Ina Garten's Easy Lemon And Booze-Filled Dessert Screams Summer

No matter the occasion, Ina Garten has the perfect recipe to serve, balancing high and low elements with her signature laidback elegance. After two decades and 13 cookbooks, the Barefoot Contessa has reinvented and elevated the comfort food of our childhood, turning mac 'n cheese into an elegant lobster-studded dish, meatloaf into a meal worthy of your boss coming for dinner, and store-bought vanilla ice cream into the grown-up summer dessert of our dreams.

Garten gives home cooks permission to purchase quality ingredients (taking some of the pressure off hosting) instead of making everything from scratch, and this simple summer dessert is no exception. With her tagline, "store-bought is fine," Garten reassures fans that a three-ingredient recipe can be exceptional with the right ingredients. 

And calling it a recipe is generous, as no measurements or cooking are needed for her easy lemon and booze-filled summer dessert — just vanilla ice cream, Italian limoncello liqueur, and biscotti.

Limoncello and vanilla ice cream with biscotti

The key to Ina Garten's no-cook, semi-homemade recipes is finding the best ingredients. With only three, each component must be high-quality, a hallmark of Italian cuisine.

In "Cook Like a Pro," Garten creates this quick Italian dessert by combining vanilla ice cream (or gelato) with limoncello and biscotti. Limoncello is a traditional sweet dessert cordial that originated in Italy but has found popularity globally as a cocktail and dessert ingredient. It's readily found in liquor stores. And because it's enjoyed in small quantities, a bottle will last a long time. It's best served icy-cold, so store the bottle in the refrigerator or freezer.

Biscotti, twice-baked Italian cookies, can be found individually wrapped in the supermarket's cookie aisle and has endless flavor combinations. While Garten doesn't specify which type she prefers, a simple almond biscotti would be a good choice. This summer dessert checks all the boxes with creamy, sweet ice cream, crunchy biscotti for texture, and bright lemony liquor to make it celebratory and very grown-up.

Limoncello and ice cream with biscotti takes minutes to assemble but can be made even easier by pre-scooping the ice cream into bowls and placing them in the freezer until dessert. When you're ready to serve it, add a single store-bought biscotti to each bowl of ice cream and allow guests to drizzle the limoncello themselves. That's it.

What to do with leftover limoncello

Unless you're entertaining a crowd, there will be leftover biscotti and limoncello. The hard Italian cookie lasts weeks in the pantry, and it's wonderful dunked in your morning coffee or afternoon glass of wine. And in addition to being drizzled onto other frozen treats, such as sorbet and sherbet, the thick liqueur makes a delicious syrup to complement baked goods, such as this blueberry and limoncello drizzle cake recipe.

One of the easiest ways to enjoy the lemony liqueur is to combine it with an effervescent for a limoncello spritzer. This refreshing cocktail cuts through the spirit's sweetness and is perfect for warm weather entertaining with a simple 3:2:1 ratio of sparking wine to limoncello to soda water, garnished with a lemon wheel and mint.

Sure, you can purchase it, but limoncello is easily made at home by soaking Sorrento lemon peel (or California lemons in the U.S.) in grain alcohol or vodka for a month until the liquor is fragrant. The mixture is strained and then sweetened with simple syrup before being enjoyed. If you can spare any, it makes a great gift.