Italy Week

11 Fragrant, Lemony Dishes That'll Transport You to Italy's Amalfi Coast

September 17, 2018

It's Italy Week! All week long, we're celebrating all things Italian with our partner Lagostina. Stay tuned for more great recipes, stories, and travel tips.

I was only eight years old the first time I stepped foot on the Amalfi Coast, and many of my memories of the place are striking and vivid—as if I had just come back from a trip. But because I was so young, others are fleeting and imperfect.

I remember sneaking a sip of limoncello (a liqueur made from lemon peels) as my parents looked away and finding its syrupy, neon-yellow taste far too sweet for my liking. (Today, I’d never turn down an after-dinner sip of the stuff.) I have flashbacks of my mother clutching me as the tour bus driver whipped around the region’s steep, winding cliffs with wild abandon en route to some other coastal town, probably Sorrento. And while I can’t recall every single thing that we ate, I remember our meals being magical: oceanside terraces, fresh-caught seafood I gobbled up like candy, and all the pasta I could ever want.

The snappy, perfectly acidic punch of lemon lightens the heft of the potatoes, and brings out the sweet, clean flavor of an octopus cooked until tender in a Lagostina pot. Photo by Julia Gartland

But while many of these experiences only come back to me after flipping through an old photo album, there’s one moment—and smell—I’ll never forget: the lemons.

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It was the summer, so the lemons were ripe on the vine and the size of my head (or at least they seemed like it at the time). I vividly recall walking through lush, terraced groves; the intoxicating smell of pure lemon was everywhere. Then, our tour guide offered me a bite of one. I hesitated, since every lemon I had tasted before this had been sour, but took one anyways. It was sweet! And juicy, too. It was the most refreshing piece of fruit I had ever tried.

Ever since, whenever I make anything with lemons—even when they're not Amalfi's famous sfusato lemons, which are bigger and sweeter than the varieties you'll find in your grocery store—I'm taken right back to the Italian coast, the Mediterranean waves lapping up against the rocky shore and the scent of lemons in the air.

Here, I've collected a few of my favorite lemony dishes, like the octopus and potato salad above, a tastes-like-the-ocean dish you can find all along the Italian coast. The soft potatoes, thinly sliced celery, and fresh parsley make the perfect complement to octopus that’s gently simmered in white wine until tender (read: not chewy). If you're lucky enough to get your hands on some real Amalfi lemons when they're in season—which is coming to a close now, after summer's peak—use them! That being said, unwaxed organic or Meyer lemons are a decent substitute for when you can't make a trip to southern Italy.

All the Bright, Citrusy Recipes

In partnership with Lagostina, the premium Italian cookware brand that values high-quality materials and time-honored craftsmanship, we're bringing you seven days of stories and recipes all about Italy.

To cap off the week, we're highlighting the #LagostinaSundayDinner with a new series all about the Italian tradition of Sunday suppers—casual, all-day affairs with friends, family, and delicious food—that features go-to recipes from some of our favorite chefs and cookbook authors.

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Erin Alexander

Written by: Erin Alexander

Erin Alexander is the Managing Editor of Brand Partnerships at Food52, covering pop culture, travel, foods of the internet, and all things #sponsored. Formerly at Men’s Journal, Men’s Fitness, Us Weekly, and Hearst, she currently lives in New York City.


cosmiccook September 25, 2018
Lemon trees are trained on wire trellises in rows making for overhead (vine) covered trees in vineyard-like style. Yes trees are grown individually on the streets (Sorrento, Amalfi etc.) but you see these lemon "vineyards" all over the place by train or bus.
FrugalCat September 18, 2018
Lemons were "ripe on the vine..." Really? I loved the story and the lemons, but I am pretty sure they grow on a tree- even in Italy. I love octopus with lemon and this salad sounds fantastic.