June 16, 2010
Limoncello is a staple at the end of meals in Italy, especially during the summer months but you can find it all year long. There are other after dinner digestives such as Amaro and Mirtu but Limoncello holds a special place in many people’s hearts. Some 16 million liters of Limoncello are produced on a yearly basis.
Limoncello is synonymous with the Amalfi coast in Italy and the Campania region. Lemon cultivation began there in the Middle Ages. Lemons grow particularly well in this area thanks to the composition of the volcanic soil which also has considerable potassium within it.
Limoncello has also become very popular in the United States thanks to a number of producers, among them Villa Massa.
Villa Massa Limoncello is a made from the rinds of fresh Sorrento oval lemons, a protected variety of lemon with the PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) designation. The lemons are carefully peeled within 24 hours of harvest. Sorrento lemons are much desired for the quantity of essential oils that they contain in their rinds. At Villa Massa, the lemon rinds macerate in alcohol for three days. After several days the liquid is filtered and blended with a syrup of purified water and castor sugar. This product has 30% alcohol or 60% proof.
Villa Massa is located in the Piano di Sorrento on the Sorrento Peninsula. In order to receive the coveted PGI designation, the lemons must be grow in a particular way and using organic cultivation methods, free from pesticides. In fact, Villa Massa’s Limoncello uses no perservatives, no artificial flavorings nor coloring agents. Just lemon rind, sugar and alcohol.
The Massa family has been located in the Sorrento Peninsula since the late 1800s but the company that makes Villa Massa Limoncello was founded in 1991. Still the recipe that they use to make the Limoncello is the same as the one created in 1890.
Limoncello can also be used in cocktails and in cooking recipes.
By Susannah Gold
January 26, 2010
Pasta is certainly a uniquely Italian dish but not all pastas are created equal. Those in the know say that the best pasta is that which comes from Campania. Even that isn’t specific enough for some. The real home of pasta they say are two small towns: Torre Annunziata and Gragnano. The latter even holds an annual pasta festival. Both of these areas are very well known for the pastas that they produce, a few of which are exported to the United States.
Some historians date the creation of the four pronged fork with which to twirl pasta to this area of the world as well. Apparently a certain Gennaro Spadaccini, one of King Ferdinand II’s Chamberlains, added an additional prong to the fork so that noblemen were able to perform the slight circular motion done when eating pasta more easily and to better wind pasta onto their forks without the risk of being covered in sauce. A noblemen covered in sauce would certainly go against the rules of the Galateo, a book on manners.
What it is that makes the pasta from these towns so special? Apparently it is the air and the water quality, the cooking and drying methods used as well. Pasta is only made from durum wheat here and graces the table at almost every meal excluding breakfast. Pasta can be dry or fresh and homemade. It is served with sauces, seafood or meat or vegetables.
September 22, 2009
Cantine Federciane’s Gragnano DOC is full of surprises. At a recent wine tasting, many people thought that they were drinking a Lambrusco from Emilia Romagna. Much to their surprise, the wine had more body and different earthy aromas than the Lambrusco they remembered. They were not wrong however. The wine wasn’t a Lambrusco at all but a Gragnano, made from a blend of indigenous grapes from the Campania region of Italy. Piedirosso, Sciascinoso and Aglianico are blended to produce this delicious red wine from the Sorrento Penisola. The soils are volcanic and the winery’s website says that they see the perlage or bubbles in this wine as reflecting the eruptions of Vesuvius. The wine is made in stainless steel and ferments at a controlled temperature on selected yeasts. It undergoes a secondary fermentation in autoclave in order to create its characteristic foam.
The wine is a beautiful rich deep ruby almost purple red. It is best when served cool and is refreshing with berry notes, a lovely body and rich texture. This wine can always be found on the menu at local restaurant and wine bar Tarallucci e Vino and is on the menu at numerous restaurants in New York City. This wine is considered to be the ideal wine for pizza.