Home Page

Stefan's Florilegium


This document is also available in: text or RTF formats.

Is-it-Pizza-art – 4/27/04


“When is a Pizza not a Pizza?” by Helewyse de Birkestad


NOTE: See also the files: pizza-msg, brd-mk-flat-msg, yeasts-msg, ovens-msg, utensils-msg, fd-Italy-msg, grains-msg, fd-Sicily-msg, 16C-Tomato-art.





This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set of files, called Stefan's Florilegium.


These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author.


While the author will likely give permission for this work to be reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.


Thank you,

Mark S. Harris...AKA:..Stefan li Rous

stefan at florilegium.org



“When is a Pizza not a Pizza?”

by Helewyse de Birkestad


When is a pizza not a pizza? Easy, when the recipe is 16th Century Italian.


These translations came about because of a question posted on the SCA-Cooks mail list.  The original question related to a recipe  purportedly dating to 14th C France.  The recipe looked nothing like something which could not have been baked back then  and I suggested that like pizza the name described a shape and that name was then attributed to a different recipe when fashions  changed. This of course led to  "I'd like to see some of the original recipes", which led to more copying from Scappi and  translations.  Wierd where things will take you. The six pizza recipes from Scappi almost all describe flat, round pastry type objects, which are flaky or layered in some way, only two of which involve yeast in the recipe.  In these yeasted breads you can see the ancestor of the flat bread, although savory toppings are nowhere to be found, sugar being the preferred toping used.  The most interesting recipe is the final one which hails from Naples, the birthplace of the modern pizza, this sweet pie is the furthest from the modern pizza of any of the recipes given here.  A note on quantities, the Italian libre or pound was a weight which varied from location to location within Italy.  The Italian libra weighed about 12 modern ounces, there were 12 oncie per libre, giving the modern ounce as approximately equivalent.  


Per far fiadoncelli pieni di varie materie.  Cap CXXVII. Impastinsi libre due di fior di farina, & tre oncie di butiro fresco, quattro oncie d’acqua rosa, & sei rossi d’ova, il restante latte di capra tiepide, o di vacca, & sale a bastanza, facciasene sfoglio sottile, & habbiasi libra una d’animelle di vitella perlessate, & battute minute con li coltelli, mescolate con tre oncie di medolla di boue, & due oncie d’uva passa, che habbia tratto un bollo nel vino, quattro rossi d’ova dure tagliate in bocconcini, & due rossi d’ova crudi, quattro oncie di zuccaro, un’oncia di cannella, due oncie di cascio grasso grattato, poi taglisi il sfoglio in piu parte larghe un sommesso, & lunghe un palmo e mezzo, & sopra ogni parte pongasi la compositione da un canto, & rivolgasi in su tre volte ungendo tra ogni rivoltura; dopo che sarą onta, bagnisi con chiare d’ova sbattute, acciė si venga ad attaccare insieme, & con lo sperone se gli dian tre tagli da canti voti, & facciasi cuocere nel forno, nel modo che si cuoconi i pasticci sfogliati, overo friggasi in strutto, e cotto che saranno, si servino caldi con zuccaro sopra.  Volendo empire di varie compositioni li fiadoncelli, piglisi di tutte le compositioni delle crostate, torte, & tortiglioni antescritte, eccettuando gl’herbami, & tartare.


To make small flat cakes stuffed with various things.  Chapter 127 Paste together two pounds of flour with three ounces of fresh butter, four ounces of rose water, and six egg yolks, the rest (of the liquid necessary being provided by) warm goat or cow milk, add as much salt as necessary, and make at thin (subtle) sheet (of pastry).  Take a pound of peeled veal sweet-bread (thymus) and chop it finely with a knife.  Mix it with three ounces of beef marrow, and two ounces of currants which have been treated by boiling in wine, four hard boiled egg yolks cut into small bites, and two raw egg yolks, four ounces of sugar and ounce of cinnamon and two ounces of fat cheese (parmesan or equivalent) grated.  Then cut the sheet of pasta in two pieces, as wide as a the length from the tip of the outstretched thumb to the other side of the fist) and as long as a the length of a hand and a half.  (See note).  And above every piece put the stuffing on one corner, and turn it over three times greasing between every turn.  After you have greased it, bath it with a beaten egg white, in order that it becomes joined together, and with a fluted pastry cutter one gives it three cuts on the empty corners.  Make them cook in the oven, in the way that one cooks other layered pastries, or fry in melted lard, and when they are cooked one serves them hot with sugar on top. You may fill the flat cakes with many different stuffings, take any of the stuffings for crostate, tarts and little tortiglioni from the preceding recipes, except those with herbs and soaked bread, almonds and sugar.


