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Homemade Italian Limoncello Recipe

Updated on July 16, 2013

Italian Limoncello Recipe

Learn how to make Aunt Maria's secret italian limoncello recipe. She gave it to me and I wrote it on a napkin, when I traveled to Sicily on 2006. If you are looking for an easy to make and great afterdinner digestive limoncello recipe, you have come to the right place! This is an original recipe that has been in the family for many years, and I can assure you that your friends will love it!

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italian limoncello recipe

Italian Limoncello Recipe by Zia Maria

I am not Italian, but I have been living in Italy since 2004. My wife instead is Italian, and so her family (50% Venetian, 50% Sicilian). On August 2006, we made a trip to Sicily, where I met some of her Sicilian relatives. There I met her wonderful "Zia Maria" (Aunt Maria), and after having this excellent dinner, she offered us some homemade lemon liqueur: that's right, the "Limoncello"


So, you have never heard of it? No problem! I am not just going to tell you what it is, I am telling you how you can easily make your own Limoncello! Thanks to Zia Maria that gave me her secret limoncello recipe (oops, I think it's not secret anymore) now I do it every year. I actually came up with a new cool and original name for it. Since my name is Luis, the Limoncello I make is called "Luismoncello" :-)

"Zia Maria" Original Limoncello Recipe - The Ingredients

  • 8 organic (yellow) lemons.
  • A bottle of 75cl of pure grain alcohol (from 70% to 90%). Everclear should be your best option (if allowed in your State)
  • 3 1/2 cups of white Sugar (about 25 oz).
  • 75 cl of Water.

The ORIGINAL Limoncello Recipe in the original napkin!

original limoncello recipe in napkin
original limoncello recipe in napkin

I can't believe I found it! I thought I had lost it, but here it is: the original napkin where I wrote the recipe (in italian of course!)

Use Organic Lemons!

Since you will be using the lemon zests, be sure to buy organic lemons. Care about yourself and your friends!

Peel the zest
Peel the zest

Limoncello Recipe and the Lemon Zests

be aware of the pith!

The first thing we have to do is take the lemons, wash them with a lot of water and peel the zest off.

The lemons, as I told you before, must be yellow and not green. Another important thing to remember is that when you peel the zest off, you should stay away from the pith (the white part); we will just use the colored part, because the pith will give a bitter flavor to our Limoncello.

I usually use a vegetable peeler for that, but you can use anything you want.

Peel that Lemon easily!

I have updated this part of my lens, because I have found out that it's easier to get the lemon zest out with a potato peeler!

Macerating the lemon zest
Macerating the lemon zest

Italian Limoncello Recipe: add some Alcohol!

I know, peeling off the zest of those 8 lemons was not funny at all. Do not worry because the rest is a piece of cake!

Now we need to put the lemon zest inside the alcohol, and let it macerate for about 48 to 72 hours. You may probably want to separate the alcohol in two bottles, otherwise the zests will not fit.

Put a cap on those bottles, they have to be closed hermetically, and keep them away from sunlight. And now, we wait...

Limoncello Recipe Bottles - A nice gift for your friends!

A bottle of your own Limoncello is a great gift for your friends, because it is something that YOU did with your hands. Show that friend that he/she is special!

adding sugar to limoncello
adding sugar to limoncello

Some Sugar in our Italian Limoncello Recipe

Zia Maria's Italian limoncello recipe continues like this: Put the 75cl of water to boil on a pot, turn the flame off and then add the sugar.

We just want the water and the sugar to mix together, we are not making any caramel here.

Let it cool for about 5 to 10 minutes and then add the alcohol from our macerated lemon zests to the pot. You can use a strainer, since we do not want the zests here.

Combine everything, put it in bottles and wait for it to cool off.

Once is cool, put those bottles in the freezer. Limoncello is best served chilled after a meal as a digestive liqueur.

Here's my custom version of Limoncello, or as I said before: the "Luismoncello" :-)

Buon Limoncello!

Great Italian Recipes Books

Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy: A Feast of 175 Regional Recipes
Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy: A Feast of 175 Regional Recipes

Starred Review. Bastianich, acclaimed restaurateur, star of a PBS cooking show and author (Lidia's Italy, etc.), and her daughter Manuali offer a stellar array of regional Italian recipes in this tantalizing and lavishly photographed collection. They serve up authentic, hearty fare including such favorites as wedding soup from Basilicata, braised veal shanks from Lombardy and spaghetti with clam sauce from Le Marche...

