Medieval Herbolata


The aromatic herbs are essential in historical Italian cuisine, starting from the most traditional Roman dishes such as moretum. We find plenty of them throughout the centuries, despite the fact that in modern Italian dishes their role is, unfortunately, downsized. Medieval cooking is full of green dishes full of fresh herbs: fritters, pies, tortelli or ravioli, sauces, and frittatas.
This week, we chose a frittata with herbs, called herbolata, from Johannes Bockenheim’s Registrum Coquine, recommended by the author to notaries and copyists in this version of this recipe and to copyists and their wives in the slightly different version reported in the second manuscript of this cookbook.
There are no directions about which kind of herbs to use for this recipe, just that they must be good, healthy, and fragrant, nor about the quantities of the other ingredients. We have many possibilities, for instance to use exclusively aromatic herbs or add some chard or spinach to obtain a milder flavor. We may choose the herbs among the ones listed in the previous recipe of this cookbook, which is another dish called herbolata but, instead of a frittata, is a pie: marjoram, parsley, mint, sage, and fennel, with the addition of rue in the version of the second manuscript of the Registrum Coquine.
The quantities of eggs and cheese change the outcome. In our preparation, we used three eggs and 150 grams of fresh cheese, but if you use, for instance, 100 grams of cheese and six eggs, you will obtain a different, but equally delicious, outcome. In the same way, you will obtain different dishes using a fresh cheese or a firmer one, such as scamorza or caciotta, that must be pounded in the mortar.
Since the author does not provide further directions about the preparation of this recipe, feel free to experiment with different ways to prepare it, since its simplicity makes it the perfect recipe to try different ratios among the ingredients and methods. We just recommend to avoid adding too much sugar and to keep the saltiness in check, to prevent it from turning salty and unpleasant.

For more historical recipes based on vegetables and herbs, check out our new book, Early Italian Recipes. Vegetables, fruit, herbs, and flowers, which collects many recipes from the Antiquity to early Modern Era, accompanied by an introduction about vegetables in the history of Italian cooking in the cookbooks and their relationship with dietetic, philosophical, and religious practices. The book is available for pre-order on Amazon in English and Italian, in e-book and printed editions.
If you want to know more about the source of this herbolata, check out 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.
For more information about ancient food, we recommend reading Ancient Roman Cooking. Ingredients, Recipes, Sources and checking out our Patreon page, in which you find several articles about historical food and the translations of ancient and medieval sources.
To support our work, you can buy us a beer or purchase our merchandise.

fresh herbs (marjoram, mint, sage, fennel)
150 grams fresh cheese
150 grams aged cheese
3 eggs
brown cane sugar
olive oil

Mince the fresh herbs, steep the saffron in warm water, and beat the eggs with a pinch of sugar and salt, if the cheese is not excessively salty. Slice the aged cheese.
Mix the herbs, fresh cheese, eggs, and saffron. Warm a bit of olive oil in the pan and add the mixture, cook for a few minutes and add the sliced aged cheese. After about 10 minutes, as soon as the frittata is cooked, remove it from the fire and serve with a pinch of sugar.

Original text
Ad faciendum herbolatam aliam pro notariis et copiistis. Recipe herbas bonas, et sanas, et odoriferas, ad libitum tuum, et pista illas bene cum cultello, tunc recipe caseum recentem, cum ovis crudis temperata cum zuccharo, et croco. Post hec recipe caseum bonum, et antiquum et fac petias rotundas, et mitte super illas herbas, et mitte modicum bulire et superius zucharum.

To make another herbolata for notaries and copyists. Take good herbs, healthy and fragrant, according to your taste, and pound them well with the knife. Then take fresh cheese, raw eggs beaten with sugar, and saffron. After that, cut good and aged cheese into round pieces. Place the cheese above the herbs and cook for a short time, dusting with sugar.

Buy me a coffee
Ancient Roman Recipes Playlist
Ancient Greek Recipes Playlist
Medieval Recipes Playlist
YouTube Channel

Early Italian Recipes. Vegetables, fruit, herbs, and flowers
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 1-7
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 (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)
Libro de Arte Coquinaria by Maestro Martino – first part (15th century)

Beef Roast with Garlic Sauce
Bread Soup
Salted Meat and Peas
Baghdadi Rice Cream
Chicken with White-Pepper Sauce – Piperatum Album
Indian Chickpeas and Meat
The Diet of the Franks – Pork Stew
Chestnut and Mushrooms
Lentils with Oregano and Watermint
Egyptian Bread with Pistachios and Almonds
Veal with Fennel-Flower Sauce
Pork Roast with Green Sauce
Eggs Poached in Wine
Brodium Theutonicum
Crispellae – Pancakes with Saffron and Honey
Brodium Sarracenium – Chicken Stew
Fava Beans and Pork
Erbe Minute – Meatballs with Herbs
Lettuce and Pork Soup
Zanzarelli – Egg and Cheese Soup
Turnip and Beef Soup for Servants
Cheese Pasta – Vivanda Bona
Gratonata – Chicken Stew
Chickpea Soup with Poached Eggs
Apple Fritters
Hippocras and Claretum – Mulled Wine
Pastero – Pork Pie
10th-century Goat Roast – A Langobard at the Court of the Byzantine Emperor
Romania – A Recipe Between Arabic and Italian Tradition – Medieval Chicken with Pomegranates
Emperor’s Fritters
Medieval Pizza – The Origin of Pizza
Roast Chicken with Salsa Camellina
Sweet Rice
Afrutum or Spumeum – 6th-century Byzantine recipe
A Medieval Breakfast – Wine, Carbonata, and Millet Bread
Salviata – Eggs and Sage
Tria di Vermicelli
Cabbage Soup
Frittelle Ubaldine – Pancakes with Flowers and Herbs
Saffron Cheesecake
Drunken Pork – Early Medieval Pork Stew
Medieval Monk’s Stuffed-Egg Soup
Apple Pie
Onion Soup
Lentils and Mustard Greens
Chicken soup – Brodo Granato
Turnip Soup
Beans and Bacon – Black-Eyed Peas
Prawn Pie – Pastello de Gambari
Foxtail Millet Polenta and Spit-Roasted Goose
Beef Stew
Leek Soup
Quail Stew with Coconut
Chicken Pie
Almond Cream
Red Mullet Soup
Spit Roast Beef with Arugula Seeds
Walnut Bread
Fried Fish
Roast Lamb with Green Sauce
Sweet and Sour Sardines
Trouts with Green Sauce
Lamb Stew
Quails with Sumac
Chicken with Fennel Flowers
Sea Bream