Note: with a tape measure and given my hands that comes to a piece of pastry about 6” by 11”.   This first recipe is provided as it gives the pastry recipe for several of the consequent pizza recipes.  To my mind this pastry is assembled a little bit like a spinach filo parcel, with the filling being put in one corner and the dough folded over until a triangular pasty is achieved.


Per fare pizza sfogliata dal vulgo detta sfogliata ascuitta.

Cap CXXVIII, quinto libro,folio 367.

Piglisi un sfoglio di pasta tirato sottile, fatto come gl’antescritti, & habbisi una tortiera onta di butiro liquefatto, & sopra essa tortiera pongasi un sfoglio d’essa pasta, alquanto grossetto, & sopra esso sfoglio mettansi dieci altri sfogli sottile, onti tra l’uno, & l’altro di butiro, & spolverizzati di zuccaro, & fiore di sambuco secchi, o verdi, & faccisi cuocere al forno, o sotto il testo; & cotto che sarą, servasi calda con zuccaro, & acqua rosa sopra.  A un’altro modo si potrebbe fare, tirato il sfoglio come s’Ź detto, ongasi di butiro liquefatto, & lascisi alquanto raffreddare, & spargasi un’altra volta d’esso butiro, & spolverizzisi di zuccaro, & faccisi un tortiglione di sei rivolture, & come Ź fatto ongasi per il lungo, & rivolgasi ą foggi di laberinto, & mettasi nelle totiera, dove sia un’altro sfoglio di pasta onta di butiro, & con la mano onta di butiro caldo (acciė la pasta no s’attacchi) venga a spianarsi, di modo che non rimanga piu alta d’un dito, & col nodo del pugno vadasi caldando in modo che gli resti il segno, spargasegli butiro liquefatto sopra, & facciasi cuocere al forno con lento fuoco, & servasi caldo con zuccaro, & acqua rosa sopra, se non si volesse spolverizzare di zuccaro, & acqua rosa sopra; mettasi il zuccaro nella pasta, & per bellezza si puo fare essa pizza col tortiglione sfogliato incirca.


To make pizza of many layers, commonly cold dry layered pastry.  Chapter 129  Take a sheet of pasta that has been pulled thin, made as is described in the previous recipe, have a tart pan greased with melted butter, and into this pan add a sheet of this pasta that is large enough.  Above this sheet put another 10 thin sheets, greasing between each one with butter and powdering with sugar and elder flowers, either fresh or dried.  And put it to cook in the oven or underneath a “testo”, and when it is cooked serve hot with sugar and rose water on top.  There is another way that one can make this, pull a sheet as is described and grease with melted butter, and let it chill a little, and sprinkle again with this butter, and powder with sugar and make a ring shaped pastry of six turns (roll pastry on itself).  And when it is made grease it along the length, and turn in the shape of a labyrinth or knot, and put in the tart pan, where there is already another sheet of the pastry greased with butter, and with hands greased with melted butter (in order that the pasta does not stick to them) begin to spread it, so that it is not any higher than a fingers width, and with the flat of your fist push it down so that it remains within, sprinkle with melted butter and put to cook in the oven with slow fire.  And serve hot with sugar and rose water above, and if one does not want to powder it with sugar and rosewater above, one can put sugar in the pastry, and for beauty one can make this pizza with little layered tarts that are in circles.


This pastry to me most resembles modern baklava, thin sheets of pastry layered with butter.

