The food in Provence is hearty, rich, and elegant. Understanding what is on the plate requires an understanding of the history in the area. Greek and Roman influences have made the Provence cuisine what it is today.
The History of Food in Provence
Provence is highly influenced by the Mediterranean. With neighboring Nice being a part of Italy for many years, Provencal cuisine is often closer to what the Italians eat than to the French cuisine. The French, for the most part, gravitate towards meat and potatoes and heavy sauces.
It’s with the Greeks, who founded Massalia (Marseille) around 600 BC, that the Provencal people discovered olive oil. The Greeks also brought their local wine, salted pork, and fish, aromatic and medicinal plants, coral and cork.
There is also plenty of Roman influence with spices and condiments brought into the region hundreds of years ago. L’ anchoïade is an example of a Roman-inspired dish, garum. When Nice became part of France in 1860, it brought favorite foods from Italy with them, including fresh pasta, polenta, and pistou (the French version of pesto).
The Pillars of Provencal Cuisine
The different regions of Provence, from Arles to Nice and La Camargue have their own variety of dishes. There are however three pillars that connect Provencal cuisine: garlic, tomatoes, and olive oil. Soups, salads, and sauces contain the trio. Other fresh ingredients are, then, paired with the trio based on what’s sourced locally and what season it is. The herbes de Provence, including parsley, basil, and rosemary are an important part of the food, too.
A Taste of the Provencal Diet
The Provencal cuisine is that of what most Mediterraneans eat. It’s high in seafood because of the location. This includes such proteins as salt cod, shrimp, clams, langoustines, squid, and anchovies.
The land also produces
Of course, chefs take creative freedom with dishes depending on what is around them. Virtually every dish includes local ingredients, such as chickpeas, lentils, goat cheese, truffles, and more. With the region producing so much wine, the dishes integrate rosé or red wine regularly, too.
As for desserts, honey, wine, dried fruits, and almonds are the key ingredients. This leads to delectable treats to include Provencal Calissons, nougat, and oreillettes (a traditional pastry fritter).
Wonderful food is abundant throughout the South of France, and will ensure you will eat well while you’re here.
A few dishes are mainstays and worth trying when visiting Provence
Soupe au Pistou
- 500 grams dried Great Northern, navy, or cannellini beans ( or 6 cups cooked)
- 1 bouquet garni (thyme, bay leaf, and parsley)
- 2 turnips
- 5 cloves garlic
- 250 grams green beans
- 2 tomatoes
- 2 zucchinis
- 200 grams small pasta like macaroni
- 5 tbsp crushed fresh basil
- 4 tbsp olive oil extra virgin
- 2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
- salt and fresh ground pepper
- Put the beans in a pot and cover them with cold water. Soak them overnight. Strain the beans and put them in a large cooking pot. Add 2.5 liter of water, salt, and the bouquet garni. Bring it to a boil and let it slowly cook for 1.5 hours.
- Cut the ends of the green beans and wash them. Wash the zucchini and cut them in (not too thin) slices. Peel the carrots and turnips and cut them in little cubes.
- After 1.5 hours of cooking, add the carrots and turnips to the beans. Cook for about 20 minutes. Add the green beans and zucchinis. Cook for another 10 minutes.
- Dip the tomatoes in boiling water and remove the skin. Cut them in quarters and add them to the pot. Add the pasta now too. Turn the heat off after about 10 more minutes. Let it sit.
- During that time, peel the garlic cloves and crush it with the basil in a mortar. Add 4 tablespoons of olive oil when the consistency is pasty, and continue stirring. Add 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese (or any other grated cheese that you like).
- Pour the soup in a serving bowl. Add salt and pepper if needed and add the basil sauce while stirring. Serve lukewarm.
- 500 grams eggplant
- 3 onions
- 500 grams yellow, red and green bell peppers
- olive oil extra virgin
- 500 grams zucchini
- 3 cloves garlic
- 500 grams tomatoes
- bay leaf
- salt and pepper
- Wash and dry the vegetables. Don't peel the eggplant nor the zucchini but cut them in slices. Cut the peppers in half, remove the seeds and cut them in slices, not too thin. Remove the skin from the tomatoes after dipping them in boiling water for a few minutes. Cut them in quarters. Peel the onions et cut them finely. Crush the garlic cloves.
- Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet. Cook the eggplant for 5 minutes, while stirring constantly. Add salt and pepper and take them out, reserve.
- Add some olive oil in the skillet and add the zucchini. Stir fry them as the eggplant and remove them after 5 minutes. Repeat this also for the peppers.
- Take a stewpan and heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the onions, stir them for 5 minutes, avoid browning. Add the tomatoes.
- Now, add the eggplant, zucchini, and peppers in the stewpan. Heat everything up for 3 or 4 minutes. Add the bay leaf and the thyme. Mix well and cover. Lower the heat and let it simmer for 30 minutes.
- Add the garlic, salt, and pepper and let it simmer 15 minutes. Take off the cover if there is too much liquid.
- 2 eggs
- 1 small cucumber
- 100 grams fresh broad beans
- 1 green bell pepper
- 3 green onions
- 1 clove garlic
- 10 anchovy fillets
- olive oil extra virgin
- white wine vinegar
- fresh basil
- 4 tomatoes
- 20 little black olives
- salt, fresh ground pepper
- Boil the eggs, cool them in cold water and take off the shell. Peel the cucumber and cut it in slices or cubes. Salt the cucumber and let it sit in the fridge while preparing the other ingredients. It will render liquid and make the cucumber more firm.
- Take off the bean shells by pinching the skin between your thumb and index finger. Cut the pepper in half, remove the seeds and cut in un strips. Peel and cut the onions and garlic.
- Prepare a sauce vinaigrette with 5 tablespoons of olive oil, 2 tablespoons wine vinegar, salt, and pepper. Add a teaspoon of Dijon mustard to get a thicker sauce. Cut the 8 basil leaves. Rub the interior of a wooden salad bowl with garlic.
- Strain the cucumber and put it into the salad bowl. Add the tomatoes, onions, beans, and bell pepper. Sprinkle the vinaigrette sauce and the basil leaves over the salad. Mix well.
- Decorate the salad with the hard-boiled eggs and anchovy fillets. Serve immediately.