 
Everyday Italian: 125 Simple and Delicious Recipes
Everyday Italian: 125 Simple and Delicious Recipes

Everyday Italian is true to its title: the fresh, simple recipes are incredibly quick and accessible, and also utterly mouth-watering-perfect for everyday cooking. And the book is focused on the real-life considerations of what you actually have in your refrigerator and pantry (no mail-order ingredients here) and what you're in the mood for-whether a simply sauced pasta or a hearty family-friendly roast, these great recipes cover every contingency.

 
Molto Italiano: 327 Simple Italian Recipes to Cook at Home
Molto Italiano: 327 Simple Italian Recipes to Cook at Home

The only mandatory Italian cookbook for the home cook, Mario Batali's MOLTO ITALIANO is rich in local lore, with Batali's humorous and enthusiastic voice, familiar to those who have come to know him on his popular Food Network programs, larded through about 220 recipes of simple, healthy, seasonal Italian cooking for the American audience.

 
Simple Italian Sandwiches: Recipes from America's Favorite Panini Bar
Simple Italian Sandwiches: Recipes from America's Favorite Panini Bar

Delicious signature variations on the Italian pressed sandwich, such as Italian Tuna, Oven-Roasted Tomato and Arugula Panini; Sweet Coppa and Hot Pepper Panini; and Artichoke, Fennel and Fontina Panini. They also offer an array of open-faced bruschetti, from Caponata and Goat Cheese Bruschetta to Fig, Prosciutto and Arugula Bruschetta.

 
1,000 Italian Recipes (1,000 Recipes)
1,000 Italian Recipes (1,000 Recipes)

It's Like Getting 5 Cookbooks in 1

* 179 Pastas and Sauces

* 241 Meat, Poultry, and Fish Entrees

* 158 Vegetable Dishes

* 179 Desserts

* And Much More!

 

Limoncello Recipe: Glasses - Your Limoncello Recipe must be drank the proper way!

Remember to thank Zia Maria every time you drink this Limoncello :-)

Comments? Questions? - Go ahead and write!

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    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      @anonymous: Nancy

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      @Amarant LM: Nancy

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      @Amarant LM: Nancy

    • Amarant LM profile image
      Author

      Amarant LM 4 years ago

      @anonymous: Hi Nancy,

      At the end you'll see that you will make your own recipe. Some people like their limoncello less sweet, or with less licor on it. My advice is to try with 12 small lemons and leave the rest as it is. After that, just adjust the recipe to what you like!

      Buon Limoncello!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Where do we find the answers to our questions

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      @anonymous: 1/2 gal is roughly 1.9 liter, so I'd suggest scaling the recipe with a factor of x 2.5

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I just bought beautiful Meyer lemons but they are quite small. How do I adjust this recipe?

    • profile image

      LadyDuck 4 years ago

      Great recipe (grazie Zia Maria!). Do you also have the original recipe for Cremoncello? I love it, my recipe is quite good but not perfect.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I have a half gallon of 190 proof grain alcohol. How many lemons do I have to use and how much sugar, please?

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      @anonymous: Did you soak lemon peels for a few days ? Followed to a tee and mine can out excellent, yellow and all.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Just finished making this a few months back, It gets much smoother after it sits for a while, but excellent reciepe!! Made a second batch with organic maderine oranges!!, thanks for the Article.

    • robynduprey profile image

      robynduprey 4 years ago

      Thanks for posting this! Definitely looking forward to trying this out.

    • aliwings profile image

      aliwings 4 years ago

      I came to Italy in 1993 and I'm still here, one sip of the yellow stuff and there was no way I was leaving :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      @anonymous: Jano, I don't think you have read the posts. I say 6 to 7 days and the blogger says 48 to 72 hours. Either makes perfect limoncello.This is a one time thing. After you mascerate the lemons in the alcohol for somewhere between 48 hours and 7 days, you then heat up the sugar water, strain the lemon peels and after the sugar has disolved in the water, immediately add the alcohol mixture so you get the opaque color. Then freeze after it cools down. If you used, as he said, a high enough percentage of alcohol it will look beautiful and will not freeze, just stay chilled. If you did not use the Everclear or a similar alcohol content as he suggested, throw the mess away and start again as you will not have made it correctly and you will not have limoncello.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      @anonymous: Amanda,

      What part of my Nov. 21st posting did you miss?