Per fare pizza sfogliata di sfogliatura aperta Cap CXXIX

Tirato che sarą lo sfoglio della pasta fatta nel modo soprascritto senza zuccaro, facciasi un ruotolo di grossezza d’un pistone di legno grosso, & lascisi raffreddare, poi habbisi apparecchiata la tortiera con un sfoglio onto di butiro sotto, & il tortiglione sfogliato incirca, compartiscasi il ruotolo in piu pezzi tagliati per il traverso con il coltello caldo, liquali pezzi sieno d’altezza di due in tre dita, & mettasi nella tortiera uno d’essi pezzi, la qual tortiera sia proportinata al pezzo della pasta, cioŹ ne troppo grande, ne troppo piccola, & messo che sarą nella tortiera, spargasi sopra butiro liquefatto non troppo caldo, & con la palma della mano, bagnata di butior caldo, s’anderą stendendo nella tortiera esso pezzo, di modo che rimanga alta un dito, & facciasi cuocere al forno, o sotto il testo con piu fuoco sopra, che sotto, & servasi calda.  A un’altro modo si puo fare, tagliata che sarą la pizza con destrezza, slargharla alquanto con la mano, dipoi ą circa a circa di fuori bagnarla d’ova battute, acchioche nel cuocere no si stacchi l’orlo, e facciasi friggere essa pizza nello strutto, o butiro squalgliato non troppo caldo, & fritta che sarą, servasi calda con zuccaro fino sopra.  Di questo ruotolo sfogliato se ne puon fare diversi lavorie fritti, & cotti al forno, secondo il giuditio di chi li sarą.


To make a layered pizza of open layers. Chapter 129

Take a sheet of the same pastry made in the way written above without sugar, make a roll of it (buttering between layers) the size of a large wooden piston (rolling pin?), and let it chill.  Then having already prepared a tart pan with a thin sheet of buttered pastry in the bottom and a circle of layered pastry spirals around the rim (as best as I understand), slice up the roll by cutting into many pieces across the width with a warm knife.  These pieces to be about the height of two or three fingers and put in the tart pan one of these pieces, the said tart pan should be proportionate to the size of the piece of pasta, that is neither too large nor too small.  And when you have put it in the tart pan, sprinkle the top with melted butter that isn’t too hot, and the flat of your hand spread the warm butter around.  One will stretch in the tart pan this piece in the way that it becomes the height of a finger.  And put it to cook in the oven or beneath a testo with more fire above, than below, and serve hot. You can make this in another way, cut that pizza with dexterity then spread it out enough with the hand, then about from above bathe it with beaten egg, such that in the cooking the edges do not detach, and put theses pizza to fry in lard or clarified butter which is not too hot.  And when they are fried serve hot with fine sugar above.  And with these layered rolls on can make various works fried or cooked in the oven, dependent on the judgement of he who makes them.


Note: here the pasta is rolled up and then later cut and spread out, this way the layers would be end up in the pan, not layered down as in the preceding recipe. The resemblance to palmiers is striking, although the mode of cooking is different.  The use of tortiglioni to decorate the rim of the pastry is notable in this and other recipes.  The best description of them I can find is that they are spirals of layered or flaky pastry that are attached to the rim of the pie to make it pretty.  When the pastry circles are to be fried in oil they are first bathed in egg, this will prevent them from disintegrating in the oil.


Per fare pizza a un’altro modo Cap CXXX

Piglinisi libre due di fior di farina, & impastinsi con oncie sei di cascio parmigiano pisto nel mortaro, stemperato con brodo grasso, & acqua rosa, & passato per il setaccio, & oncie tre di zuccao, sei rossi d’ova, tre oncie di mollica di pane imbeverata con brodo grasso, mezz’oncia di cannella, mezz’oncia tra garofai, & noci moscate, & per spatio d’un’hora rimenisi essa pasta, & facciasene sfoglio sottile, & ongasi di butiro liquefatto, & facciasene tortiglione per il lungo del sfoglio di quattro rivolture, & ongasi il tortiglione di butiro liquefatto no troppo caldo, & d’esso totiglione facciansene piu fucaccine, & frigghisino in butiro, o strutto, o cuochisino nel forno nella tortiera, come si cuoce i tortiglioni, servisino calde con zuccaro sopra.   A un’altro modo si potrebbe fare impastare la farina con brodo grassissimo che bolla, giungendoli rossi d’ova sbattuti, zuccaro, & acqua rosa, butiro, & le medesime spetierie, & cosi calda si rimeni la pasta di modo che no sia troppo soda, & compartiscasi in pezzuoli di quattro oncie l’uno, & di ciascheduno d’essi facciansene fucaccine, & facciasino cuocere nel forno, si potrebbe fare in luoge delle pizze piccole, una pizza grande, & essa pasta si puo mescolare de pignoli mondi ammaccati, che sieno stati in molla, & lievido.  


