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Limonata {Italian Lemonade}

Limonata {Italian Lemonade}

Limonata is a refreshing, citrusy and bubbly Italian lemonade made with fresh lemons and sparkling water. 

This traditional Italian Limonata is the most delicious, fragrant and flavorful lemonade I have ever tried. Super easy to prepare, I guarantee, try it once and you’ll be making it all summer long!

Why is Italian Lemonade called Limonata? 

Same way as Lemonade derives from the word “lemon”, Limonata derives from Italian word “limone”.

It’s probably one of the most beloved drinks during hot season. 

With abundance of lemon trees in Southern regions of Italy, there are different Italian Limonata recipes that are considered a “must-try” for the tourists.

Some of them are surprising and totally unconventional!

2 tall glasses of limonata

Is Lemonade an Italian invention?

They say when life gives you lemons, make lemonade, but who made it first?

The origins of the freshest soft-drink are too old to be clear.

When talking about the lemon-based – or lemon-scented! – non-alcoholic, sparkling beverage we nowadays mean by “lemonade”, chances are it was “invented” in France in the XVII century, but obviously lemons existed long before and have always been squeezed.

It is still debated whether Ancient Romans actually knew lemons as we know them or not.

Botanists agree that lemons spread in the Mediterranean basin around the VIII century. Thanks to an Arabic treatise dating back to the X century, we know lemon trees were known as ornamental plants, at first.


Lemon trees were brought to Italy by Genoese merchants, who are believed to have created the first lemon plantings in Europe around the year 1000.

However, hotter, sunnier climate of Southern regions made them a better place for the mass cultivation of lemons and the mass consumption of their refreshing juice.

In Sicily and Campania, lemonade is a popular drink among inhabitants and it is considered a specialty to try by tourists visiting the areas.

Each of these regions has, indeed, developed a particular recipe, a slight variation on the “lemon juice-sugar-water” score played anywhere else, which both originated from the popular tradition and experience.

Neapolitan Lemonade –  Limonata A Cosce Aperte

In Neaples, they add a pinch of baking soda to their artisanal lemonade, usually made with freshly squeezed juice of the lemons grown in the area of Sorrento.

Sodium bicarbonate is a salt that helps digestion – something precious when you’re captivated by irresistible, rich Neapolitan gastronomy – and makes the drink taste a little savory, which enhances the refreshing sensation of the lemonade.

It also makes the lemonade suddenly foaming, making people funnily jump back from their glasses. This is why this particular lemonade is also called “limonata a cosce aperte” (“open thigh lemonade”): because it requires you to open your legs wide not to get wet.

A similar refreshing effect is obtained in Sicily with sodium chloride (common salt).

Sicilian Lemonade – Limonata Al Sale

Drink booths in Catania and in other Sicilian towns serve this ice-cold lemond drink to both tourists and locals. When you first hear about it, it might sound if not extreme but certainly unconventional.

Sicilian Lemonade was originated in the north-east of Sicily in the town of Messina.

It is made by squeezing 2 fresh ripe Sicilian lemons directly in the glass, adding a spoonful of salt and then by filling it with ice-cold soda water.

A spoonful of salt might sound too much and you probably imagine such lemonade being way too salty. 

But, paradoxically, salt contrasts the natural sweetness of lemon juice and balances out its tartness. It also makes Sicilian Lemonade thirst-quenching as no other, replenishing your supplies of electrolytes.

While both Neapolitan and Sicilian Lemonades are certainly worth trying, below you’ll find traditional Limonata recipe that you can make all summer long.

Limonata Ingredients

Ingredients and tools to make limonata

Fresh Lemons – use the most fresh organic lemons you can find. You will use both lemon juice and lemon zest. Lemons can be ripe bright yellow color or even green slightly under-ripe.

Sugar – granulated sugar is best. You can also substitute it with honey.

As a rule of a thumb, for sweet tasting lemonade with just the perfect tartness use 2 tablespoons of sugar for each medium size lemon. You can always adjust sugar to taste.

Fresh Mint Leaves (optional) – mint leaves is not a necessary ingredient but they certainly add extra freshness to the lemonade. You can substitute it with fresh basil leaves to try a slightly different flavor.

Tools You’ll Need

  • Zester
  • Citrus reamer or juicer
  • A bowl large enough to hold juice and sugar for the quantity of lemons you make in one batch.

As an alternative you can make Limonata using a food processor, in this case the only extra tool you’ll need and a vegetable peeler or a small sharp knife.

How To Make Limonata

Making Italian Lemonade is super easy. 

You can even make it two ways: using a citrus squeezer and a zester or using only a food processor. I honestly prefer the first one, and I’ll explain why in just a moment, but it’s always nice to have options.

