When it comes to French cooking, the Provence region is widely considered the best place to live if you are a foodie. The cuisine there is filled with flavor and tangy sensations, that almost seem to infuse its juices with the feeling of summer.
Now, we can’t all move to the south of France, but we can bring a bit of it to us. With a few traditional recipes from Provence that is!
Beyond the scenery of this part of the south of France, one of the things that draw visitors is the classic provençale food. The cuisine from this part of the world can be traced back to the ancient civilisations all along the Mediterranean.
Over the centuries, this area has seen a strong presence of the Greeks, the Romans and the Maghreb from North Africa influencing today’s provençale french cuisine to feature plenty of olive oil, garlic, and aromatic herbs from the classic French pantry.
Now there is a bit of confusion over what exactly is Provençale, (I admit I got confused as well!) When we think of Provence and Côte d’Azur (aka the French Riviera), we tend to think of two different things. One conjures up ideas of lavender fields and the other sun-filled boardwalks along the sea.
There is a reason for this, Provence and Côte d’Azur used to be two different regions in France.
However since 1960, this has all been turned into one region called Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur or Région PACA if you want to sound like a hip local. With Avignon and Marseille on one side, and Nice and St. Tropez on the other, this large southern region includes it all.
And with that, there are a lot of french provençale recipes that you can try at home, that are quite easy to make. My husband’s family is from Provence so I’ve been lucky enough to spend a lot of time there tasting, testing, and noting my favorites.
Whether you’re into the classics, or looking for more interesting options, I’ve put together my list of favorite provençale foods, along with some popular wine and apéritif suggestions for each dish. Bon appétit!
A. Appetizers and Starters
The best appetizers and starters from Provence, that are quick and easy to make.
1. Melon au Porto
A lovely ripe melon direct from the farmers’ market, topped off with a decadent porto, the perfect starter for a hot and sunny day in Prove
It may look complicated to make, but with no cooking involved, you will be able to whip up this classic French appetizer in a snap. Get the Melon au Porto recipe here.
Apéritif: Kir or Porto
2. Provençale Tomatoes
Tangy sweet tomatoes, sprinkled with oil and crispy breadcrumbs, it doesn’t get more exquisite than this.
Provencal Tomatoes, or tomates à la provençale in French, is a typical French summer starter in the Provence region of France. If you don’t want to go through the trouble of cooking the tomatoes, go for a tomato tartare or tomato bruschetta instead. You can get the Provençale Tomatoes recipe here.
3. Socca Niçoise
A staple in Provence and the South of France, this easy appetizer is a type flatbread made with chickpea flour.
4. Coquilles St Jacques (Gluten-free)
Coquilles St Jacques (scallops in English) is named after the pilgrims of Saint Jacques de Compostela who crisscrossed France and Spain with the seashells around their neck.
5. Courgettes farcie à la brousse (Stuffed Zucchini)
Stuffed zucchini boats with cheese, otherwise known as Courgette farcie à la brousse in French, are the perfect side dish to any meal. They’re low in calories, with a good helping of vegetables for the pickiest eater.
You can make them with French brousse cheese which comes from Provence, or its Italian cousin, ricotta. Get the courgette farcie à la brousse recipe here.
Accompaniments: In France, courgette farcie a la brousse (aka stuffed zucchini boats) are usually served as a vegetable side dish along with some oven-baked chicken or rôti de boeuf (beef).
For a lighter meal, you can also serve it with a salad and some baguette, or rice to make a meal out of it.
Drinks: Light white wine like a Languedoc Blanc or Côte du Rhône Blanc.
Another appetizer similar to the socca is panisse, which is also perfect as finger food for an apéro or happy hour.
Originating in Nice (or Marseille), panisse is one of those finger foods that everyone loves. Dairy-free and gluten free, it is also made with chickpea flour and can be baked or fried. You can get the panisse recipe here.
B. Main Dishes and Salads
Traditional Main Dishes and Salads from Provence, adapted for modern times.
1. Chicken Provençale in Instant Pot
The Chicken Provencal brings together the traditional ingredients from Provence, in the South of France.
With its distinctive with its use of local ingredients of herbs, tomatoes, and olives, this French chicken stew will remind you of summer. Get the Chicken provençale recipe here.
Side Dish: Tagliatelle pasta, mashed potatoes, rice or baguette.
Wine: Côtes du Rhône red.
2. Salade Niçoise
The salad nicoise is one of those recipes that even French chefs can’t agree on. Green beans and potatoes? Tuna or anchovies? And mayonnaise!?
Side Dish: Baguette or cold roti de porc (pork roast) and potatoes.
3. Bouillabaisse adapted for the Instant Pot
Bouillabaisse is a traditional stew originating from the port city of Marseille. It was originally a stew made by fishermen, using the bony rockfish from the bottom of their fishing nets, which they were unable to sell to restaurants or fish markets.
These days this delicate fish stew is considered haute cuisine. Adapted for the instant pot, we use whitefish and shell fish to remake this recipe for modern times. Get the Bouillabaisse recipe here.
Side Dish: Country bread or baguette
Wine: Côtes de Provence rosé
4. Ratatouille (Baked or Instant Pot)
Ratatouille is a vegetable stew from Nice, Provence in the South of France.
It usually features an assortment of local vegetables, such as eggplant, zucchini, peppers, and tomatoes. Get the ratatouille recipe here.
You can also try a variation of the ratatouille called the Bohemian Aubergine, which is a touch sweeter and tangier.
Paired with: Ratatouille is usually served with baguette or steamed rice as a main dish. But you can also serve it as a side dish with some lamb chops, roasted chicken or chipolata sausages.
6. Sauteed Calamari with garlic and parlsey
With a touch of olive oil and garlic, the Mediterranean influence of this popular dish is immediately apparent.
Known in French as “Encornet à l’ail et au persil“, sauteed calamari with garlic and parsley is one of those classic French recipes that has been around for generations. Get the recipe for sautéed calamari here.
Easy homemade sauces to accompany your meal.
1. Provençale Aioli
Paired with: Steamed codfish and fresh vegetables.
Wine: Côtes de Provence or Bandol Blanc.
2. Home-made Pistou sauce recipe
Similar to the Italian pesto, the French pistou sauce from Provence is made from basil, olive oil and garlic. The recipe is a bit different however, though the Mediterranean influence is clear. Get the pistou recipe here.
Paired with: Dishes like pastas, baked chicken, or with a side of steak
3. Spicy Rouille Sauce Recipe
Sometimes called the French version of hot sauce, the rouille is a fast, no-cook sauce that adds serious flavor to everything from meat and vegetables, to sandwiches and seafood. Get the Rouille recipe here.
Paired with: Usually served with bouillabaisse, but you can also serve it as a sauce to accompany meat, grilled fish, or potatoes. As a sauce, it can be served with any apéro finger foods from french fries and charcuterie, to escargot.
Wine: A light rosé from Côtes de Provence.
4. Tomato Provençale sauce recipe
Paired with: From pasta to a pizza, or topping off an omelette, baked chicken or fish, you can use this sauce on just about anything.
Light and tasty french desserts for that summer style in Provence.
1. Strawberry Mousse
From the French word mousse, meaning light and frothy, this easy strawberry mousse recipe is a dessert that will appeal to the young and old alike. Get the Strawberry Mousse Recipe here.
If you enjoyed that, check out our other classic French foods the locals love to indulge in. Bon appétit and à bientôt!