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Marcus Porcius Cato, also known as Cato the Censor

Tusculum, 234 a. C. - Rome 149 a. C.

Life and History

Marcus Porcius Cato

Despite his humble origins, Cato successfully held important positions in the Roman Republic thanks to his education, seriousness and sobriety. His courage led him to fight valorously against the Carthaginians in the battle of Metarus.

Cato was a determined defender of Roman customs and traditions, opposing the any and all influence of the Greeks or other Eastern societies. He was certainly not a very popular city censor, but it did not seem to bother him. Cato would calmly face any difficult situation. It is believed that the salvation of the Romans resided in their sobriety, family values and prudence.

In his work, De agri cultura, or “On Running a Farm,” Cato offers his advice to an unknown farmer and good family man on everything from how to keep a balance sheet, to the health and diet of his family, and how to care for the elderly. Cato also provides a long list of recipes that includes some of his favorite foods made with local ingredients, like grain and bean soups, focaccia, fruit preserves, olives and wine.

The recipes

Savillum - Roman cheesecake

Savillum is a type of focaccia made with cheese and honey and is prepared like Sardinian seadas.

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ lb 5 oz all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ lb ricotta cheese
  • 2 ½ oz honey
  • 1 egg
  • poppy seeds to taste

Preparation

Mix the cheese with the flour, honey and the egg. Spread the mixture into an oiled oven-dish and bake in the oven at 400°F for around 20-30 minutes, leaving the dish covered with aluminum foil for the first 10 minutes of cooking. When the focaccia is cooked, drizzle with honey and poppy seeds to taste; return to the oven for a further 5 minutes before serving.

Seadas

Ingredients

  • ½ lb all-purpose flour
  • 7 oz Fiore Sardo cheese
  • chestnut honey to taste
  • 1 tablespoon lard
  • lemon and orange zests, grated to taste
  • 1 half cup Grappa
  • powdered sugar to taste
  • extra virgin olive oil to taste

Preparation

Place the grated cheese, citrus peel and the small glass of grappa together in a bowl and mix until smooth.
Mix the flour and warm water together on a pastry board and add the clarified pork fat, a little at a time (in home-kitchens in Sardinia, they replace the clarified pork fat with oil exuded by the cheese): knead until the dough is smooth, roll out thinly and cut out 12 cm-wide circles.

Place a little filling into the centre of each pastry discs, then cover with another disc, pressing the sides well together and finishing with a pastry cutting wheel. Fry the Seadas in plenty of oil, drain then cover with honey or sugar as preferred: Eat the Seadas warm.

Gastronomic Library
M. RINALDI, La storia è servita: vizi e virtù nel piatto dei grandi della storia, Milano, Golosia & C., 1996.
ACCADEMIA ItalianA DELLA CUCINA, Ricettario nazionale delle cucine regionali Italiane, Studio Ricciardi, 1990 c.