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DONNA FRANCA'S HOMEMADE RECIPES: Ragù Toscano

April 16, 2019

An easy way to impress your family and friends. This tasty Tuscan Ragù is perfect for every occasion and for many meals, from pappardelle to gnocchi, or simply added to a crunchy bruschetta. 

Keep following us for many other homemade tasty Italian recipes!

 

RAGÙ TOSCANO
(Tuscan meat ragù)

INGREDIENTS (for 6 people)

  • 1 medium, finely chopped onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • ⅓ cup of finely chopped celery
  • ⅓ cup of finely chopped carrots
  • 2 tablespoons of finely chopped parsley
  • 2 tablespoons of finely chopped basil
  • 1 pound of ground beef
  • ⅓ pound of ground pork
  • ⅓ cup of olive oil
  • 2 cans of crushed plum tomatoes
  • ⅓ cup of white wine
  • salt, pepper, dill, oregano (to taste)

PREPARATION

In a medium-sized pan, pour in all the ingredients (except for the wine and tomatoes), and cook over medium heat. Sauté until everything is light golden brown. Stir constantly. Pour in the wine once the ingredients start to sizzle. Allow the wine to evaporate, and then add the tomatoes. Again, stir constantly and boil for two hours.
Buon appetito!

For a Tuscan Ragù vegetarian version, follow the same recipe, without adding the meat.

DONNA FRANCA'S HOMEMADE RECIPES: Pappa al Pomodoro

April 9, 2019

A delicious and soothing meal.

Keep following us for many other homemade tasty Italian recipes!

 

 

PAPPA AL POMODORO

(Tomato soup)

INGREDIENTS

  • ⅓ cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 4 baby carrots, finely chopped
  • 4 stalks of celery, finely chopped
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • ⅓ cup of white wine
  • 1½ cans of crushed tomatoes, plus two cups of cold water
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 5 large slices of Italian bread (one week old)
  • ⅓ cup of chopped basil

PREPARATION

In a large pot, pour in the olive oil and add the chopped herbs (except the basil, which has to be put in the soup at the very end). When the mixture is a light golden color, add the wine; then the tomatoes, water, and spices. Gently boil over medium heat for about 1 hour. Cut the slices of bread into small cubes and add them to the soup.
The soup is done when all of the bread has been blended into the soup. Put in the basil, and cook for another 15 minutes. Serve the hot soup in bowls, and drizzle a little olive oil on each.
Buon appetito!

Donna Franca's Guide to Christmas Appetizers

December 18, 2018

Entertaining around the holidays can be stressful sometimes. Our goal at Donna Franca Tours is always to make planning painless for you, from your vacations in Italy and beyond, to your Christmas meals!

Below, you will find three easy recipes guaranteed to impress your family and friends with minimal effort. Buon appetito!! 

 

Crostini al burro e alici

(crostini with anchovies and butter)

 

INGREDIENTS

1 small can of flat anchovy filets

1 stick of butter

1 small French baguette

 

PREPARATION

Mix one stick of softened butter with very finely chopped anchovy filets. Cut the baguette into two inch slices and lightly toast them. When the mixture looks like pate, spread it with a knife over the toasted bread slices. Very tasty and quickly prepared.

 

Arancini

(small fried rice balls)

 

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup steamed arborio rice

2 fresh eggs, beaten

1/2 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano

1/3 cup tomato sauce

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon zested orange peel

3 cups of Italian seasoned breadcrumbs

1 cup olive oil

 

PREPARATION

In a large bowl, place the steamed rice, slightly cooled, and mix in the two beaten eggs, the tomato sauce, the nutmeg, and the orange zest. Add two tablespoons of breadcrumbs to the mixture, and blend everything together with your hands. Take the mixture in one tablespoon increments, forming small balls with your hands, and roll each ball in the remaining breadcrumbs. Place the balls in a pan with the olive oil and fry them, turning gently, until they are all light gold. Place them in a dish lined with paper towels to drain the excess oil. Serve them piping hot!

