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Roman Pizza Story

When one considers the question, as Monty Python’s character aptly put it, “What have the Romans given us?” it is difficult not to respond by mentioning Roman civic achievements, but their culinary achievements are another story.

Rome was ridiculed by the Greeks as little more than a nation of porridge and bean eaters; the stereotype was well known, so even the prologue to the Latin comedic play Poenulus opens with a stock Roman character, “Uncle Plautus, Son of a Porridge-Eater.” Plutarch revealed their appetite for such lowly foods as porridge and beans. They also had a passion for the boiled turnip.

On the other hand, the Romans also had an appetite for finer dishes, such as “Trojan pig stuffed with sausages” (Petronius, Satyricon, 49) or—as Pliny described—a recipe for “peacock [and] flamingo tongue” (Natural History, 10.133). While all these recipes have been lost to us, Imperial Rome passed on something that continues to shape modern culinary practice—the Pompeii oven. Uncovered at Pompeii, the Roman brick oven has yet to be improved upon. These ovens were engineered to cook by channeling heat from the dome, which can easily reach temperatures of 1200ºF, to the floor of the oven, which cooks around 700ºF.

What these ancient bean and porridge eaters gave us was a gift in waiting until the modern pizza was born in Naples to the south. The Pompeii oven, still heavily used for baking bread, held the secret to making what is arguably the best pizza on the planet.

Submitted by Professot Dr. Thomas Wayment, Comparative Arts and Letters

History of Roman Pizza

Voiced by: Aunah Johnson

@byuhumanities I don’t want a single comment about how you don’t have a Roman-style dome oven at home 🤫 (but do still check out the recipe; link to the cookbook on our linktree). #romanpizza #fireoven #byu #cookbook #humanitiesmajor #humanities ♬ original sound - byuhumanities
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