After two years of postponement, my family was so excited to be able to take a trip to Italy and France. Parts of our trip were spent with dear friends of ours, and some of the best moments were shared over delicious meals. I have put together some of my favorite Italian and French recipes from my travels for you!
We began in Venice- just the four of us- and the magic of the canal lined city stole my heart. I truly think it was my favorite spot on the whole trip! About two days in, some of our friends joined us and the boys were thrilled to have playmates! We enjoyed the cafe and spritz life, and it was so nice that the kids could explore at will and run in the many Piazzas (squares) without the worry of cars and other dangers.
Most of the pizzas we ate were very simple in nature- or maybe that was just what I preferred topping wise (as there were more fanciful choices.) The Italian pizzas were relatively thin in the middle with a perfect bubbly crust on the edge. They featured a thin layer of pure and bright tomato sauce, and a light smattering of the toppings of your choice.
The pizza dough in Italy (and also pasta dough) is made with ’00’ flour. ’00’ flour is a very finely ground flour that helps create the perfect texture. It is harder to find here in the states, but can be purchased at Italian markets or on Amazon, and it’s worth it!
The ‘spritzing’ is real in Italy, and France too! I have always enjoyed an Aperol Spritz, but I was in for a treat being in Italy because I think it might be their official cocktail! It was on every Happy Hour menu, sometimes as cheap as 2 Euro! The perfect summer cocktail.
If you want a little variation, try a Hugo spritz, made with Elderflower liquor instead of Aperol. It’s a little more floral and a touch sweeter but equally refreshing.
Venice flew by quickly, and before we knew it we were off to join our other friends in Tuscany where all three families were sharing a villa for a week. It was truly postcard worthy! The kids (and us adults too) loved having a pool to cool off in and a kitchen to cook in, along with lots of space to roam and explore!
We took a few day trips – one to Florence, and another just into the local town of Lucca.
While in Tuscany, we did a little less eating out and a lot more cooking at home. With the gorgeous villa to share and friends to cook with, especially our friend Ari, who is pretty much a master chef himself- this was definitely a treat!
Ari made most of our meals because he’s a whiz in the kitchen, but I offered my hand once and shared a pasta-from-scratch recipe I had recently learned from an Italian chef I took a private online cooking class from. It was a hit!
Making pasta from scratch really makes all the difference in the world, and served with a simple lemon sauce, it’s a not-too-heavy rendition for a hot summer night on the tuscan hills!
Ari made so many fabulous dishes for us while we stayed in Tuscany from Pasta Carbonara, to Tomato Gnocchi, Ricotta and Prosciutto Ravioli, and a feast of wood fire grilled steak, chicken and sausage just to name a few. But two staples before any dish he’d serve just to keep us happy in the afternoons were a simple Caprese Salad and some stuffed Zucchini Blossoms!
I think it’s important to note that while most of us are probably familiar with a Caprese Salad, the difference in taste is found in the quality of ingredients. It’s amazing what a difference having a true mozzarella from Italy (not the glob of shrink wrapped goo from Safeway) makes, and choosing fresh basil, and farm fresh tomatoes! Oh and I was also told, very clearly, (because I petitioned for pepper) that the Italians do not use pepper on their Caprese Salads, nor do they use balsamic vinegar. It’s just tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, olive oil, and a little salt!
This is a classic Tuscan recipe that only involves a handful of ingredients. In this particular recipe they’re stuffed with a ricotta cheese mixture – yum! During our stay, we stuffed them with pecorino cheese and a few other cheeses, really, you can use whatever cheese you prefer!
After leaving Italy, we said goodbye to one set of friends, but stayed on with the other family to enjoy Nice, France on the Cote D’Azur.
We arrived in Nice a bit tired and very hungry. We stopped into a cute cafe across from our Air B&B and I ordered my first of several Salad Niçoise. Now, I admit, I am generally not much of a seafood fan (though I do like tuna) and most of these salads contain anchovies, which I kindly either ask to skip or pass to someone else at the table, but otherwise, this salad is a favorite of mine, and that first cafe served my favorite rendition of the trip. Mostly because they seasoned the tuna a bit, and served it with a light, citrusy, creamy dressing. I wish I had asked exactly how they made it!
I think this recipe is a close second to what I tasted in France! It’s a perfect summer dish when it’s hot and you want something light, healthy, and refreshing, yet filling!
To close out our trip we said goodbye to our friends and traveled on to Paris, just the four of us. As anyone who has been to Paris before knows, space is at a premium there, and our accommodations didn’t allow for cooking. It was just the four of us now and only a few days, so we enjoyed revisiting a city we love and all the delicious food it has to offer. I had one of my all time favorite dishes there: Steak au Poivre. We had lots of fun, amazing meals, and of course gorgeous sight-seeing. My only complaint- the Eiffel tower didn’t sparkle!
This meal is a French classic and one of my favorites. It’s a perfectly cooked steak paired with a creamy pepper sauce. And of course, French food always tastes best in Paris!
I am counting the days until we can come back to France and Italy!
I hope you will try out my favorite French and Italian recipes and let me know what you think! And if you liked these recipes, hop on over to this post for some more of my favorite summer recipes to keep you enjoying the best flavors this season has to offer. And for all those moments in between the delicious meals, check out my post on some fun things to do together with your family in your area this summer.