Start by washing lemons under cold running water and scrub them gently with a brush to remove any impurities.

washing lemons with a brush

Next we’ll prepare Lemonade mix which is essentially a lemon concentrate infused with lemon zest and mint for extra flavor and aroma.

How to make Limonata With A Citrus Squeezer & A Zester

Zest all lemons using a microplane zester. Grate inly the yellow part of the skin and avoid grating the white pith which will make lemonade bitter.

Add granulated sugar.

Mix everything well applying pressing and squeezing motion to extract the most flavor form the zest.

making limonata mint leaves

Add torn mint leaves and mix again.

Let sit for 30 minutes or more. You’ll notice how sugar starts to melt and lemons zest will become more fragrant.

squeezing lemons

Squeeze lemon juice from zested lemons and add to sugar and zest mix. Stir well.

marerating lemon zest and juice

Strain the mix using a strainer.

straining limonata

How to make Limonata In a Food Processor

To make Limonata is a food processor start by peeling lemons using a vegetable peeler.

Peel only the yellow part and add it to the food processor.

Next, using a sharp knife remove all the white pith. It’s super important to remove as much of it as possible since this is what make lemonade bitter! 

Cut lemons in quarters and remove all the seeds.

Add lemon quarters to the lemon peels together with fresh mint leaves and sugar.

Pulse until smooth. Add a few ice cubes or a little bit of  water to help everything blend better.

Let the mix sit for 30 minutes than strain.

limonata in a pitcher

How To Store & Serve Limonata

Store Limonata mix in a pitcher. When ready to serve, fill half of a glass with ice,  add about ⅓ of a glass of you just made lemonade mix and top everything with soda water.

pouring limonata in a glass

As an alternative you can mix lemonade concentrate with soda water in a big pitcher and serve it at the table. Keep in mind that this way lemonade will go flat and loose its fizz quickly.

italian lemonade in a tall glass garnished with mint
Can you freeze lemonade?

Absolutely! In fact is a great way to work fresh lemons in one batch and enjoy this refreshing drink all summer long.

How to freeze lemonade correctly?

If you want to freeze homemade lemonade all you have to do is freeze your Lemonade concentrate in ice cube trays. When ready to use you can let them melt directly in a glass or process in a blender with soda water to make a delicious frozen lemonade.

Can you make an adult version of Italian Lemonade?

Sure thing! Simply add a shot of Limoncello to get the most delicious light alcoholic drink. Just don’t serve it to kids!

More Recipes With Lemons

Limonata is not the only thing you can make with lemons. Try one or more of these lemon-flavors drinks, desserts and even pasta dishes that use lemons in all their beauty.

Drinks

Food & Desserts

limonata in a pitcher

Limonata {Italian Lemonade}

This traditional Italian Limonata is the most delicious, fragrant and flavorful lemonade you’ve ever made. Super easy to prepare, you’ll be making it all summer long – guaranteed!
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Prep Time5 mins
Resting Time30 mins
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 4 organic lemons
  • 8 tbsp sugar
  • Handful fresh mint leaven or basil leaves (optional)

Instructions

  • Wash lemons under cold running water and scrub them gently with a brush to remove any impurities.

Prepare Lemon Cocentrate using a Citrus Squeezer & a Zester

  • Zest all lemons using a microplane zester. Grate only the yellow part of the skin and avoid grating the white pith which will make lemonade bitter.
  • Add granulated sugar and torn mint leaves.
    Mix everything well applying pressing and squeezing motion to extract the most flavor.
  • Let sit 30 minutes or more (macerate).
  • Squeeze lemon juice from zested lemons and add to sugar and zest mix. Stir well.
    Strain the mix using a strainer.

Prepare Lemon Cocentrate using a Food Processor

  • Using a vegetable peeler peel only the yellow part and add it to the food processor.
  • Using a sharp knife remove all the white pith around lemons. It’s super important to remove as much of it as possible since this is what make lemonade bitter!
  • Cut lemons in quarters and remove all the seeds.
  • Add lemon quarters to the lemon peels together with fresh mint leaves and sugar.
    Pulse until smooth. Add a few ice cubes or a little bit of water to help everything blend better.
  • Let the mix sit for 30 minutes than strain.

Make Limonata

  • Store Limonata mix (concentrate) in a pitcher.
    When ready to serve, fill half of a glass with ice, add about ⅓ of a glass lemonade mix and top everything with soda water.

Notes

As a rule of a thumb, for sweet tasting lemonade with just the perfect tartness use 2 tablespoons of sugar for each medium size lemon. You can always adjust sugar to taste.
You’ll need whole lemon for a single serving of Limonata. Considering this you can adjust the proportions accordingly.
Liked this recipe?Follow @italianrecipeb for more!

Buon Appetito!

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