1:1 ratio of water and sugar but some people like it sweeter and prefer to use more sugar. This is really up to you and your taste so experiment! You’ll want about 4 cups total of simple syrup so if you’re using a 1:1 ratio, combine 2 cups of water and 2 cups of sugar in a saucepan and heat slowly until the sugar is completely dissolved. Some say that if you stir the simple syrup as it’s dissolving you’ll end up with a cloudy limoncello, but I’m not convinced. I’ll need to experiment further with a side-by-side comparison and report back. Once your simple syrup is ready wait for it to cool completely to room temperature (another test in patience…good thing I gave you a ton of practice with 6 months between blog posts!). Once completely cooled, add the simple syrup to the steeping alcohol, leaving the lemon zest inside. Now you’re in the home stretch but you’ll need to dip into your patience reserves just a little bit longer. Wait 2 more weeks. Then strain out the lemon peel and bottle your limoncello. I like to use bottles from French Limonade, which you can buy at Cost Plus, Whole Foods, and BevMo, because they have the EZ tops. Drink the Limonade, wash the bottle and then use it for bottling limoncello. Once bottled, store the limoncello either in a dark closet or in your freezer. I prefer the limoncello cold, but without ice, so the freezer is perfect. With the high alcohol content, it wont freeze so you don’t have to worry about putting a glass bottle in the freezer. Enjoy the fruits of your patience in the smallest glasses you have. Limoncello is very strong and is best enjoyed in small sips. Cheers! Or rather, Salute!

Pesto Linguine with Green Beans

The end of summer is here, and for me this often means that I’m completely overloaded with basil from the garden and need to make pesto to freeze and/or eat right away. I wish that that were the case this summer, because I love having lots of pesto stored away all year round for those winter days when I really want a taste of summer, but basil costs $5.00 per sprig and is flown in from Chile. Unfortunately, my basil plant performance was substandard this year so I had to resort to buying basil to make my yearly stock of pesto. Better luck next year, I suppose!

The great thing about pesto is that it’s SUPER easy to make. On top of that it’s delicious, freezes really well, and you can do lots of other things with it besides putting it on pasta (like using it on a pizza instead of pizza sauce).

Here are the ingredients you’ll need to make enough pesto to freeze some and eat some right away:
4 c. packed basil leaves
1 c. pine nuts
1 c. shredded parmesan
1/2 c. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, peeled and whole
1 tsp salt

Wash and dry the basil leaves and throw them into your food processor (a blender would probably do the trick, although I’ve never tried). Add the pine nuts, parmesan, garlic, and salt. Turn on the food processor and slowly pour in the olive oil in a constant stream. Process until the pesto reaches the consistency you want. I like it pretty smooth, personally. You may have to scrape down the edges and process it again. You should get something looking like this:

If you’re going to freeze some, what I always do is put the pesto into an ice cube tray and set it in the freezer. Once it’s frozen, I take my pesto cubes out and transfer them to a freezer bag. Throughout the year, I’ll take out pesto cubes as I need them, put them in a small bowl in the refrigerator in the morning, and let them defrost until the evening. If I forget to defrost them, or don’t plan that far ahead, I’ll throw them in the microwave for 30 second increments. I prefer not to do this, though, because it melts the cheese before you can mix the pesto in with pasta and you end up with big globs of pesto rather than a nice even spread of it.

After you fill up one ice cube tray, you should have a nice-sized portion left over for tonight’s dinner. Since I had some green beans from our CSA, I decided to cook them up and toss them in with the pesto and linguine. The result was definitely tasty, and little lighter than it would have been with just pasta and pesto thrown in together. Other things you could toss in with your pasta include halved cherry tomatoes, lightly wilted spinach leaves (or arugula), or roasted bell peppers. And there you have another tasty summer dish!