    • profile image

      rudhushudu 4 years ago

      we also make it at home minus alcohol

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      MUST add alcohol to sugar water when sugar water is still hot, DO NOT wait 5-10 min unless you want a clear result. Adding the alcohol when the sugar water is fresh off the flame will give you the opaque yellow result. Much more appetizing than its clear pee like counterpart.

    • Amarant LM profile image
      Author

      Amarant LM 5 years ago

      @anonymous: I wait only 48-72 days!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      @anonymous: No, once is enough. We are at odds here. My recipe calls for 7 days and his for 48-72 hours. Both seem to work well. No more that that. The stuff will go back if left too long.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      @Amarant LM: The first time I tried to make Limoncello, before I got the recipe, the one reference to it in an Italian cookbook said 30 days. Do not do this, it does go bad and it looks like urine. Go with fewer days. Learn from my mistake.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      @anonymous: No, one time waiting for lemons to macerate. I say 7 days, he says 72 hours.

      Probably either will work.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      My friend Francesco who lives between Positano and Amalfi says you need to leave the lemon zest in the alcohol for 1 week and he also adds 1 lime. In addition if you don't make it with 100+ proof alcohol, don't even bother. It's not the same thing at all. You have to pour the alcohol mixture into the sugar mixture when the sugar mixture is hot or you will not get the opaque color. He taught me how to make it 2 decades ago and I have had great success even since. My friends and I are now "Lemonheads".

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      SORRY FuRTHER TO THAT I mean't is it only the 48-72 hrs we wait or do we wait again ? some recipeis require you to wait for 40 days before straining.

    • Amarant LM profile image
      Author

      Amarant LM 5 years ago

      @anonymous: Hello Jano!

      I have tried this recipe lots of times, and I can tell you that my friends love it. And for me, that's the right amount of time.

      You could try both versions, 3 and 40 days, and then let us know which one is better!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I am just wondering how long do you have to let the lemons sit in the Alcohol for ? It doesn't say on the recipe.

    • Amarant LM profile image
      Author

      Amarant LM 5 years ago

      @anonymous: ahaha yeah sorry about that!!! That would be around 800 grams of sugar. However my brother (who now makes its own as well) says that's too sweet and he puts only 700. ciao!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Love the drink, love the recipe.

      I did laugh at the recipe when I 1st read it, nothing to do with the ingredients, but the mismash of metric and non metric measures, I understand 8 lemons, 75cl of alchol, but oz/cups of sugar floored me, what is that in grams please?

    • Amarant LM profile image
      Author

      Amarant LM 5 years ago

      @HardyGirl: thanks!!! I hope you like it!

    • Amarant LM profile image
      Author

      Amarant LM 5 years ago

      @anonymous: I think that would be a very different recipe! but I'm sure it would be delicious :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      any chocolate cello recipe...been searching the web and I can't find any...already make the lemon and clementine

    • HardyGirl profile image

      HardyGirl 5 years ago

      Fantastic lens! Can't wait to try this at home - thanks!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Thank you Zia Maria!!! I made this and it was excellent, will be making again and again!!!

    • profile image

      Primomotore 5 years ago

      Wow I love Limoncello!

    • LiteraryMind profile image

      Ellen Gregory 5 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      Thank you for the recipe.

    • Kailua-KonaGirl profile image

      June Parker 5 years ago from New York

      I love Limoncello. I will have to try this sometime.

    • profile image

      gianpaolo-galli 5 years ago

      Great taste and perfume. I love llimoncello. Great lenses!

    • joehelms profile image

      joehelms 5 years ago

      Nice lens! I've made a couple batches of limoncello, although following a slightly different recipe. It's delicious no matter how you do it!

      The one I followed calls for a longer time sitting and resting after you add the sugar. If you find your batch is too strong, resting lets it blend and age a little, making it much smoother.

      Then again, sometimes you just can't wait!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      @Amarant LM: Yes it has been closed in an over sized mason jar with rubber gasket metal snap lid. It's a nice light honey color. I am going to strain it one more time and re-bottle - then will let you know. Thanks!

    • Amarant LM profile image
      Author

      Amarant LM 5 years ago

      @anonymous: Yes! You need to find your own quantities! This is the general recipe, but for example my brother adds less sugar too.