 

Stuffed Baby Portobello Mushrooms

 

INGREDIENTS

1 large package (about 20) of baby portobellos, cleaned
1 small onion or 2 shallots, finely chopped
1 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 tbsp fresh mint, finely chopped
1/3 cup walnuts, finely chopped
1/3 cup fresh pumpernickel breadcrumbs
4 tbsp olive oil
3 fresh roma tomatoes, finely chopped
1/3 cup parmigiano cheese, freshly grated
1/3 cup white wine
salt and coarse black pepper to taste

 

PREPARATION

With a small knife, carefully remove the interior of each mushroom, chop very finely, and place in a large bowl. In a medium sized pan, cook the onion and fresh herbs in the olive oil until golden brown. Add the wine and the tomatoes, and cook for 1/2 hour over medium heat. Pour the sauce into the bowl with the chopped mushroom, and add the walnuts and parmigiano. Mix everything together with your hands until it congeals. With a teaspoon, fill the cavity of each mushroom with the mixture. Place the filled mushrooms in a Pyrex dish and bake at 350 for 20 minutes.

 

 

 

Heading to Italy This Summer? 10 Things You Need To Know

July 19, 2018

1.Italy Weather in July & August?
July and August are the hottest months of the year in Italy. Temperatures reach their maximum while rainfall and clouds are few and far between. The daily average temperature is 77°F, with the average high at 87°F.

2.Currency?
Italy is part of the Euro Zone within the European Community. The official currency is the Euro.

3.Shopping Hours?
Shops are open from 9:00AM to 1:00PM and from 3:30PM to 7:30PM.
Major department stores operate on continuous hours. Shops in main tourist destinations are also open on Sundays. Beach resorts offer evening hours during the summer.

4.Time Zone?
Italy is six hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time. Daylight Savings Time goes into effect during the winter, however there generally is a one week lapse between the US time change and the Italian one. Italy is located in the Central European Time Zone. UTC/GMT+01:00

5.Do I need a Passport or Visa?
You will need a passport. A visa is not required for a U.S. or Canadian citizens holding a valid passport unless they expect to stay in Italy more than 90 days.
 

6.Should I Tip?
Tipping at hotels in Italy is not required but appreciated. You can tip the porter, usually no more than 5 Euros. You can tip the concierge, 1 – 2 Euros if he provides good service. You can tip the housekeeper, in which case 0.75 – 1.50 Euros per day is appreciated. It is recommended you tip around 0.50 Euros for a valet and the same for room service.

You are not expected to tip in Italy. A service charge is sometimes added to the bill, ranging from 1 to 3 Euros, or 10% - 15%. This charge must be indicated on the menu. Some may also add an extra charge for the diner ware and extras (tablecloth, silverware, plates, bread, etc.), this is normal. But check your bill! Tipping isn’t expected in Italian Spas, but if the service exceeds your expectations, you can tip up to 10%.

Tipping tour guides is very much appreciated but not expected. Common practice is in the range of 5 Euros for half a day, or 10 Euros for a full day, per person. In Italy you can tip your cab driver, but it isn’t expected nor is it common. Feel free to tip if they are extra helpful, they will appreciate it. It is good practice to agree a final fare before the journey begins.

7.Do people speak English?
The official language is standard Italian. Descending from the Tuscan Dialect and a direct descendent of Latin (75% of Italian words are of Latin origin).  Each region of Italy has in own dialect with variations at town level. The rich variety of Italy’s dialects are considered a great contribution to the country’s cultural heritage. English and some European languages are spoken in hotels, shops, and restaurants in the major tourist destinations.

8.What to wear to the Vatican?
The Mediterranean climate is hot, but not humid, during the summer and comfortably warm in the spring and fall. Casual cottons and easy care clothing is recommended. For Papal Audiences, inside church visits, women should dress modestly, with arms and head covered, no mini skirts or shorts, and men should wear short sleeves (no tank tops) and pants (no shorts). It is also customary for men and women to dress in a casual elegant fashion for dinner. Formal attire is not required.

