Culina Quarantina: A Series of Roman Recipes – Egyptian Sweetmeat and More

Culina Quarantina: A Series of Roman Recipes

By Alicia Lopez

Recently, I’ve been doing a lot of cooking and baking to help pass the time in quarantine, so I decided to look into what cooking would have been like in Ancient Rome. Here are some of my favorite ancient recipes to help get you through quarantine. Bonam fortunam! You can find previous recipes here.


Egyptian Sweetmeat

This recipe is based off of Alexandrian Itria (and actually isn’t very Roman)


  • 6 or 7 Dried Dates
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon Powder
  • 1 tsp Cardamom Seeds
  • 3 Handfuls Oats (the traditional recipe calls for walnuts)
  • 2 tbsp Honey


  • Remove the stones from the dates, chop them into small pieces, and mash them up with a mortar and pestle with some water.  You’re looking to create a date paste of sorts.  If you have date syrup you can use this instead or combine the two.
  • Break open the cardamom seeds to get at the little seeds inside – grind these with a mortar and pestle to make a powder.
  • Add the cinnamon and cardamom to the date liquid and mix it all together.
  • Smash up the oats so they’re not too big and add to the mixture.  Stir this all together to create a very festive smelling walnut/date dough of sorts.
  • With wet hands, take a bit of this dough at a time and roll it into little spheres.  Mine ended up being ping-pong ball sized, but you can make them smaller or bigger.
  • Heat up some honey in a little dish, spoon some cinnamon powder, powdered almonds, and ground pepper onto a plate
  • Dip each sweetmeat into the honey and roll it in the dusting of your choice.  Let them set for a little bit, then enjoy!



Dulcia Domestica – homemade sweets

From Apicius’ De Re Coquinaria 7.13.1 #294

Dulcia domestica: palmulas vel dactilos excepto semine, nuce vel nucleis vel piper tritum infercies. sales foris contingis, frigis in melle cocto, et inferes.

“To make little homemade sweets, remove the seeds from dates and stuff them with nuts and ground pepper.  Sprinkle salt on the outside, candy them in honey, and serve.”


  • Dried Dates and Figs
  • Black Peppercorns
  • Set Honey
  • Salt
  • Pine Nuts (we will not be using them)


  • Remove the stones from the dates, and cut a pocket in the figs.
  • Crush some peppercorns in a mortar and pestle.
  • Stuff the dates and figs with this peppery mixture.
  • Sprinkle the tiniest bit of salt over the stuffed fruit, rubbing it in a little bit to ensure that it sticks.
  • Cover a plate/baking tray with some non-stick greaseproof paper.
  • Put a few spoonfuls of honey into a saucepan (I used 2 tbsp) and bring to a simmer.  The honey will start foaming up after a little while.  When it does this, take the pan off the heat.
  • Stick a cocktail stick/skewer through the first bit of fruit and dip it into the practically molten honey.  It helps to tilt the pan so that it all gathers on one side.  Roll the fruit around a bit to make sure it is covered, before setting it onto the greaseproof paper.  Use a fork to prize the fruit off the cocktail stick/skewer, and repeat.
  • When all are done, pour any leftover honey over all of the dulciaria and leave to ‘set’.



Alicia Lopez (College ’23) is a student at the University of Pennsylvania studying Classical Studies and English.