Fricot Feature | Pellegrino Artusi

Here at Fricot we have food heroes who need to be known. Among those we place in the pantheon of culinary excellence is Pellegrino Artusi. In 1891 he published a cookbook, and changed the world. 

Born in Forlimpopoli in 1820, prejudice led him to Florence where he re-established himself as a banker and became a man of leisure in his later years.

In 1880 at the age of 60 he set up an experimental kitchen at his home in the Piazza D’Azeglio. Then he spent ten years compiling anecdotes, ideas and notes about the authentic recipes of Italy’s diverse regions and with the assistance of cook Marietta Sabatini and housekeeper Francesco Ruffilli tested them to perfection.

After an unsuccessful search for a publisher, he published his book at his own expense, giving it away to friends until it caught on and went through numerous editions. The 13th had 790 recipes compared to the 475 in the first, self-published edition.

‘Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well’ changed the way Italians thought about their food.

His book is unique. Hardly anything published since has surpassed it for its simplicity and fidelity. Of the 790 recipes in the book almost all are regarded as the templates for the modern versions.

Here are some of Artusi’s recipes.

Broccoli Romani broccoli with wine

Pellegrino Artusi gives an interesting twist to broccoli cooked with pork belly and sweet white wine.
  • 500 g broccoli heads, washed, blanched, cooled in ice water bath, drained
  • 250 g fatty pork belly, chopped small
  • 250 ml sweet white wine
  • 5 g black pepper
  • Salt, large pinch

Chop broccoli coarsely.

Heat a frying pan and start rendering the fat from the pork belly. When the pork is crispy add the broccoli and cook for five minutes. Add wine, cook over a medium heat until all the liquid has been absorbed.

Fagioli all’uccelletto Toscano Tuscan beans with sage and tomato sauce, bird-style

Only the good cooks of Florence would take an aroma intended for game bird dishes, transfer it to the range of protein-rich beans grown across the peninsula and keep the original name. So this is not a bird and bean dish, it is a bean and herb dish, sage prominent. The medium – tomato sauce flavoured with black pepper and garlic – remains the same. Pellegrino Artusi recorded a more rustic version. Sage leaves are fried in oil, the beans and seasonings are added, sauteéd for a few minutes, finally sufficient tomato sauce is added to coat the beans. Usually served with soft bread, this is a truely ironic dish.
  • 500 g borlotti beans / cannellini beans, fresh / cooked
  • 350 g tomato passata
  • 90 ml olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves (optional)
  • 10 g black pepper
  • 1 sprig sage (optional)
  • 1 sprig rosemary (optional)
  • 5 g salt
  • 5 g oregano leaves, whole (optional)
  • 5 sage leaves, whole

Sauté garlic in the oil for five minutes, add half of the pepper and herb leaves. Increase heat, fry for two minutes. Add beans, coat in the mixture, and then add the tomato passata and the herb sprigs. Heat through, and serve with bread or as an meat accompaniment.

Vitello Tonnato veal with tuna sauce

Vitello tonnato is a typical antipasto of Piedmontese cuisine. It is prepared with a specific cut of meat marinated in dry white wine and flavorings for half a day, boiled in marinated water, cut into thin slices and covered with a tuna sauce in oil. The sauce is prepared by blending hard-boiled egg yolks with capers, anchovies in salt, oil, white wine, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Pellegrino Artusi refers to a method where the anchovy, caper and tuna sauce that is the essential element of this cold dish becomes a marinade, infusing the sliced cooked veal with pungent flavours. 
  • 1 kg veal, rump, whole
  • 3 carrots, peeled, whole
  • 3 parsley roots, scrubbed, whole
  • 3 stalks celery, whole
  • 1 onion, peeled, whole
  • 100 g tinned tuna, minced
  • 2 lemons, juice
  • 50 ml olive oil
  • 25 g capers, minced
  • 8 anchovy fillets
  • 4 cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Salt, large pinch
  • Water, for cooking
  • String, for tying

Make four deep cuts in the centre of the veal, push an anchovy into each one, tie meat together. Stud onion with cloves. Place the veal in a large saucepan with the bay leaves, carrots, celery, onion, parsley and salt, cover with sufficient water and bring to the boil.  Simmer covered for 45 minutes, until meat is tender, soft to the touch and not tough.

When the veal has cooled, untie the string and cut into thin slices.

Mince the remaining anchovies with the capers and tuna, pour in the lemon juice and olive oil to make a thin sauce. Use as much oil as necessary.

Serve the veal with the tuna sauce, with soft white bread.

Alternatively marinade the meat in the sauce for eight hours, bring up to room temperature, then serve.