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Esicia Omentata (Pine-nut Stuffed Meatballs)
Arwen Southernwood and Tatiana Pavlovna Sokolova

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Original Recipe

Esicia Omentata:

Apicius, #48
Ground Meat Patties in Omentum:  Grind chopped meat with the center of fine white bread that has been soaked in wine.  Grind together pepper, garum, and pitted myrtle berries if desired.  Form small patties, putting in pine nuts and pepper.  Wrap in omentum and cook slowly in caroenum. [Giacosa, pp. 89-90]



4 cups red wine (to boil down to 2 cups caroenum)
1 lb. ground pork or beef
4 slices of white bread
1/4 cup red wine
1/2 teaspoon peppercorns
8-10 juniper berries
2 teaspoons Thai fish sauce
1/4 cup pine nuts

Preparation Steps

Put the four cups of red wine in a saucepan.  Boil over medium-high heat for about half an hour, or until the liquid has reduced by half.
    Meanwhile, remove the crusts from the slices of bread and tear the bread into bits.  Place in a large bowl and pour the 1/4 cup of red wine over them.  Knead until the red wine is evenly distributed; the mixture should be pasty.  Add meat and mix well. 

    Grind together peppercorns and juniper berries.  Mix with fish sauce and pour over meat mixture.  Mix until spices are evenly distributed.

    Form walnut-sized meatballs, making a hollow in each with your thumb.  Place 6-8 pine nuts in the hollow and roll meatball firmly to seal.  Poach dumplings in reduced wine for about 6 minutes, turning once while cooking.  Remove meatballs and allow remaining liquid to reduce by half.  Serve hot, with reduced liquid as a sauce.

Number of Servings

Makes approximately two dozen meatballs.

Redaction Notes

I have chosen to omit the omentum (pork caul fat) and simply poach the dumplings in the caroenum.  The meatballs seemed to remain quite moist without it.  Juniper berries are substituted for myrtle berries, as the latter were unavailable.

For this recipe, a Cabernet Sauvignon works well.


  • Giacosa, Ilaria Gozzini (Herklotz, Anna, translator).  A Taste of Ancient Rome.  The University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London, 1992.  ISBN 0-226-29032-8.
  • Vehling, Joseph Dommers (translator).  Apicius:  Cookery and Dining in Imperial Rome.  Dover Publications Inc., New York, 1977.  ISBN 0-486-23563-7.

Date Of Redaction

January, 2002; revisited March, 2003.

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