To make pizza in another way.  Chapter 130

Take two pounds of flour and paste together with six ounces of parmesan cheese which has been ground in the mortar, mixed with fat broth and rose water and strained through a sieve, and three ounces of sugar, six egg yolks, three ounces of bread crumb soaked with fat broth, half an ounce of cinnamon, half an ounce between cloves and nutmeg.  Work this dough for the space of an hour and make a thin sheet, grease with melted butter that isn’t too hot, and make of it a tortiglione (rolled pastry coils) the length of the pastry and of four turns. Of these pastry coils make more flat pastries and fry them in butter or oil or cook them in the oven in a tart pan as one would cook the tortiglioni.  Serve them hot with sugar on top.  And another way that one can bind together the flour is with the fattest broth boiling, adding beaten egg yolks, sugar, rose water butter and the same spices, and working the pastry hot in the way that it doesn’t become too hard.  And divide it into pieces of four ounces each and each one of these shall be made into small flat cakes and put to cook in the oven.  And, one can, in the place of small pizza’s make one large pizza.  And with this pastry one can mix ground peeled pine nuts that have been soaked in water and yeast.


Note: this recipe is completely different from the previous ones.  The first pasta dough is definitely savory, although I am at a loss to describe how he goes from rolls of pastry to little flat pastries that are fried.  The second pasta dough in some way resembles a choux paste, by using boiling water and eggs, sadly this is one occasion when specific measurements are not given so we are left to guess how soft the dough should be.


Per fare pizza sfogliata a un’altro modo Cap XCCCI

Impastinsi libro tre di fior di farina con due oncie di lievido, & quattro oncie di mollica di pane che sia stata ammogliata nell’acqua tiepida, & sale a bastanza, & impastata che sarą lascisi reposare in luogo caldo coperta fin a tanto che sia levata, come fa il pane, poi si mescolerą un’altra volta su la tovala per spatio di mezz’hora, ponendoli in piu volte due libre di butiro fresco, & mescolata che sarą tanto che haverą recevuto il butiro, & sarą venuta morbida, partisi essa pasta in due o tre pezzi, & di ciascheduno d’essi pezzi facciasi la pizza nella totiera, dove sia butiro fresco, & facciasi cuocere nel forno con buitro liquefatto sopra; facendoli alcuni sbufi con la punta del coltella sopra, accioche non sgonfi, & come Ź pressso a cotta, spargesegli zuccaro, & acqua rosa, tal pasta si vuol cuocere adagio, & servasi calda.


To make a layered pizza in another way.  Chapter 131

Paste together three pounds of flour, with two ounces of yeast starter (bigo, i.e. dough from a previous bread batch), and four ounces of crumb of bread that has been soaked in warm water, and enough salt.  And when everything has been blended together put it to rest, covered, in a warm place to rise, as one does with bread.  Then one kneads it another time on the table for the space of half an hour.  Burdening the dough, little by little, with two pounds of fresh butter.  Mix until all the butter has been incorporated into the dough and the dough has become soft.  Split the dough into two or three pieces and with each of these pieces make the pizza in the tart pan, where there is fresh butter, and put them to cook in the oven with melted butter on top.  Make several holes with the point of the knife on the top, in order that it does not puff too much. And when it is nearly finished cooking sprinkle with sugar and rose water. This pastry should be cooked slowly and served hot.


Note: Finally a yeast dough, this one is enriched by kneading in vast quantities of butter after the first rise, this is similar to the way that panettone is made modernly.  To me this recipe most resembles a focaccio, as we are instructed to pierce the dough so that it doesn’t rise too much.