9.Health Services?
Every city offers conveniently located drug stores (farmacia) where prescriptions may be filled and other health needs met. Pharmacies take turns to offer overnight services in case of need. Please contact 113 for an emergency, 114 for an infant emergency, 115 for the fire department, 118 for a medical emergency and 112 for the Caaibinieri (State Police).

10.Clothing Sizes?
The shoe sizes and shirt sizes in Italy are much different than America. View ourFAQ PAGE (under "Clothing Size") to see the sizing chart:http://www.donnafranca.com/faq

OUR 2018 BROCHURE HAS ARRIVED!

January 17, 2018

Donna Franca Tours is pleased to announce the release of our 2018 collection of unique travel experiences.  Our new brochure offers  a variety of suggested itineraries, all of which may be customized to create your ideal Italian vacation.  We offer unique cultural experiences throughout Italy and Sicily such as wine tasting, hands-on cooking classes and off the beaten path adventures. In 2018 due to our valued clients' requests for alternative itineraries, Donna Franca is offering trips to Spain, Portugal and Switzerland.

Please click on this link to receive your personal copy.

2018 Special: Italian Fever- $1,899

November 29, 2017

Donna Franca Tours is pleased to announce the 2018 prices for the ever popular Italian Fever Vacation.  This innovative 9 days/8 nights hybrid itinerary features the Three Cultural Capitals of Italy: Rome, Florence, and Venice with visits to Pompeii, Naples, Siena, San Gimignano, Pisa, and the Chianti District.

Our  select centrally located hotels in Rome, Florence and Venice offer exceptional accommodations convenient to visiting the city's historic treasures.

Included Features: 
Eight nights' accommodation in  select centrally located hotels
Buffet breakfast daily, hotel tax and service
Airport transfer by private car and driver
VIP luggage assistance at Rome Termini Rail Station and at Florence SM Novella Rail Station
Private arrival and departure motor boat transfers in Venice with assistance and porterage
Round trip rail station transfers by private car and driver
First class rail service from Rome to Florence and from Florence to Venice
Lunch in Pompeii
Typical lunch and wine tasting at a family-run estate in Chianti
Rome collective guided sightseeing including the Colosseum,  the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, Pompeii, and Naples
Florence collective guided sightseeing including the Accademia with Michelangelo's "David," Siena, San Gimignano
Venice collective guided sightseeing includes Basilica San Marco and Doge's Palace

View all of our deals here.

Discover the 5 Most Beautiful Beaches of Italy

November 27, 2017

#1: San Vito Lo Capo, Sicily

Known for it's clear warm waters, this beach is on Sicily's west coast across from Erice and Trapani. San Vito Lo Capo is a small seaside town in northwestern Sicily, Italy. It's beach is on a sheltered bay overlooked by Mount Monaco.

#2 Mondello, Sicily

 In the summer months, it sometimes seems as if the entire population of Palermo has packed a towel to enjoy to this popular beach resort, 11km north from the center of town. At this beach in Palermo you can find bars, restaurants and small shops. Originally a muddy, malaria-ridden port, Mondello only really became fashionable in the 19th century, when the city's elite flocked here and built beautiful Art Nouveau style summer villas.

#3 Chia, Sardinia

Chia Beach is one of the best places to go in Sardinia. The turquoise sea and peach colored sand is famous. There are sand dunes too, dotted with juniper trees. Chia Beach is also famed for its wildlife spotting opportunities, is perfect for families with children. Behind the beach, you’ll find a picturesque lagoon where pink flamingos come to breed. Sometimes, dolphins head to Chia Beach and can be seen swimming close to shore.

#4 Forte dei Marmi, Tuscany

A paradise for beach bums and VIPs alike, Forte dei Marmi is one of the most famous tourist centers along the Tuscan Riviera. This resort town is rich in history. Forte dei Marmi began to expand at the beginning of 16th century, with land reclamation works that went on across the entire 16th century and ended with the construction of the fort in 1788, from which its name derives. In the 19th century, the village started to develop into the splendid beach resort popular with Italian and European crowds.

