VILLA Food & Drink Special Feasts Spring Winter Saturnalia


Gvstvm | Mensa Prima | Mensa Secunda

fresco of apples


Patina de Asparagis Frigida

Asparagus and Figpecker Patina

Serves IV

IV quail (or chicken breasts)
IV 1/2 lb. asparagus
VI eggs

For the sauce:
Ample peppercorns
I Tbs. garum
I Tbs. Wine
I Tbs. passum
II Tbs. olive oil

The Romans considered Figpeckers, songbirds with thin beaks, particularly delicious fare. Because they are obviously hard to find today, you can use quail or chicken breasts in their place.

The recipe assumes that the plucked and cleaned birds have been half-cooked before they are arranged on the bottom of an ovenproof dish.

Prepare the sauce as described above: grind the pepper, add the garum and mix; follow with the wine, passum, and olive oil, and heat.

Boil, drain, and strain the asparagus. Beat VI eggs well and mix with the asparagus. Then add the sauce and mix well. Pour this mixture over the birds and bake at 375 F. for XXV-XXX minutes.

This dish may also be served cold, as its Latin title suggests.


Olive Paste on Toast Points

Pit olives, then mix in a blender with the herbs, olive oil, and vinegar. Avoid the temptation to add any salt, since the olives we buy today are already sufficiently salted.

The Greeks and Romans ate this olive paste together with cheese, whence the derivation of its name (epityrum = over cheese). Varro (De lingua Latina 7, 86) described it as a Greek recipe, and Columella (12, 49, 9) suggested that the olives be seasoned with salt, lentiscus, rue, and fennel.

Olive paste is available for sale today, so you can purchase it instead if you are pressed for time. However, it is far more aromatic and flavorful if you make it from scratch.

You can serve this olive paste following ancient custom, that is, as an appetizer together with ricotta or other fresh cheese; or you can spread it on small slices of toast. In this latter case, you should offer both green and black olive paste to make a more attractive presentation.
-- from A Taste of Ancient Rome, by Ilaria Gozzini Giacosa

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Ius in Dentice Asso

Roasted Sea Bream

Serves IV
IV Sea bream fillets of ca. V oz. (IV0 g.) each
II Tbs. total, lovage, coriander, mint, and rue
Pepper to taste
II-III large quinces
I tsp. honey (optional)
I tsp. garum
I/II cup wine
III-IV Tbs. olive oil

You can bake the sea bream whole and serve the sauce on the side; but I find it more flavorful to cook the fillets in the sauce.

Spread both sides of the fillets with olive oil, season them with half of the herb mixture and some pepper, and refrigerate for II hours. Meanwhile, boil the quinces and make a puree of the pulp. Add the honey (if desired), the remaining herbs, garum, wine, and I Tbs. olive oil to the puree and heat.

Remove the fillets from the seasoning. Lightly coat them with flour and fry in olive oil, V minutes per side. Then pour the sauce over the fillets and remove from the heat.

-- from A Taste of Ancient Rome, by Ilaria Gozzini Giacosa
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Mensa Secvnda

Aliter dulcia
Egg Pudding

Serves IV

III eggs
III Tbs. flour
I 3/4 cups milk
Pepper to taste
II 1/I2 oz. pine nuts
I-II Tbs. passum
IV tsp. honey

Beat the eggs in a bowl with the flour and milk. Add pepper and heat in a pan.

Meanwhile, grind the pine nuts with the passum in a mortar. As soon as the egg mixture begins to boil, remove from the heat. Add the honey and the pine nut mixture. Resume cooking for approximately XV minutes more over a low heat, stirring so that no lumps form. Pour into I large or IV small individual bowls; add a teaspoon of honey and a pinch of pepper to each and serve.

Dulcia Domestica

Stuffed Dates

Ancient Romans stuffed figs and dates with walnuts, hazelnuts, or pine nuts. If they are simply stuffed, dried dates can be used; but if they are to be cooked, it is better to use fresh ones.

Pit the dates and stuff some with chopped walnuts, others with chopped pine nuts. (I omit the salt prescribed in Apicius.) Cook in a bit of liquid honey that has been heated in a pan. Use V-VI dates for each serving. This recipe produces a delicate warm dessert. -- from A Taste of Ancient Rome, by Ilaria Gozzini Giacosa

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-- from A Taste of Ancient Rome , by Ilaria Gozzini Giacosa