Per fare pizze sfogliate ritonde a un’altro modo cotte in forno su la carta.  Cap CXXXII

Piglinosi libre 2 di fior di farina, impastinsi con acqua tiepide, e sale, & un’oncia e mezza di lievido stemperato con acqua tiepida, & oncie tre di butiro fresco, & impastata che sarą di modo che non sia troppo liquida, ne troppo soda, lascisi reposare in un drappo candido in luogo caldo, fino a tanto che si levi, come fa il pane, & rimenisi un’altra volta sopra la tavola, ponendoli men farina che sia possiblile quando si rimena, & habbinsi apparecchiate libre due di buttiro fresco compartito in bocconcini grossi come nocelle, il quale buttiro sia stato in mollo nell’acqua fredda, & poi rimesso nell’acqua rosa.  Piglisi la pasta, e con la palma della mano, o col bastone spianisi, & faccisi tonda comŹ un tagliere, di modo che rimanga di grossezza d’una costa di coltello; piglinsi poi bocconcini del butiro, & ponghisino a uno a uno sopra, lasciando vacuo il circolo della pasta un buon dito, il qual vacuo sia bagnato d’ova sbattute, ridoppisi il sfoglio sopra il buttiro, da tuttiquattro i canti.  Facendo di modo che esso sfoglio venga come una beretta da prete, cioŹ, si congiunga insieme le parte bagnata dell’ove, & con la mano accommodisi di modo, che venga tondo, & pian piano si verrą ą spinarla, avvertendo di non rompere la pasta, facendo che torni di quella grandezza, & tondezza di prima, & cosi si farą piu volte, fino a tanto, che s’haverą fornito il butiro, & ridotto che sarą in una palla ą foggia d’una pagnotta; habbisi apparecchiato un sfoglio di carta grossa, onto di butiro nel mezzo, & pongasi sopra la pasta con la sfogliatura in giu, facendo che la parte liscia venga sopra, & diasegli il colore con ova sbattute, & pongasi nel forno, che non sia troppo caldo, & massime da basso, & come comincia a gonfiare, perche non pigli troppo colore, si cuoprirą con un sfoglio di carta straccia, lasciandola finire a cuocere; & cotta che sarą, d’ogni tempo vuole essere servita calda.  Et volendosi fare ad un’altro modo, compartiscasi la pasta avanti che si metta il butiro in piu pezzuoli, & d’essi pezzuoli se ne faran sfogli tondi di grandezza d’un tagliere ordinario, & non siano piu grossi dello sfoglio da torta, & banginsi anchora essi intorno con ove sbattute, & nel mezzo pongansi i boccocini di butiro, & sopra il butiro pongasi un’altro sfoglio, & con questo ordine se ne sarą otto, o dieci sfogli l’uno sopra l’altro, & poi con la palma della mano spianisino pian piano, avvertendo non rompergli.  Quest ultima pizza si puo cuocere in la tortiera con un sfoglio sotto, & il torgiglione sfogliato incerca per fare che sia piu bella, & servasi calda d’ogni tempo con zuccaro fino sopra.  Et ancho gli si puo dare il colore come Ź presso a cotta con rossi d’ova, spolverizzandoa di zuccaro.  


To make a layered round pizza in another way, cooked in the oven on card.  Chapter 132

Take two pounds of flour and make a paste with warm water, salt and an ounce of a half of leavening mixed with warm water, and three ounces of fresh butter, and blend it together so that it is neither to liquid nor too dry.  Let it rest under a white cloth in warm place until it is risen, as one does for bread. And knead it another time on the table, adding as little flour as possible when one kneads.  And have ready two pounds of fresh butter, divided into pieces as large as a hazelnut, the said butter having soaked in cold water and then transferred to rose water.  Take the pastry and with the palm of the hand, or with a pastry roller, and make it round like a table cloth, in the way that it stays about the width of a knife handle.  Then take the butter pieces and put them, one at a time, on top of the pastry, leaving a space about a fingers width around the edge of the pasta empty.  This empty space one will bathe with beaten egg.  Fold the sheet over the butter, over and over again, from all angles. Make it in such a way that this sheet becomes like the head gear of a priest, that is one brings together the parts bathed in egg, and with the hand shapes it in such as way that it becomes round.  And very slowly one begins to push it, being careful not to break the pastry, do this so that it returns to its previous size and shape as at first.  And this one does more times, until one has used all the butter, and it is worked to the shape of a small bun.  Have already prepared a sheet of thick paper, greased with butter on one side, and put above it the pastry with the turnings and layers below, make it such that the smooth side faces above.  And give it color with a beaten egg and put in the oven, and it should not be too hot, and as a general rule at the bottom (lowest temperature), and when it begins to rise so that it doesn’t get too dark one covers it with a piece of torn paper and let it finish cooking.  And when it is cooked, in all weathers it should be served hot.  And if you want to make it in another way, divide the pasta before ones adds the butter into more pieces.  Of these pieces one makes thin round sheets about the height of an ordinary knife, and no larger than the crust for a tart, and bathe each of these in turn with beaten egg, and in the middle add the pieces of butter, and above the butter add another sheet of pastry, and in this way one can make eight or nine layers, each one above the other.  And then with the palm on ones hand press it very slowly, making sure not to break the pastry.  This last pizza one con cook in a tart pan with a sheet of pastry below and layered, curled pastry around the edge to make it more beautiful.  And serve hot in every weather with fine sugar above.  And also if one wants to give it color, when it is nearly cooked brush with egg yolk and powder with sugar.  