#5  Torre Dell’Orso, Puglia

This thin 1.5km stretch of pristine sand is in the Melendugno Region of Puglia. It’s most striking feature is the ‘two sisters’ – twin rocks stand side-by-side close to the beach. It is also surrounded by rock cliffs full of interesting caves and is backed by a lush pine forest.

Donna Franca's Special Recipe

November 10, 2017

Polenta Al Ragu' is a quick and tasty recipe,  perfect for lunch or dinner, and it's gluten-free! Polenta with meat sauce is easy to prepare. You will have to prepare the meat sauce first, for more flavor I suggest using a combination of ground pork and beef.
This is a great dish also for celiacs  because corn flour is gluten-free.

Ingredients: 500 grams of ground beef and pork, 500 grams of minced onions, 1 half carrot finely chopped, one 700 ml can of ground peeled tomatoes, 330 grams of polenta, grated parmesan cheese to taste.

Preparation:  Mix the onions, carrots and meat and saute' in the olive oil.  Once a light golden color, add the tomato sauce. Let it simmer for at least 40 minutes.  Prepare the polenta according to the directions on the packaging, pour water into a pan and add the powdered corn flour to a boil. Mix the corn meal well with a wooden spoon for about 8 minutes, until it easily detaches  from the sides of the pot.  Remove from heat and place the polenta in a serving dish, leaving a cavity in the center. Add the meat sauce in the cavity center, sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese, garnish with a few basil leaves if you and serve immediately.

                                            Buon Appetito!!!

Donna Franca's Hotel of the Month: Torre Di Cala Piccola Hotel Porto Santo Stefano

July 28, 2017
The Torre di Cala Piccola is a boutique seaside clifftop retreat, where Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton once stayed.
 
This property is a 10-minute stroll from the beach. Hotel Torre is set on the cliffs of Monte Argentario, with stunning views of the Mediterranean Sea and Giglio Island. Porto Santo Stefano is a 5-minute drive away.

The Torre Di Cala Piccola Hotel is comprised of several stone houses, surrounded by a peaceful garden. All rooms include  air-conditioned and there is free Wi-Fi in the business centre. 
 
 Special discounted rates are offered at the private beach 2,650 feet from the hotel, fully-equipped with sun lounges, umbrellas and showers. From June to the end of August the hotel offers a free shuttle service to the beach.

The verdant gardens with sea-view terrace and swimming pool are surrounded by an olive tree grove and boast views over the 17th century Spanish tower.

La Torre d'Argento Restaurant offers a wide selection of seafood and meat dishes as well as a wide variety of fine wines. Meals are served in the dining room with panoramic views. There is a free public parking area 1,650 feet away and on-site private parking is available at an extra charge. 
 
To book your stay here, contact one of our sales agents.  
 
 Please visit our hotels page for more details.

Donna Franca's Recipe of the Month: Acqua Pazza!

July 15, 2017
Ingredients
 
2 large filets of cod breaded in white flour
3 cloves of garlic
5 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon of freshly minced basil leaves
1 tablespoon of freshly minced mint leaves
1 pinch of crushed red pepper
salt to taste
1/4 cup of dry white wine
3 fresh roma style tomatoes finely chopped
1/3 cup clam juice
6 small slices of toasted Italian Bread
 
Preparation:
 
In a large skillet, pour the olive oil and add the garlic, the herbs, salt and crushedred pepper, Saute' on a medium heat. When the ingredients are a light goldencolor add the white wine and evaporate. Add the fresh roma tomatoes and clam juice.
Let this simmer for 5 to 8 minutes add the cod filets and with a wooden spoon cover with the pan's ingredients. Gently turn the filets over in the sauce pan. Cook covered for an additional ten (10) minutes. The fish will start producing it's own liquid (acquapazza). Cook for another ten (10) minutes. Serve piping hot with the sauce adding the toasted Italian Bread slices or crumble on top of the fish as a garnish. 
                                            Buon Appetito!!!
 

 

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