In the Regimen Sanitatis Salernitanum, a short poem about dietetics dating to the 12th century, we find a series of recommendations, written in rhyme, about the various aspects treated in these kinds of texts: sleep, hygiene, exercise, and clearly, the use of foods and beverages. Foods, starting from the ancient Greek tradition, have always been considered the first medicine and a proper alimentation, the best way to keep good health.
In a passage, we read the description of a sort of universal sauce, made with sage, salt, wine, pepper, garlic, and parsley: a green garlic sauce that can be used for whichever kind of dish, if the mixture is not false. In this case, probably the author is referring to the proper ratio between the ingredients, which unluckily is not reported in the text (Salvia, sal, vinum, piper, allia, petroselinum, ex his fit salsa, nisi sit commixtio falsa).
Sage, salvia in Latin and Italian, is considered in this and other sources an extraordinary medicament. How could die someone who keeps sage in their garden, wonders the same anonymous author in another passage of the Regimen Sanitatis.
The recipe we are presenting today is clearly inspired by these two verses. The ingredients are a bit different (there is no garlic, but rue and saffron instead of pepper), but the basic idea is the same: a green sauce meant to keep the praecordia in health. This term refers to the bowels or organs.
In this case, the author is not anonymous, being this recipe part of the Registrum Coquine, a beautiful cookbook written in the 15th century by the German cook Johannes Bockenheim, who worked at the court of Pope Martin V. The text is available in translation (into English and Italian) on Amazon, with our comment, introduction, and glossary of Bockenheim’s terms, a bit different from classical Latin.
We paired this sauce, intense and aromatic, with roast pork tenderloin, but it would be good with whichever roast or simmered meat, for example lamb or chicken, or even fish, such as trout, salmon, or sea bream.
In Mainus de’ Maineris’ Opusculum de Saporibus (14th century), we read that the green sauce is recommended for mutton, lamb, goat, pork, and several kinds of fish.
The main ingredient for this sauce is, clearly, sage, but with rue, it tends to become quite bitter. Balance it well with a good amount of parsley, to give aromatic complexity, and saffron, which sweetens the sauce. Wine is essential for a bit of acidity. Salt is rarely mentioned in medieval recipes: the fact that Bockenheim writes to add it means that in this case, it is very important.
Rue is an essential herb for the historical recipes. It grows wild in many Italian regions, but may be difficult to find. If you do not have it, we recommend substituting it with arugula, whose bitter flavor recalls a bit rue, or using other aromatic herbs, for example mint or celery tops.
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500 grams of pork tenderloin
Roast the pork tenderloin on the charcoal or in the oven for about half an hour, after greasing it with oil or lard.
In the meantime, grind in the mortar the saffron and a pinch of salt, adding a good amount of sage and parsley and less rue. Dilute with wine. Cut the roast into slices and pour the sauce on it, serving still hot.
Salvia, sal, vinum, crocus, ruta, petrosillum. Ex hiis fit salsa que tenet precordia sana.
Sage, salt, wine, saffron, rue, parsley. With them, you can make a sauce that keeps the organs in health.
Translations of Historical Sources
De Re Coquinaria by Apicius – books 1-3
De Observatione Ciborum by Anthimus – first part (6th century)
Appendicula de Condituris Variis by Johannes Damascenus (8-9th century)
De Flore Dietarum (11th century)
Opusculum de Saporibus by Mainus de Maineris (14th century)
Anonimo Veneziano – first and second part (14th century)
Registrum Coquine by Johannes von Bockenheim (15th century)
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