Note: in this recipe the yeast dough is layered with butter.  A recipe very reminiscent of how one makes croissant.  


Per fare torta con diverse materie, da Napoletani detta pizza.  Cap CXXI

Habbisi oncie sei d’amandole ambrosine monde, & quattr’oncie di pignoli ammogliati mondi, & tre oncie di datoli freschi prive dell’anime, e tre oncie di fichi secchi, tre oncie di zibibbo senz’anime, & ogni cosa pestici nel mortaro, sbruffandole alle volte d’acqua rosa, di modo che venga come pasta, giungansi con esse materie, otto rossi d’ova fresche crude, oncie sei di zuccaro, un’oncia di cannella pista, un’oncia, e mezza di mostaccioli Napoletani muschiati fatti in polvere, quattro oncie d’acqua rosa, e fatta che sarą d’ogni cosa in una compositionne, habbisi la tortiera onta con un sfoglio di pasta reale, & il tortiglione sfogliato incirca non troppo grosso, & mettasi la compositione in la tortiera, mescolata con quattro oncie di butiro fresco, facendo ch non sia piu alta d’un dito, & senza esser copera facciasi cuocere al forno, & servasi calda, & fredda a beneplacito.  In essa pizza si puo mettere d’ogni sorte condite.


To make a tart with various things, by the residents of Naples called pizza. Chapter 121

Have six ounces of peeled ambrosia almonds, four ounces of peeled soaked pine nuts, and three ounces of fresh dates with the seeds removed, three ounces of dried figs, three ounces of raisins without seeds, and grind everything together in a mortar, sprinkling every so often with rosewater, so that it becomes a paste, add to these things eight fresh raw egg yolks, six ounces of sugar, an ounce of ground cinnamon, an ounce and a half of Naples biscotti with musk, made into powder, four ounces of rose water. And make of all these things a filling.  Have a greased pie plate lined with a sheet of royal pastry, and with not too large layered twisted pastry decorations around the rim.  Put the stuffing into the tart, mixed with four ounces of fresh butter.  Make it so that it isn’t any higher than a finger and without a (pastry) cover put to cook in the oven.  Serve this hot or cold as one pleases. In this pizza one can put any sort of confit.


Note: the ingredients for royal pastry are: flour, sugar, butter, rose water and salt.  Naples biscotti are a almost meringue type confection of sugar, flour and eggs, baked twice until crisp.  The probably provide both flavoring and a binding agent for this dish. This last pizza recipe is the least like a modern pizza, resembling instead a very rich dried fruit pie.  


References used:


Alfred Hoare, M. A. (1925). An Italian Dictionary, Cambridge University Press.

Scappi, B. (1981). Opera : (dell' arte del cucinare).  Reprint. First published: Opera di M. Bartolomeo Scappi. Venice, 1570. Bologna, Arnaldo Forni.


Translated April 16, 2004 by Helewyse de Birkestad.  Copyright remains with the author, permission is granted for scholarly/non-profit use and reproduction in SCA related publications provided that credit is given to the author.  If you have any questions please contact me helwyse at yahoo.com


If this article is reprinted in a publication, I would appreciate a notice in the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org