Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Pizza for the Pope

Italian pizza is usually attributed to the cuisine of Naples, and said to be a peasant dish. Bartolomeo Scappi, cook to the Popes of sixteenth century Rome, offered several pizza recipes in his comprehensive cookbook* which I talked about yesterday. His pizza has a pastry base. That's about the only similarity to 20th century garnished tomato-cheese pies with a bread-dough base. Here's a sample pizza recipe from his book:
Get two pounds of fine flour and make up a dough with six ounces of Parmesan cheese that has been ground in a mortar, moistened with a fat broth and rosewater and strained; add in three ounces of sugar, six egg yolks, three ounces of breadcrumb soaked in a fat broth, half an ounce of cinnamon and half an ounce of cloves and nutmeg together. Knead the dough for an hour and make a thin sheet of it. Brush melted butter on it and make a twist of it with the sheet rolled in four layers lengthwise; brush it with melted butter that is not too hot. With that twist make several small cakes, fry them in butter or rendered fat and bake them in an oven in a tourte pan [illustrated, right, top 2 rows] just as twists are done. Serve them hot with sugar over them. (p. 493)
Scappi's other pizza recipes are also made with a sweet, layered dough and various fillings. One is introduced "To prepare a tourte with various ingredients, called pizza by Neapolitans..." Ingredients for this include almonds, pinenuts, dates, figs, raisins, egg yolks sugar, cinnamon, musk-flavored Neapolitan mostaccioli, and rosewater. (p. 488)

These are elaborate dishes for a refined, wealthy household: that of the Pope. The intended audience of the book seems to be other noblemen and their cooks or household staffs. Recent food scholars are of course aware of Scappi's recipe -- Gillian Riley in her books The Oxford Companion to Italian Food and Renaissance Recipes specifically cites his book and pizza recipes. But in popular concept, Renaissance Popes eating pizza are a bit of a discrepancy. Another myth busted? I think maybe so.

*The Opera of Bartolomeo Scappi (1570): L'arte et prudenza d'un maestro Cuoco, translated and with commentary by Terence Scully, 2008.

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