Bon Appetit Wednesday! The Incredible Edible Egg (in Pine Nut Sauce à la Ancient Rome)

poached eggsThe Romans had a saying, “ab ovo usque ad malum,” which translates “from eggs to apples” and is closely related to our modern saying, “from soup to nuts.” Basically, it means “from beginning to end.” One thing is certain—the Romans knew their way around an egg.  Today, we’re bringing you an ancient Roman egg recipe that is the perfect beginning to any meal or any day. Eggs in Pine Nut Sauce can be used as an appetizer or served for breakfast if you’re craving something different from the typical eggs and bacon.

Humans have eaten eggs since prehistoric times. Nutritious, delicious and abundant, they can be eaten in numerous ways and many ancient cultures developed their own ways of consuming the egg. Below is a brief glimpse of eggs in ancient times:

  • Ancient Egypt- Egyptians ate the eggs of many different birds and preferred them “hard- or soft-boiled, fried, poached, and used as a binding agent in cookery, especially in souffles and sauces.”[1]
  • Ancient Greece- Greeks ate quail and hen eggs, hard- or soft-boiled and used the yolks and whites in various recipes.[2]
  • Medieval Europe- “No foodstuff was more commonly consumed in the Middle Ages than chicken eggs…”[3] Eggs were eaten in numerous ways, including “boiled, fried, scrambled…roasted…and poached. And eggs, liquid and hard-boiled, yolks and whites together or separated, entered into mixture for a very large number of prepared dishes.”[4]
  • Ancient China- Archaeological evidence proves the Chinese have been enjoying eggs for millennia.[5] They refer to fowl as “the domestic animal who knows time” because of the dependable regularity of the hen’s egg production.[6]

The recipe we’re bringing you today is from the ancient Romans, specifically, from the ancient Roman cookbook Apicius. The ancient Romans treasured their eggs. Each egg was quite expensive, up to half a day’s wage for a dozen.[7] So, if you’re a typical Roman worker, working hard for the money, you’re not going to just fry up a couple of eggs for breakfast, you’re going to prepare them in a delicious and delectable way. Enter Eggs in Pine Nut Sauce. A rich and scrumptious way to enjoy your eggs, this recipe is sure to be a stand-out at any meal.

*If you’re craving more ancient recipes that utilize fish sauce, check out our post on garum, Bon Appetit Wednesday! Spaghetti With Olive Oil and Italian Fish Sauce!

Eggs in Pine Nut Sauce

Gluten Free buttonRecipe adapted from Pass the Garum


  • 4 Eggs
  • 5 ounces of pine nuts
  • 1 teaspoon of honey
  • 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of Liquamen or salt


  1. Soak the pine nuts in water for several hours to soften them – this will help us make the sauce later.  If you want to be that bit more decadent, soak them in white wine to add some subtle flavor to the dish.
  2. Pine nuts suitably soaked, drain them and add them to a mortar (or food processor) with the honey, red wine vinegar, pepper and liquamen.  Crush, crush, crush.  You can make the ‘sauce’ as smooth as you like.
  3. Sauce prepared, it’s time to poach the eggs.  For a good no-nonsense video explaining how to do this, click here.  Otherwise:
    1. Add a few inches of water to a saucepan and bring this to a gentle simmer.
    2. Once the water is simmering away, add a little bit of white-vinegar.  Don’t let the water boil.
    3. Crack an egg into a small bowl or ramekin.
    4. Stir the water in circles to create a vortex. As it swirls, gently pour the egg from the bowl/ramekin into the water.  You need to be gentle to prevent it falling apart.
    5. 4 minutes later and the egg is done.  Take it out of the pan with a slotted spoon and set it into your serving dish.
  4. With the eggs arranged in the dish, spoon the sauce over each egg and enjoy!

[1] Food in the Ancient World, Joan P. Alcock [Greenwood Press:Westport CT] 2006 (p. 75)

[2] Siren Feasts: A History of Food and Gastronomy in Greece, Andrew Dalby [Routledge::London] 1997 (p. 65)

[3] Early French Cookery: Sources, History, Original Recipes and Modern Adaptations, D. Eleanor Scully and Terence Scully [University of Michigan Press:Ann Arbor] 1995 (p. 230)

[4] Ibid.

[5] History – Incredible Egg. (n.d.). Retrieved September 7, 2015.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Pass the Garum. (n.d.). Retrieved September 7, 2015.

One response to “Bon Appetit Wednesday! The Incredible Edible Egg (in Pine Nut Sauce à la Ancient Rome)

  1. Pingback: Bon Appetit Wednesday! Ancient Roman Eggs for Easter | AntiquityNOW

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