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  • Writer's picturePasta Grammar

Three Medieval Italian Recipes Fit for a King | Gnocchi, Fried Raviolo & Mortadella

Italian food, as we know it, is actually quite a recent phenomenon. It wasn't until the Columbian exchange, for instance, that Europe received the tomato. In order to learn more about Italy's culinary history, we turned to food historian Luca Cesari for the following recipes. And trust us, they are worth trying.

Luca has graciously allowed us to post English translations of his recipes here, but we highly recommend checking out his historical recipe blog here:

Watch the Pasta Grammar video where we made these recipes here:

Medieval Gnocchi

Gnocchi are now made predominantly with potatoes, but before the introduction of this ingredient Italians made similar boiled dumplings with cheese! While nothing like modern gnocchi, they are delicious and very simple to make.

Serves 4. Please note that we made fewer servings in the video.

For this recipe, you will need:

- 500gr goat cheese or robiola cheese (if you want them lighter, you can use half ricotta)

- 5 egg yolks

- 250 grams of flour

- Salt

- Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for topping

Bring a large pot of water to boil and salt it generously.

Meanwhile, combine the cheese and egg yolks in a mixing bowl. Gradually add the flour, one spoonful at a time, while mixing thoroughly.

One at a time, scoop a heaping tablespoon of the cheese mixture out and use two spoons to form into oval dumplings. Drop each into the boiling water as soon as it is shaped.

When the gnocchi float to the surface of the water, allow them to cook a further 5 minutes. Drain with a slotted spoon and serve, topped with a generous amount of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Buon appetito!

Fried Raviolo

This raviolo hardly resembles the dainty, stuffed pasta we are familiar with today. It is fried with a runny egg inside, and seasoned with a medieval medley of spices.

Makes 1 raviolo.

For this recipe, you will need:

- 70gr all-purpose flour

- Water to mix (amount will vary)

- Salt

- 1 egg

- Brown sugar

- Black pepper

- Cinnamon

- Grated nutmeg

- Clove

- Vegetable oil for frying

Mix the flour with just enough water to make a firm, manageable dough. Knead until well mixed, wrap in plastic wrap and allow to rest for 30 minutes.

Roll the dough out into a sheet roughly 1/8-inch (3mm) thick and cut (use a large cookie cutter, jar or similar) to make a disc about 6-inches (15cm) in diameter. Meanwhile, 2-3 inches of vegetable oil into a small saucepan and bring up to frying temperature (355F, 180C).

Drape the dough disc over the mouth of a cup so that it forms a hanging "bag." We recommend having a helping hand to hold the disc in place for the next step.

Crack an egg into the center and add a pinch each of salt, brown sugar, pepper, cinnamon, grated nutmeg and clove. Close the edges of the dough very carefully, moistening them with water if necessary, to obtain a semicircular raviolo.

Gently drop the raviolo into the frying oil. Turn occasionally to fry all sides until golden (3-4 minutes maximum). Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel.

Serve hot. It's perfect if the egg yolk runs when the raviolo is cut into. Buon appetito!

The Original Mortadella

Mortadella today is a thin-sliced cold cut, similar in theory to (forgive me, Italians) baloney. The original recipe, however, is a meatball made with pork liver and wrapped in caul fat: a webby, intestinal net that unfortunately isn't always easy to find. The search will be worth it, though, if successful!

Makes about 20 meatballs. Please note that we made fewer servings in the video.

For this recipe, you will need:

- 500g pork liver (whole) - 100g grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese - 1 egg - Aromatic herbs of your choice (marjoram and parsley are recommended, but feel free to use what you like) - Salt - Black pepper

- Pork caul fat netting - Lard for frying

Boil the pork liver in water for 30 minutes. Drain, but save a small cup of the cooking water. Allow the liver to cool, then grate it or finely chop it with a food processor.

In a mixing bowl, combine the chopped liver with the cheese, egg, a generous sprinkle of salt and plenty of black pepper. Add just enough of the liver cooking water to make a moldable dough. Mix thoroughly and roll into meatballs, about 2 inches in diameter.

Use scissors to cut small sheets of the caul fat just big enough to wrap around the meatballs. Do so, tucking the edges underneath each ball.

Bring enough lard for shallow frying (about 1/2-inch or 1.25cm) up to medium/high temperature in a pan. Carefully drop the meatballs in and fry on all sides until a deep brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel.

Serve hot. Buon appetito!

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