Medieval Tuscan Salciccie di Pescio – Fish Cakes


Though the term salciccia generally refers to sausages, so to minced meat wrapped in a casing, in the medieval Italian sources sometimes it means some kinds of fish cakes, shaped in different ways, for instance, in an elongated form which probably should recall regular sausages.
Salciccia is an interesting word that derives from sal, salt, and isicia or insicia, which, in its turn, comes from insecta caro, minced meat, according to Varro in his book about the Latin language. Essentially, salciccia means salted and minced caro in the general meaning of pulp, which includes meat, fish, and even mollusks and crustaceans in the 2nd book of De Re Coquinaria, as we analyzed in the past.
Anonimo Meridionale, in the 14th century, reports another recipe for a fish cake called lucanica, very similar to the one we are preparing today, and this is interesting because lucanica is another kind of sausage in De Re Coquinaria as well as today.
We selected our recipe for salciccia di pescio from Anonimo Toscano’s Libro de la Cocina, but we also find it in the Liber de Coquina. The Tuscan version, however, is particularly interesting because the recipe is recommended for either salciccie or tortelli: this means that the mixture used to make the patties may be the filling for pasta. We found the same direction for a recipe we prepared a few months ago, crispelli di carne, made with minced pork belly, cheese, and herbs, a filling recommended to prepare both tortelli and ravioli.
There are no directions about which kind of fish to use for this recipe. Anonimo Meridionale’s lucanica is made with tench, whereas Anonimo Toscano just writes to use pescio, the generic word for fish. Some good choices are tench, pike, red mullet, sea bass, or eel, but you may also choose a crustacean or a mollusk, for example lobster, shrimps, or calamari, making in this way a dish similar to De Re Coquinaria’s isicia marina.
Anonimo Toscano recommends parboiling the fish to help remove the bones and then squeezing it in a cloth, but these passages are unnecessary with trout. If the mixture of fish, herbs, and spices tends to break apart, add an egg white or a bit of starch.
Choose the herbs and spices you prefer among the most common in the Middle Ages, for instance dill, marjoram, thyme, parsley, cloves, nutmeg, or cinnamon.

Our translation of the Libro de la Cocina , accompanied by an introduction, notes about the recipes, and a glossary, is available on Amazon. To know more about medieval food, we recommend Registrum Coquine. A medieval cookbook and De Observatione Ciborum. Early-medieval recipes at the court of the Frank. You find further articles and translations of historical sources, among which the first nine books of De Re Coquinaria, Appendicula de Condituris Variis, and De Flore Dietarum, on our Patreon page.
For more historical recipes with aromatic herbs, check out Early Italian Recipes. Vegetables, fruit, herbs, and flowers, which collects many recipes from the Antiquity to the early Modern Era. If you are interested in ancient food, we recommend reading Ancient Roman Cooking. Ingredients, Recipes, Sources.
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2 trouts
herbs (mint, fennel, rosemary, savory)
spices (fresh ginger, black pepper)
olive oil

Clean and gut the trouts, then remove the bones. Mince the herbs with the knife, then pound the black pepper and ginger in the mortar with two pinches of salt and add the herbs. Mince the fish and mix with the herbs and spices. Shape fish cakes and cook them with a bit of olive oil for a few minutes.

Original text
Metti il pescio in acqua bullita, sì che si possa bene spolpare da le spine, e togli erbe odorifere, tritte bene insieme con la dicta polpa di pescio, e spetie; poi metti tutto in uno panno di lino bene largo e bucato, e spremeli forte; poi metti in la padella con oglio caldo, e falle per lungo o per traverso, come ti piace.

Place the fish in boiling water to remove the bones, then mince aromatic herbs well with this fish pulp, adding spices. Place all the ingredients in a large and holed linen cloth and squeeze them well, then fry them in the pan with hot oil, by the length or sideways, as you like.

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Libro de la Cocina by Anonimo Toscano. Medieval Tuscan Recipes
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 1-9
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)
Enseignemenz (14th century)
Opusculum de Saporibus by Mainus de Maineris (14th century)
Libro de la Cocina by Anonimo Toscano (14th century)
Anonimo Veneziano (14th century)
Registrum Coquine by Johannes von Bockenheim (15th century)
Libro de Arte Coquinaria by Maestro Martino – first and second part (15th century)

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