    • Amarant LM profile image
      Author

      Amarant LM 5 years ago

      @anonymous: I think it should be ok to drink it... it's alcohol and it was closed (wasn't it?). Let me know!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Unfortunately during a move the jar of 'perking' limoncello was forgotten. I had gotten to the sugar stage and needed to bottle it. Now, almost 8 months later I remembered it and it is a deep golden color. There are some zests in the bottom as I had only removed the majority of them. My question is, can it be consumed? I wanted to add more vodka to it originally (the container was too small for the larger amount). But, is it safe to drink. Has been in a cool dark cabinet for most of that time. Thanks! Would hate to waste it.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I love Limoncello and buy it often,I was really excited to try this and followed the recipe exactly. This was way to sweet.I'm going to start over but use half the sugar.I guess everyone's idea of authentic Limoncello is different.Thanks anyway!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      @Dawn Michael PhD: It was easier than I thought it would be. I was concerned about not getting any pith, so I started out quartering the lemons, then cutting the peel with a sharp knife as close as I could to the zest. I used the side of a spoon, then a dull knife to try to scrape off the pith. Talk about frustrating. I switched to a peeler and voila--perfect every time. The narrower the strip you peel, the less pith. Finished 8 lemons in under 15 minutes.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      This will be my first effort at Limoncello. I first saw it on a craft show on TV, have never tasted it but accidentally bought something I imagine is like it when I was looking for vodka to make Bloody Marys. This said it was lemon flavored, and I figured, lemon in a Blood Mary, that could be very good. Glad I tasted it first--it was half sugar! Definitely a lovely lemon flavor. Inspired me to go recipe shopping and this one is the one I chose. Grazie, Luis and Zia Maria!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      @anonymous: If the cream and alcohol are separating at room temperature or when cold, you'll have the same problem with freezing. You could take the mixture out of the freezer every half hour so and give it a good stir, then it should at least be well mixed by the time it is frozen--BUT I will bet it might be a little grainy. The tastes will still be there, so no need not to enjoy it!

    • desa999 lm profile image

      desa999 lm 5 years ago

      Never tasted this but love your lens.

    • LynetteBell profile image

      LynetteBell 5 years ago from Christchurch, New Zealand

      I had Limoncello at a restaurant some years ago and recently tested it again at a Farmer Market

    • profile image

      PaulRyan 5 years ago

      Sounds good, has made me thirsty. Home made drinks are the best ones, especially with alcohol in them. :):)

    • Vortrek Grafix profile image

      Vortrek Grafix 5 years ago

      Nice lens. Tried limoncella once or twice, but never made it myself. Do know several people who make it themselves, and they all love it!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I made limoncella creme, but the grain alcohol keeps separating from the cream. Now that it's in the freezer, the cream is freezing. Any ideas on how to prevent this from happening?

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Viva Zia Maria!! Salud!!

    • nyclittleitaly profile image

      nyclittleitaly 5 years ago

      Limoncello is my favorite drink. Especially on a hot day. Great lens,

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      My ex-boyfriend's Dad used to make amazing Limoncello!

      He got bored of the flavour of lemons though and started substituting with other citrus fruits.... the mandarin and cumquat ones were to die for!!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      first time hearing about this, sure would try it!

    • Beadsnresin profile image

      Beadsnresin 6 years ago

      That napkin recipe is really cool, love seeing recipes like that, thanks for sharing!

      (I have a Zia Maria too LOL)

    • profile image

      godinhora 6 years ago

      Great recipe, lived in Milan for seven years I really miss the Limoncello...

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Thank you Luis and Zia Maria. This is a great recipe. My friend and I used this recipe, however, we let the lemon zest sit in the alcohol for 35 days before we added in the sugar water mixture. Smooth and very lemony. Thanks again. Will be making this again!

    • profile image

      cr00059n 6 years ago

      Such a great article. Thanks.

    • profile image

      cocktailsexaminer 6 years ago

      Thanks for sharing!

    • pramodbisht profile image

      pramodbisht 6 years ago

      Nice recipe, witt try it Thanks for shaing

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I just made one gallon of this (expanding the recipe) and it came out absolutely perfect. If you go to Mediterraneo's on Atwells Avenue in the Federal Hill section of Providence, Rhode Island they have homemade limoncello that is served up on the house after your meal. This tastes exactly the same. My batch was made with Graves Grain Alcohol (190 proof) and I spent the time listening to the 70's music station while peeling 20 lemons. Plus...I made the most delicious lemonade afterwards. Thanks so much for this keeper!

    • profile image

      livingfrontiers 6 years ago

      What a great way to envision life in Italy with just a drink! this makes great gifts, as Americans are not saavy to the lovely lemon drink, and will find it very unique! Thank you for sharing!

