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Campania: Lemons, Tomatoes, Zucchini, and Eggplant

Campania: Lemons, Tomatoes, Zucchini, and Eggplant

Vertical-Lemon-OrchardFirst, let me just say I was too busy eating, drinking and living la dolce vita to post from Italy. Seriously, what was I thinking! I’m back, and here’s some of what I found in late June in Campania (Amalfi Coast and Naples; I didn’t make it inland—see la dolce vita above).

Lemons. If there’s one defining fruit for this area, this is it, specifically the IGP-protected sfusato amalfitano variety. Often grown in steeply terraced orchards clinging to vertiginous cliff sides, these lemons are intensely aromatic and although acidic, are somehow subtler than our everyday Eureka and Lisbon varieties.

They show up everywhere and in everything. My husband and I especially dedicated ourselves to acquiring deep knowledge of granita di limone and limoncello, the local lemon liqueur.

And sfusati have large leaves that are perfect to use when grilling bits of mozzarella or the tiny local fish called bianchetti.

A' Paranza apps: bianchetti in lemon leaf, bandiera fish, alici tortino, tuna carpaccio, zucchini blossom filled with swordfish, potato, and smoked mozzarella

Tomatoes. Thick-skinned, intensely flavorful pomodorini vesuviani (similar to our “Juliets”), grown in the volcanic soil near Mt. Vesuvius, were abundant at the neighborhood negozio di alimentari and roadside farm stands. Tied up in great bunches as pomodori a piennolo, they are left hanging in the sun and, later, in well-ventilated attics to dry and intensify in flavor through the winter.

Pomodorini vesuviani al Piennolo

Fresh, they are used in salads, pastas (plain and with seafood) and on pizzas. For €1.50, I bought enough tomatoes to see me through several breakfasts (with 6-minute eggs) and lunches (with the most amazing local mozzarella di bufala I ever ate). As for larger and sauce tomatoes, it seemed a bit early in the season. I found both ripe and unripe (pomodoro verde) at shops, farm stands, and farmers’ markets.

Tomatoes and eggs

Zucchini and Eggplant. I’d forgotten how special everyday zucchini can be until I was reminded by the reverential treatment they get here, particularly near Nerano, between Naples and Positano. Zucchini star in luscious sauces for pasta and gnocchi (no tomatoes) and are often paired with clams.  Both female (attached to the squash) and male blossoms were available at markets for stuffing and deep frying. You can see my favorite stuffed-blossom experience in the app pic above. It’s filled with swordfish, potato, and smoked mozzarella, and I ate it at A’ Paranza, an osteria in Atrani, the smallest town in Italy.

I found multiple varieties of eggplants including my favorite, Rosa Bianca, and another similar-looking one a fellow farm-stand shopper identified as Viola.

Robust eggplant was often paired with tomatoes and smoked or plain mozzarella, as in this popular Capri combo, Pennette Aumm Aumm–small penne in “secret sauce.”

Campania Eggplant

Next up, more from Campania and also Lazio.


  1. gretchen hatz July 13, 2012 at 2:25 pm - Reply

    i am so completely envious of every aspect of this post, especially the tomatoes and squash blossoms! i just made a simple recipe that made me like yellow zucchini for the first time:
    if you have any that would change my mind on eggplant, i’d be forever indebted to you. well, you already helped me out with the tapioca crisis at whole foods that one day, so technically i already owe you for life. 😉 love your passion for food! ciao!

  2. Faye Levy July 14, 2012 at 7:14 pm - Reply

    Hi Amelia,

    Loved your beautiful photos of Campania – Thanks for sending! It was scenes like the one you photographed that inspired Yakir to terrace our very steep yard, front and back! Before then, the first time I set foot outside, I thought I would roll right down the hill!

    One year we grew lots of tomatoes and dried quite a few on our flat patio-roof. Your photo and description of drying bunches was interesting as something new to try.

    Glad to see the link to Savta Rachel’s apricot preserves!

  3. Amelia Saltsman July 15, 2012 at 4:38 pm - Reply

    Eggplant? I love eggplant. Most important is to get a really good eggplant. In fact, I think this should be a life rule: if you think you don’t like something, maybe you need to revisit and try the best-grown version you can find. Then, with eggplants– try the tomato-eggplant bake and the roasted sliced eggplant in my book!

  4. Amelia Saltsman July 15, 2012 at 4:39 pm - Reply

    Faye, thanks for sharing your memories. I’m impressed to learn of Yakir’s terracing skills! And very glad you didn’t roll right down your hillside.

  5. Faye Levy July 15, 2012 at 6:24 pm - Reply

    For Gretchen: Perhaps the more delicate Japanese, Chinese or the green-skinned Filipino eggplants might be more appealing.

  6. Nealey @ Dixie Caviar July 16, 2012 at 11:59 am - Reply

    Swoon! Your trip sounds delicious. I must go back sooner rather than later…

    Hope you are doing well. xo, Nealey

  7. Amelia Saltsman July 17, 2012 at 1:13 pm - Reply

    Maybe a honeymoon trip to the Amalfi Coast?? And congratulations on your new status as full-time blogger! I’m thrilled for you!

  8. judy July 17, 2012 at 1:32 pm - Reply

    Loved your photos, made me hungry and anxious to go back there…..

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