Patina Versatilis – Ancient Roman Frittata with Nuts


In the 4th book of De Re Coquinaria, we find a series of dishes called patinae prepared with various ingredients (for example, rustic herbs or peaches) that seem to have little in common, except for the use of the same tool, the patina, a kind of pan or plate. Some patinae are clearly similar to a frittata or omelet, like the one we are preparing today, others do not contain eggs. In this case, this patina is called versatilis, which alludes to the fact that it is served upside-down. The recipe, on the other hand, is just a list of ingredients, which include milk and eggs.
There are no directions about how many eggs we have to use. For this information, we referred to other recipes in the same book, in which the author uses six or eight eggs, adjusting the quantities to the size of our pan.
This dish allows many possible combinations of the ingredients: you may prepare a frittata with a lot of nuts (but we recommend avoiding an excessive quantity to prevent the patina from breaking), adding more honey and just a bit of garum to balance the flavors, or change this ratio and use more garum than honey; another possibility is to make a spicy patina with a lot of pepper.
In our preparation, we opted for balanced flavors, with a small quantity of garum and honey, a pinch of pepper, 10 walnuts, and about 10 grams of pine nuts, in addition to two tablespoons of milk.
This kind of dish, probably, was meant to be served as an appetizer in an ancient banquet, being a plate based on eggs, but would make an excellent main plate for a simpler Roman meal.
If you prefer, substitute garum with a pinch of salt, ancient muria or colatura di alici, or a South-East Asian fish sauce, prepared in the same way as some kinds of garum. However, for this kind of preparation, a bit of fish sauce or salt pair better with the other ingredients than colatura di alici.

The first six books of De Re Coquinaria are available on Patreon, with other translations of ancient and medieval sources in addition to several articles on historical food. For more information about ancient cuisine, we suggest reading our book Ancient Roman Cooking. Ingredients, Recipes, Sources.
To know more about the passage between ancient and medieval cooking, check out our new book, with the 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.
If you are interested in late-medieval cuisine, we recommend Registrum Coquine. A medieval cookbook.
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5 eggs
pine nuts
black pepper
olive oil

Toast the walnuts, shelled and broken, for a couple of minutes. Grind the pepper in the mortar, adding the walnuts and pine nuts. Beat the eggs with a bit of milk, then add a little olive oil, garum, and honey and the mixture of pepper and nuts.
Warm a bit of olive oil in a pan and pour the mixture, cooking it at low heat until it thickens.
Serve the patina hot, turned upside-down.

Original text
Aliter patina versatilis: nucleos, nuces fractas; torres eas et teres cum melle, pipere, liquamine, lacte et ovis. Olei modicum.

Another patina upside-down: pine nuts and broken walnuts, toasted. Pound them with honey, pepper, garum, milk, and eggs, with a bit of oil.

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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)
Libro de la Cocina by Anonimo Toscano – first and second part (14th century)
Anonimo Veneziano (14th century)
Registrum Coquine by Johannes von Bockenheim (15th century)

Patina Versatilis
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