    • profile image

      blanckj 6 years ago

      Thanks for sharing. I love recipes with a flare of culture.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      @Amarant LM: yes, i did follow the recipe, we dont have everclear here in new zealand, had to use vodka, maybe thats why, still taste good though, but just doesnt look as nice :-(

    • Amarant LM profile image
      Author

      Amarant LM 6 years ago

      @anonymous: Did you follow the recipe? maybe you added too much water, or not enough sugar

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      i just made this recipe, how come my lemoncello is not as "cloudy" as this one, mine is see throu, hhhmmmm hope it will still tase nice ;-(

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      thanks for recipe. I tired my first limomcello today. I'm going to make some this weekend

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Nice lens

    • MaxwellScott LM profile image

      MaxwellScott LM 6 years ago

      Excellent Lense - I absolutely love limoncello! If you haven't tried it - go for it!

      Best after an evening meal !!!!

      If i get time i will deffinately give this a try.

    • Amarant LM profile image
      Author

      Amarant LM 6 years ago

      @Dawn Michael PhD: Thanks!! It's really good indeed :-)

      Peeling the lemons wasn't fun at all, but then I discovered that it's actually easier with a potato peeler. I just updated that on my lens.

    • Dawn Michael PhD profile image

      Dawn Michael 6 years ago from Thousand Oaks

      Looks good but I dont know about peeling all of the lemons...lol thanks for the informative lens.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I am half Sicilian and I remember making some limoncello with my uncle in Sicilia one summer... wow was it nice and fresh.. very good! The recipe is similar.

    • chezchazz profile image

      Chazz 6 years ago from New York

      Will definitely try this - sounds great!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Fabulous! We have several lemon trees and this is a great idea for gifts for our neighbors in Cave Creek, AZ. I am going to try and make a mexican version with tequila! Ole.

    • Amarant LM profile image
      Author

      Amarant LM 6 years ago

      @anonymous: You just leave it in the freezer! It actually will never freeze, but it's best served chilled. Yesterday I gave a bottle to a couple of friends, since it's winter we just left it for about an hour outside, and then drank some of it. They really loved the gift, because it was made by me. ciao!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      How long do you freeze it? And how long will it last in the freezer? Many thanks!!

    • jackieb99 profile image

      jackieb99 6 years ago

      Mmm...yummy

    • mariaamoroso profile image

      irenemaria 7 years ago from Sweden

      In Rome I had Limoncello with cream mmmmmm

    • profile image

      julieannbrady 7 years ago

      I am seriously into limoncello -- and if I can learn to make it homemade, all the better! Cheers.

    • javr profile image

      javr 7 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      What a great idea!

    • JenOfChicago LM profile image

      JenOfChicago LM 7 years ago

      This looks delicious! Zia Maria's family is lucky!

    • ajgodinho profile image

      Anthony Godinho 7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I've never tried Limoncello before, but it sounds good. Thanks for sharing Zia Maria's recipe!

    • Grasmere Sue profile image

      Sue Dixon 7 years ago from Grasmere, Cumbria, UK

      I bet this is lovely. I'll try it sometime.

    • rewards4life info profile image

      rewards4life info 7 years ago

      I've never tried it, but I'd love to one day. I enjoyed my visit.

    • LouisaDembul profile image

      LouisaDembul 7 years ago

      I really like Limoncello. When I had lemon trees I made it all the time, it really is easy!

    • Ramkitten2000 profile image

      Deb Kingsbury 7 years ago from Flagstaff, Arizona

      I've never tried this and didn't know of it before this visit. Well done lens.

    • delia-delia profile image

      Delia 7 years ago

      Oh Yummy a recipe for Limoncello...a friend of mine used to have this many years ago and I didn't know there was a recipe to make..thanks for sharing!

    • kathysart profile image

      kathysart 7 years ago

      Interesting... I confess did not even know what it was. Sounds great!!

    • Kiwisoutback profile image

      Kiwisoutback 7 years ago from Massachusetts

      I've never had FRESH limoncello. I'd love to give it a try sometime. Nice work!

    • sciencefictionn profile image

      sciencefictionn 7 years ago

      Limoncello is one of my preferred post lunch drinks. Your recipe looks perfect!

    • ElizabethJeanAl profile image

      ElizabethJeanAl 7 years ago

      Sounds easy to make and perfect for after spring and summer meals.

      Thanks for sharing.

      Lizzy

    • KimGiancaterino profile image

      KimGiancaterino 7 years ago

      Our lemon tree is loaded this year, and we will definitely be making a batch of Limoncello. Very nice lens!