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Pasta with LemonI really don’t know where to start talking about Limone, a charming village tucked away on the western shore of Lake Garda. We could begin with the beautiful, relaxed setting framed by the mountains towering above…

Limone, Italy - 19 - Version 3LimoneOr I could tell you about the luscious, tangy, smooth, simple Tagliatelle al Limone I thoroughly enjoyed at a restaurant on the lakefront. Which goes exceptionally well with Lake Garda Lemon Tart for dessert I might add.  (At the end of this post is the Pasta with Lemon recipe – it’s simple, easy and very light. Make sure to add lots of cracked pepper and be generous with the Parmigiano cheese.)

Lake Garda LemonsOr perhaps it’s the medical discovery in the ’70s that Limonese people are genetically healthier. But I’ll get to that…

Let’s start with a bit about the pretty town of Limone, which until the 1930’s, was only reachable by boat or over the mountains. Limone is named after lemons, actually one lemon, the plural is limoni (see, I listen in Italian class, Signora Orzano). With a history covering several centuries and a population of about 1,100 residents, the economy was primarily based on fishing, olive oil and lemons.  Tourism has now become the main economic resource. Although I would hardly consider it a busy tourist spot as it has a breezy, calm way about it. And even if no longer in economic first place, you can still enjoy the local fish, flavorful olive oil and tangy lemons that sustained it for so long. The shops are filled with everything lemon including marmalade, soaps, cookies and of course limoncello.

Lemon Gardens of Lake Garda BookThe lemons were grown, and some still are, in  limonaia (lemon houses) that from a distant glance appear to be the ruins of a construction site.  The limonaia were first built in the 15th century and Lake Garda is the northernmost area of the world where lemons are cultivated. Composed of high pillars in rows with white walls that enclose them on 3 sides, the limonaia are now open to the sky.  Established lemon trees can produce fruit for more than a century.

Limonaia

LimonaiaBut perhaps one of the most fascinating things about Limone is the discovery of a special protein in a number of the inhabitants’ blood that removes fat from the arteries and eliminates cholesterol. Discovered in 1974 in a railway worker, the Apoliprotein A-1 Milano, as the protein is named, is hereditary and when all the residents had their blood tested, it was found that a fourth of the people had the cardiovascular advantages while only a few dozen were actual carriers. An investigation of local church and town hall records reconstructed the genealogical tree and found that all carriers were descendants of a couple who married around 1780.

Several institutions, including Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, continue the research on Apo A-1 Milano including gene therapy. The study at Cedars-Sinai is also testing the idea that in addition to reversing  arterial plaque, the protein may help in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease. All fascinating and compelling medical information that started with a small Italian lakeside town.

I suppose there’s really no need to choose what’s the most intriguing thing about Limone, and if you come with us to Lake Garda in April, you can decide for yourself.

 

Linguine al Limone (Linguine with Lemon)
 
Ingredients
  • 1 lb. linguine, tagliatelle or fettucine
  • 4 T. butter
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • ¼ grated lemon zest (about 4 lemons)
  • strips of lemon zest from 1 lemon
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • ⅓ c. grated parmigiano cheese
Instructions
  1. Cook pasta in salted water according to package directions for al dente.
  2. Melt butter over low heat in large skillet.
  3. Add olive oil.
  4. Add lemon zest, lemon strips and salt and heat 1-2 minutes, making sure not to boil.
  5. Drain pasta, add to pan and heat another minute. Add lots of freshly cracked pepper.
  6. Toss with grated cheese and serve.

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9 comments

  1. Reply

    I am fascinated Laney, by this research and the discovery of the Apo A-1 Milano protein. I had not heard of it. Just imagine all the good that could be done with gene therapy, especially for those unfortunates who have a familial tendency to hyperlipidemia. I am always intrigued when I read of these geographically centered genetic discoveries. I am reminded of Factor V Leiden, a genetically inherited thrombophilia that renders carriers more prone to developing blood clots. That one was discovered among the residents of the city of Leiden. Science is pretty cool, don’t you think?

    Your lemon pasta sounds divine. The combo of Parmigiano, good oil and lemon is one of my favorites

    So now I want to go to Lake Garda. Your photographs are completely enticing. Think I could write the trio off as a “medical expense”… you know, gene therapy and all that?

    • Laney
      Reply

      It is fascinating, isn’t it Adri? For some reason I guess we think it all happens in a lab but it often starts someplace else. And you know in addition to the gene therapy part of a medical expense write off, the Lake Garda thermal water is really amazing. Soaking in that warm, therapeutic water cures so many ailments…and the red wine picks up after that…yeah, I’m thinking medical tourism…

  2. Reply

    First, Limone looks beautiful and I love that until semi-recently you could only reach it by boat or over the mountains! Second, how fascinating about the special genetics of some of the people there. Third, that pasta sounds so simple but so refreshing and yummy.

    • Laney
      Reply

      Limone really is a lovely town on so many levels but the medical discovery is fascinating. Simple lemon pasta that takes no time at all to prepare and so versatile – add some vegetables and/or shrimp and it’s all new again.

  3. Reply

    I didn’t know about this town and its heart-healthy protein. Although I’ve been to Lake Garda, I’ve never been to Limone. I recently made lemon pasta and added some shrimp to it. You’re making me long for a trip to Limone to eat these dishes in situ – or at least for a limonaia. I’m surprised the trees don’t freeze, but I suppose the three sides protect them.

    • Laney
      Reply

      Next time you go to Lake Garda Linda, for sure you should stop in Limone – it’s so charming (also Gargnano if you haven’t been, 20 minutes south). Eating in situ-I like that expression! Right, how can you not go to a place named Limone and not something made with them? Great idea to add shrimp to the lemon pasta; a little extra protein is always good.

  4. Reply

    Laney, what a lovely profile of this marvelous place. I remember learning about Limone and the protein years ago on 60 Minutes. Such an incredible story. Most coincidentally, I just tested a recipe for lemon pasta. I hadn’t made it before and it was a big hit with the family. It’s similar to yours (but with a touch of cream). It’s the perfect dish to combat the the late-winter doldrums. Cheers, D

    • Laney
      Reply

      The discovery of the protein really is amazing to think about medically with all the possible benefits. But that they can trace it back to one couple – think of all that history. And all those meals…now that’s a story! Nice addition of the cream to the lemon pasta – that sounds even more wonderful.

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