Travelling with teens has its rewards and its challenges. My 13-year-old son is one of my challenges: he’s a picky eater. Maybe “picky” isn’t quite a fair moniker. He enjoys dishes like French magret de canard (grilled duck breast) and manakeesh, a Lebanese type of pizza with zataar (a mix of Middle Eastern thyme, sesame seeds and other spices). Let’s say he’s “particular.”

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Fortunately, Italy is the BEST place to travel with a “particular” eater – especially a teenager. Lots of pasta and pizza help enormously. And a big hit with both of my teens was the discovery of a frittata di pasta: using leftover pasta, some good extra virgin olive oil, a few eggs and lots of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, which is found in every Italian supermarket and food shop (and at half the price than in the US!). This is an easy, tasty dish similar to an omelette, that is inexpensive, too. Italian recipes tend to have few but good quality ingredients and the process of putting them together is fairly simple. It’s a perfect introduction for a young person to the joys of cooking.

spaghetti in water

What is even better, however, is directly engaging George in an Italian kitchen. He is a naturally curious person but also very precise: he typically wants to know who, what, where, when, how? We discovered this on a trip to Rome when I noticed he would regularly wander into the kitchen and ask his zia lots of questions. As a result, he became the family expert on spaghetti alla carbonara: the egg to pasta ratio, not to scramble the eggs when the hot pasta hits them (!!!), the correct cooking of the guanciale cured pork and the like.

whisking eggs

What could be better than eggs, bacon and cheese over pasta? Now, he makes it at home — or he persuades his mother to do the work while he orchestrates. Either way, he is learning how to cook, getting to know the ingredients he likes, is comfortable being in the kitchen (a very good sign) and a happy eater; but, better yet, we have a taste of Rome in our home kitchen whenever we want it. Grazie, Giorgio!

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