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Ancient Roman Cuisine

Ancient Rome Diet

Ancient Roman Cuisine

Widely known for its pastas, risottos, wines and olives, Italian cuisine is a fundamental part of the Mediterranean diet. But did the Italians always eat pasta? What sort of delicious meals did the people of Ancient Rome enjoy?

Italian cooking started out with very few simple recipes that were heavily influenced by Greek culture. However, as the Roman empire expanded, the variety of dishes began to expand, changing radically over distance that was both geographical and economical.

In the very early stages of the empire, the Romans used to eat three times a day due to the constant manual labor. They used to have breakfast, a small lunch before mid-day, and supper called cena in the evening. However, as time passed and foreign nations changed the cultural landscape, a light meal in the evening was introduced. It was often called “second breakfast.”

The main ingredients in the average Roman household included round loaves made of emmer, a cereal from the same family as wheat. The upper classes enjoyed cheese, eggs, milk, fruits and honey. Eventually the Romans were introduced to bread, often accompanied with olives and wine. The wealthiest Romans were able to enjoy pork, lamb, poultry and different varieties of fish.

As the Roman Empire evolved, ingredients such as lupins, chik peas and beans were introduced, quickly becoming a favourite among gladiators. The upper classes also ate beans, but their exquisite taste would only permit them to enjoy Egyptian lentils, an exotic dish renowned for its rich flavour and nutritional value.

Vegetables were often eaten early in the meal. Broccoli, asparagus, carrots, olives, beets, lettuces, cucumbers and onions were a key part of Roman cuisine until the 10th century.  Surprisingly enough, tomatoes were not available at all in those days. This famous ingredient in modern Italy’s cooking would not be introduced to the country until the 18th century!

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