Renaissance Fried Tomatoes


Considered a variety of eggplant, tomato does not appear in the Italian cookbooks for a long time, despite being present and cultivated in our country. Only in the 18th and 19th century, indeed, tomatoes will become popular, especially in Southern Italy, but we find a recipe for tomato sauce in Antonio Latini’s cookbook, recommended for simmered meat (17th century).
To know how to prepare a Renaissance recipe for tomato, we must read the books by the naturalists and physicians, not the cookbooks. Pietro Andrea Mattioli, Castore Durante, and Costanzo Felici, for instance, provide not only descriptions of the tomato, but also directions about how to prepare it: as anticipated above, tomatoes are considered eggplants and cooked in the same way.
In Italy, as we read in the books by the same authors, there were several varieties, red and yellow, whence the name still used today: pomodoro, golden apple. From the botanical illustrations, we see that they were quite big, and the texts describe them as flat, round with ribbing, round and smooth.
It does seem that in Italy there were no small varieties like modern-day ciliegini, described instead by Francisco Cervantes de Salazar in the Crónica de la Nueva España, in which the author writes about tomatoes as big as unripe grapes or limes, used to make sauces and soups with the addition of peppers.
Renaissance Italian recipes are not specifically written for tomatoes. The authors write that they are cooked in the same ways as eggplants: cut into pieces or sliced, floured, fried in olive oil or butter, and served with pepper, or dressed with salt, pepper, and oil, or with verjuice.
The recipe we are preparing today, selected from Bartolomeo Scappi’s Opera (16th century), is for eggplants and very similar to the ones mentioned by Felici and Mattioli. The author recommends slicing and parboiling the eggplants, a passage that not only is unnecessary for tomatoes but also would ruin this delicate vegetable. We suggest using big tomatoes a bit unripe to prevent them from breaking while you fry them. The cooking time depends on how much your slices are thick and the tomatoes are unripe, but in any case, you should fry them for no more than a few minutes.
Verjuice or unripe grapes may be substituted with lemon or orange juice. We used four cloves of garlic for 300 grams of tomatoes, but it is up to your taste.
Scappi recommends two dressings for fried eggplants: the other requires just orange juice and pepper and is very similar to the ones described by the other Renaissance authors.

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 on Amazon in English and Italian, in e-book and printed editions.
If you want to know more about medieval cooking, 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 translations of ancient and medieval sources.
To support our work, you can buy us a beer or purchase our merchandise.

300 grams tomatoes
4 garlic cloves
100 grams unripe grapes
80 grams basil
white wheat flour
olive oil

Pound the garlic, basil, and two pinches of salt in the mortar. Pound the unripe grapes in another mortar and sift the juice, adding two or three tablespoons to the basil and garlic sauce.
Slice the tomatoes, then flour and fry them in olive oil. When they are cooked, plate them still hot with their sauce.

Original text
Mondinosi le molignane, e taglionsi in fette, et faccionsi perlessare in acqua, e lascinosi scolare su la tavola, et s’infarinino, e friggano in buono oglio de olive, et come saranno fritte, servanosi con pepe, et sugo di melangole sopra, overo con sapore fatto d’agresto, basilico, et aglio.

Clean and slice the eggplants, then parboil them in water, place them on a table to drain the water, flour, and fry in good olive oil. When they are fried, serve with pepper and orange juice, or with a sauce made with verjuice, basil, and garlic.

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 1-8
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 – parts 1-3 (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