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The Food of the Renaissance

La cucina di Papa Martino VDuring the Renaissance, Italy had the most skilled, well known and creative cooks in Europe. They took Italian fine dining to new levels of refinement and prestige. Large, elaborate banquets were served in the dining rooms of the dukes and princes who governed the many small states throughout Italy.

Many of the Medieval flavors and preparations were carried over to the Renaissance, like the generous use of spices, the addition of sugar to savory dishes, the widespread consumption of roasts, stuffed pastas, tarts and pies. 

The use of light sauces made of fruit or aromatic plants were mixed or thickened with the soft part of bread, grilled bread, flour, almonds or eggs. Sometimes, these sauces were flavored with acidic juices and mixed spices.

During the Renaissance, people developed a great love for giblets and the innards of butchered animals, poultry and fish. In addition, you could find a large selection of stews, long pasta noodles, stuffed pasta and maccheroni. Milk and dairy products were used often: butter became as important as lard, heavy cream became popular and people began cooking all types of cheeses.

Fruit and citrus were fundamental flavoring agents and fruit became a prominent part of the dishes served at the beginning of a meal.

The Recipes

Herb Tart

Here is the translation from Latin left by Giovanni Bockenheym, cook to Pope Martin V:

"Take some fine aromatic herbs, such as parsley, marjoram, rue, mint or sage and so on, and pound them in a mortar. Then take some raw egg and fresh cheese and mix with some raisins; add saffron, ginger and other sweet spices together with some fresh butter.

Then make the dough; use it to line a greased pan, fill with the mixture and some more butter and cover with more dough. When it is cooked, sprinkle with sugar and whole pine nuts. And this will be superlative for courtiers and their wives."

The recipe comes from:G. BONARDI, Giovanni Bockenheym e la Cucina di Papa Martino V, Milan, Mondadori, 1995, BIGAB 1. 112. 3.

Cappelletti alla Cortigiana

Boil 100 grams of belly of pork and half a capon breast and chop them up very finely. Add 200 grams of soft cheese and 50 of matured cheese, two eggs, some spices, very little ginger, pepper and salt and mix everything together carefully.

Cut out some thin discs of pasta and use to enclose the mixture, so that each “cappelletto” is no larger than half a chestnut. Cook the “cappelletti” in a good capon stock, made yellow by adding saffron, and serve sprinkled with sweet spices and grated Parmesan cheese.

These special “cappelletti” were also made with a filling of breast of pigeon, pheasant or other birds.

The recipe comes from:L. BARTOLOTTI, A Tavola con i Malatesti, Rimini, Panozzo, 1988, BIGAB 9. 23. 4.

Panunto con provatura fresca (sweet-sour spicy fried bread with mozzarella)

Heat some butter and use it to brown some slices of previously toasted bread.

On each of these put a slice of mozzarella and grill. When the cheese has melted and become golden, dust the “crostini” with a mixture of sugar and ground cinnamon, sprinkle with rose water and serve piping hot.

The recipe comes from:M. SALEMI, La Cucina Rinascimentale, Florence, Libriliberi, 2003, BIGAB 9. 22. 8.

Melon Tart

"Take a melon that is not too ripe and clean it; beat eight eggs together with eight ounces of sugar; grate eight ounces of fresh cheese and four of mild matured cheese and mix together with some cinnamon, cloves and pepper.

Amalgamate everything to obtain a homogeneous mixture and put this into a buttered pan lined with a very thin layer of pastry; then cook slowly, covering the pan with a lid and placing some embers on the lid, so that it also receives heat from above".

The recipe comes from:G.L. ERCOLANI - D. LOSCALZO, La Dieta Ermetica. la Cucina nel Rinascimento, Lugano, Todaro, 2003, BIGAB 9. 23. 7.