Stale bread is an important ingredient in many traditional Italian dishes. Bread soup, in particular, called minestra di pane or in other ways, appears in several regions, prepared in different ways. One, in particular, is very similar to the recipe we are preparing today, called paneda in Emilia, and made with more or less the same ingredients of the medieval version: broth, bread, and cheese. Tuscan minestra di pane is, instead, quite different, since it generally requires the addition of cabbage and other vegetables.
It is interesting to notice that the ministrum de panibus we present this week recalls a much older recipe that we prepared in the past, the kandaulos, in the version by Hegesippus of Tarentum written in the 4th century BCE, also in this case, with almost the same ingredients. The main difference between the kandaulos and this bread soup is the use of meat, in addition to the fact that the ancient cook uses dill whereas the medieval author adds spices, as typical in the cooking of his time.
We selected this recipe for ministrum de panibus from the Registrum Coquine, a cookbook written in the 15th century by the German cook Johannes Bockenheim, who worked at the court of Pope Martin V. One of the most interesting characteristics of this source is that the author recommends the recipes to specific social classes and nationalities, for example peasants or kings, pimps or prostitutes, laics or priests. This ministrum de panibus, according to Bockenheim, is suitable for the Italics and peasants.
The author does not specify whether the cheese must be fresh or aged. If you want to use fresh cheese, we recommend caciotta or scamorza; as aged cheese, the best choice is Parmigiano or pecorino. The only spice mentioned in the recipe is saffron, one of the most used in this cookbook for all social classes, with the suggestion to add other good spices. We used cinnamon and black pepper, but other possible choices are, for instance, ginger, nutmeg, or cloves.
To know more about the source of this recipe, check out our book Registrum Coquine. A medieval cookbook. In addition, it is available our translation, commentary, and glossary of a beautiful 6th-century source, De Observatione Ciborum, written by the physician Anthimus to the king of the Franks Theuderic. This book contains some of the earliest medieval recipes, in addition to information about the diet of the Franks and the differences between their food habits and the alimentation of the Mediterranean populations, showing the passage between ancient and late-medieval cooking.
For more information about ancient food, we recommend reading Ancient Roman Cooking. Ingredients, Recipes, Sources and check out our Patreon page, in which you find several articles about historical food and the translations of ancient and medieval sources.
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100 grams stale bread
100 grams fresh caciotta
spices (saffron, cinnamon, black pepper)
Grate the bread and cut the cheese into pieces. Soak the saffron in warm water and grind the pepper and cinnamon. Pour two cups of broth in a pot. When it boils, add a pinch of salt and the grated bread. As soon as it thickens, add the cheese and stir it until it melts, then the spices. Cook for another minute, remove the pot from the fire, and serve.
Ministrum pro Italicis et rusticis. Si facis ministrum de panibus. Recipe panem grattatum, et tempera bene cum brodio grasso et cum croco ac caseo et aliis spetiebus bonis, ut spissum fiat. Et erit bonum pro Italicis et rusticis.
Soup for the Italics and rustics. Make in this way bread soup. Take grated bread and mix it well with fat broth, adding saffron, cheese, and other good spices, in such a way it becomes thick. It will be good for the Italics and rustics.
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Ancient Roman Recipes Playlist
Ancient Greek Recipes Playlist
Medieval Recipes Playlist
De Observatione Ciborum by Anthimus. Early-medieval recipes at the court of the Franks.
Registrum Coquine by Johannes Bockenheim. A medieval cookbook
Ancient Roman Cooking. Ingredients, Sources, Recipes
Translations of Historical Sources
De Re Coquinaria by Apicius – books 1-6
De Observatione Ciborum by Anthimus (6th century)
Appendicula de Condituris Variis by Johannes Damascenus (8th-9th century)
De Flore Dietarum (11th century)
Tractatus de Modo Preparandi et Condiendi Omnia Cibaria – first and second part (13th-14th century)
Opusculum de Saporibus by Mainus de Maineris (14th century)
Anonimo Toscano – first and second part (14th century)
Anonimo Veneziano (14th century)
Registrum Coquine by Johannes von Bockenheim (15th century)
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