Themed ancient Roman dinner: ‘Cum Apicio edimus’

The British School at Rome’s wonderful chef, Luca Albanese, treated the staff and residents to an ancient Rome-inspired dinner last Friday night.friday dinner menu

The dinner was primarily in honour of the visiting group of undergraduates from the University of Reading, who were staying at the BSR while taking part in a week long tour of ancient Rome. However, it is not the first time that Luca has wowed with his creative cooking having previously made a dinner inspired by famous works of art.


Staff and students from University of Reading on the steps of the BSR, image by Katherine Paines

The entire meal was a triumph, but what was particularly impressive was the authenticity of what was being served, shown most clearly when you look at the similarity between the pane romano made by Luca and the preserved ancient loaf of bread on display in the Villa Boscoreale Museum.

Ancient ROman bread

Ancient bread displayed in the Villa Boscoreale Museum. Image by Sophie Hay

lucas bread

‘Modern’ pane romano. Image by Stephen Kay

The resemblance between the two is uncanny!

For those of you wanting to make your own ancient Roman feast Luca has been kind enough to share his recipe below.

Within the recipe are included instructions on how to make your own yeast; however if is difficult to find one of the ingredients (lievito di birra: fresh brewer’s yeast), it is still possible to make the bread with dried yeast by just following the second section. 


This recipe makes 2 loaves.

For the yeast:
50g flour
25ml red wine
25ml water
2g fresh/nutritional yeast (lievito di birra)

First mix together half the flour with the red wine and leave for one day to rise (trust Luca on this one- it works!). Once you’ve left that for a day add the water and about a quarter of the unused flour, mixing until you have a soft dough. Repeat this for the next 4 days. On the last day add a few crumbs (about 2g) of your fresh yeast (lievito di birra) and leave for another day.

For the bread:
750g flour
375ml water
45g salt
2 tbsp olive oil
50g flaxseeds

Mix together all the bread ingredients in a large bowl and add your pre-made yeast mixture (or 1 heaped teaspoon of dry yeast dissolved in a little warm water). Leave to rise for at least 12 hours and then form into circular loaves, scoring the top slightly to form wedge shapes (see above photo). Leave for one more hour and then bake at 190°C for 30 minutes, before lowering the oven to 150°C for an additional 20 minutes.

Once you have removed it from the oven Luca recommends putting the fresh bread into a paper bag to keep it soft and moist.

Katherine Paines (Communication and Events Assistant)

Images by Luca Albanese, Katherine Paines, Stephen Kay and Sophie Hay

If this has inspired you to try more italian cuisine, Luca regularly updates his own blog accessible at:



La cucina incontra la pittura


Luca Albanese. Photograph by A. Palmieri.


Luca Albanese started working as Cook at the BSR just before Christmas.

Taking the BSR’s interdisciplinary approach to heart, Luca has decided to get artistic with his cooking. Here are some images from his dinner on the theme of La cucina incontra la pittura.





Dish No. 1: Claude Monet, Water Lilies



Dish No. 2: Jackson Pollock, No. 5



Dish No. 3: Chagall, The Red Circus 



Dolce (by Elisa Mari): Salvador Dalì, The Persistence of Time 



For those of you who prefer a more traditional Italian dish, here are a few of Luca’s favourite recipes:

Carbonara is one of the most famous Roman dishes, as well as one of the easiest

For 4 people:
4 eggs
4 slices of bacon (chopped)
2 handfuls of pecorino cheese
Pepper (as required)
400 grams of durum wheat flour pasta

While you are waiting for the water to boil, beat the eggs with the pecorino and the pepper until it becomes creamy. Sauté the bacon strips until they are crisp. Put the pasta in boiling water, and when it is cooked, drain it and pan-fry it with the bacon, and finally pour the egg and pecorino mixture onto the pasta, mix well and serve.

Another traditional Roman dish

For 4 people:
4 handfuls of pecorino cheese
Pepper (as required)
400 grams of pasta (preferably Tonnarelli)

Bring the pasta to the boil. Put the pecorino in a bowl with the ground pepper. Add 2 spoonfuls of boiling water to the pecorino, mix well. Drain the pasta and pour the cream over it, mix and serve.

An alternative soup 

For 4 people:
2 onions
3 lots of fennel leaves
1 potato
1 litre of vegetable stock
80 grams of gorgonzola

Sauté the onions in oil on a low heat for a few minutes. In the meantime remove the leaves from the fennel and put aside. Chop the fennel and the potato and put them in the pan with the onions. Sauté for one minute and add the stock. Cook on a low heat for half an hour. Blend until it becomes a creamy velvet sauce. At this point you can add the gorgonzola. Just before serving, add the fennel leaves, a trickle of oil, and it’s ready to go.

An exquisite combination of the sweet and the savoury

For 4 people:
400 grams of Carnaroli rice
4 apples
2 kg of vegetable stock
50 grams of butter
1 leek

Cut the leek and sauté it, add the rice, and lightly fry for 2 minutes, peel and cut the apples into small pieces then add them to the pan. Add three spoonfuls of stock and cook slowly for 18 minutes, from time to time adding more stock. You can add a pinch of cinnamon right at the end.

For more recipes and cooking tips you can follow Luca’s blog at

Buon appetito!