Limoni cotto in forno {Baked Lemons with Mozzarella Tomatoes and Olives}


Lemons are just so irresistible, especially this time of year. Little balls of sunshine just waiting to brighten your day and your table. And their just plain pukka! You can probably tell how much I adore them, we’ve already made Limoncello, Lemon Curd, Lemon Gelato, and countless other recipes that are just escaping me at the moment ; )

Now you might be thinking BAKED lemons? Really Paula! Yes, they’re baked and they’re brilliant! No worries, you won’t actually be eating the lemon, it’s simply the flavor receptacle. And add flavor it does. I hadn’t made these in a very long time until one of my facebook friends posted about having some, and I’m so happy he did. It’s really the perfect summertime appetizer and I’m going to be making it often.


You start out by halving the lemons and hulling them out. I put my trusty melon baller to work with that task. I have been wearing that little gadget out this summer. {TIP: don’t throw the inside of the lemons away. Put them into a little container to use later. I’m always using lemon juice for this that or another!} To dry out the shells I simply balled up a napkin and put it inside of the shell & left it alone for a bit while I worked on the remainder of the mis en place {I love saying that} Traditionally anchovies are used but I didn’t have any on hand *gasp* so I substituted olives this time which worked nicely!


On top of being incredibly tasty it’s a beautiful dish! Look at all those colors. Swoon. I love being able to use the cherry tomatoes from my garden and the basil. Now if I could just grow a lemon tree ; ) This is a perfect appetizer for entertaining, and one most will likely not have had {bonus points for you} It can easily be doubled or tripled. Just remember it should be served immediately to get the whole wow factor! Plus the cheese will set up and well, you know!


Print This Recipe

What you’ll need: {makes 4 servings}
2 large lemons – halved and hulled
1 ball of fresh mozzarella – sliced
4-6 fresh basil leaves
8 cherry tomatoes – halved
12 large olives – pitted and chopped
1 baguette – sliced and toasted

What to do:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. CAREFULLY {do not puncture the lemon} slice off JUST the tips of the lemons so that you have a flat surface for them to stand upright on. Slice the lemons in half horizontally. With a melon baller CAREFULLY hull out the insides of the lemons. Continue until all lemons are hulled. Insert a balled up napkin or papertowel into each lemon half. Set aside.

2. When lemon halves are dry. Season with salt and pepper. Begin assembling by placing a slice of mozzarella, a basil leaf , 2 cherry tomatoes {that have been halved} and a small spoonful of chopped olives. Top with a final layer of mozzarella cheese. Continue until all lemons are assembled.

3. Place lemons onto a rimmed cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a SILPAT MAT. Bake for approx 20 minutes OR until mozzarella is bubbly and melted. Lightly season again when it comes out of the oven.

4. WHILE lemons are baking, place your Baguette slices onto a separate cookie sheet and bake until toasty.

5. Serve lemons with toasted baguette slices. Spoon warm filling onto slices and enjoy immediately.

Buon Appetito!


  1. 1

    Baked lemons?! Those sound fabulous. Especially with cheese. Everything is better with cheese.

  2. 2

    my mind is BLOWN…baked lemons? genius!

  3. 3

    Fantastic recipe!

  4. 4

    Paul, that is such a new and innovative recipe. Love the presentation.

  5. 5

    Love this post, its so unique! I don’t like olives or anchovies, so I might just leave that part out, but I’m really intrigued by this…I’ve never heard of it before. It looks incredible. I love how creative you are!

    p.s. this post is definitely stumble worthy! love it 🙂

  6. 6

    I’m one of those people who eat lemons raw, like an orange, so this combined with cheese, tomatoes and olives is right up my alley. Thanks for the unique post!

  7. 7

    You had me at baked! Baked lemons – as a flavor receptacle. Nifty and clever concept. Can’t wait to try this. Thanks, Paula.

  8. 8
    lisa bailey /

    Beautiful. Can’t wait to try it.

  9. 9
    SpecKK /

    It seems like a cupcake pan would be a good way to keep round lemons upright for filling and baking. Rather than trusting myself not to roll them all over in the process.

  10. 10

    All I can say is wonderful. Just wonderful. I can’t wait to try this out. Your pictures are so pretty. A must try for sure. Thank you!!

  11. 11

    Baked lemon, didn’t come to my mind. Great post! thanks for sharing.

  12. 12

    Mmmm! I love how the cheese is haphazardly oozing out!

  13. 13

    This is delicious, Jaime Oliver had a similar recipe a few years ago and after building up the courage I tried it out and it was amazing ! Lemons are definitely under utilized.

  14. 14

    Genial !
    I’ve never tried such combination.
    I adore lemon, I eat them raw. There was a time, when my mother was pregant of my sister, that I ate one lemon a day in the afternoon.
    I’ll try your recipe very very soon.

  15. 15

    I have never heard of baked lemons!! You’re pictures are amazing!!

  16. 16

    These are fantastic!

  17. 17

    oh wow, i’ve never seen anything baked inside a citrus fruit before – what a great idea! all those oils blending into the dish must taste amazing!

  18. 18

    The photos in this post are magnificent!


  19. 19

    I love this idea… What a creative and flavorful dish!

  20. 20

    oh my, this sounds & looks delicious! can’t wait to try it!

  21. 21

    You’re right, this is brilliant, gorgeous and tasty all at once. I really like this idea and using the lemon to hold the ingredients while at the same time sharing flavors. I look forward to making this. It’s sure to get “aaahs and oooz” when served.

  22. 22

    Lovely dish! Can’t wait to try this. Wonderful photos.

  23. 23

    I want to have people over just to make this

  24. 24

    I know I write this to you on a weekly basis, but your food photos consistently make me drool on my keyboard.

  25. 25
    Nancy /

    This sounds great! You mentioned anchovies in your post. I love anchovies and would like to try it with that in it. Would you just rub it into the lemon peel before adding the other ingredients? If not, at what point, and how much, would you add?

    • 25.1

      Hi Nancy! Thanks so much! I would add the anchovy after the first layer of mozzarella and basil leaf. I’d use about 1/2 of an anchovy filet per lemon! Hope that helps!


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