This week’s recipe, meatball skewers, comes from the Renaissance author Maestro Martino, an amazing example of the court cooking of the 15th century. Maestro Martino’s Libro de Arte Coquinaria is one of the most imitated and famous cookbooks during the Renaissance, the model for many other authors like Platina, Messisbugo, and Bartolomeo Scappi. We notice the medieval influence in the choice of the spices and in the use of saffron for coloring the meat, a typical habit of the previous centuries. Yet, the use of fresh herbs and the balance between lean meat and fats is evidence of a change: The rediscovery of the ancient Roman agriculture books and the revival of the Antiquity, considered the perfect model to imitate for a healthy lifestyle in the sign of moderation.
250 gr lean veal
pork caul fat
25 gr Parmigiano Reggiano
70 gr lardo
1 egg yolk
spices (black pepper, nutmeg, cloves, saffron)
Chop the marjoram and the parsley. Then, mince the veal meat and the lardo, and add half the cheese, the herbs, and the spices mixing all together. Now you can add the rest of the cheese and the yolk, and form the meatballs. Maestro Martino recommends to shape them the size of an egg.
Cut the caul fat to envelop the meatballs, then skewer them and cook on charcoal, turning them often. Though the lardo and caul fat prevent the meatballs from drying out, keep attention not to overcook them. When the meat is ready, remove from the skewers and plate.
If you don’t find caul fat, skip this passage. This dish is delicious also cooked in a pan.
Notes about the ingredients
Parmigiano Reggiano is an ancient cheese, whose birth date back to the Middle Ages. We find it in Boccaccio’s Decameron, used in the same way of today: in Paese di Bengodi (literally, country of delights) rises a Parmigiano’s mountain, where people spend their days eating ravioli cooked into capon’s broth. In his interesting Summa Lacticiniorum (a treatise about milk products), Pantaleone of Confienza describes in detail the cheese of Piacenza (that is the city neighboring Parma), namely the Parmigiano Reggiano. Maestro Martino recommends just using grated cheese, without being more specific. For this recipe, we suggest using Parmigiano – instead of pecorino, for example – because its flavor pairs better with the veal meat.
Lardo is an Italian pork fatback, widely used in the Middle Ages, Renaissance, and present-day regional dishes.
The recipe doesn’t specify the kind of spices to prepare this plate, apart from the saffron. We chose the most common ones in Renaissance cuisine.
Per fare mortadelle di carne de vitello.
Piglia de la carne magra de la cossa et battila con un pocho di lardo o di bon grasso de vitello […]. Dapoi togli petrosello et maiorana battuta ben menuta et un rosso d’ova con un pocho di caso grattato più et mancho secundo la quantità che vol fare et spetie et zafrano; et mescola tutte queste cose con la ditta carne; et dapoi togli di rete de porcho o di castrone, o d’altra bestia pur che sia bona et lega molto bene la ditta mescolanza in questa tal rete, facendone pezzi di grossezza d’uno ovo o simile; et ponila ad rostire nel speto et che si cocha ad agio et che non sia troppo cotta.
To make mortadelle of veal meat.
Tenderize the veal-leg lean meat with a bit of lardo or good veal fat. Take finely-minced parsley and marjoram, and egg yolk with a little of grated cheese – depending on the quantity of meatball you intend to prepare – and spices, and saffron. Mix all with the meat. Use pork or mutton or any other good beast’s caul fat to envelop the meat, shaping meatballs more or less the size of an egg. Spit-roast them, cooking slowly and not for too long.