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Artusi’s Solemn Sacred Less Than Penitential Menu for Good Friday

Good Friday (venerdi santo) is a solemn, sacred day in Italy and when it comes to food the menu for a "pranzo di quaresima‘", (a luncheon meal for this final Lenten observance) has a long and important tradition. In 1891 Pellegrino Artusi, an Italian merchant with an interest in the art of cooking, wrote La Scienza in Cucina e l'arte di mangiar bene (Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well). The book was a collection of recipes and insights on the culinary and cultural traditions of regional Italian food from various sources and friends and relatives. The intention of the book was to codify and classify the traditions of Italy’s domestic cuisine gathering together hundreds of regional Italian recipes.

With over 700 printings, together with Pinocchio, it was one of Italy’s most read books. Today the recipes are somewhat out dated but at one time a copy of Artusi's book was present in almost every Italian home. His style of writing included personal insights and advice with short stories about the recipes and ingredients. Artusi's description of regional recipes and the culinary traditions of Italian cooking struck a cord with Italian housewives and led to the overwhelming success of his books.

Artusi recognized the long and important history of generational foods eaten on holidays and seasonal celebrations especially those at Easter time and those eaten just before Easter, on the last few days of Lent when only “lean” foods were to be eaten, ones that Italians call magro. However his menu for “il pranzo di quaresima” doesn’t seem to be so lean or penitential as the ingredients are quite rich and lavish in this day and age.

Artusi's Pranzo di quaresima

The meal begins with a Minestra Zuppa alla Certosina, (Carthusian Soup) a fish and tomato soup that originated in a Tuscan monastery, the beautiful Certosa del Galluzzo which sits on top of a hill just outside Florence on way to Siena. This is followed by a course Artusi refers to as the Principii, – Baccalà montebianco con crostini di caviale , pounded codfish with cream, a garnish of raw truffles and croutons or crostini of caviar. Followed by the Lesso - boiled/poached Pesce con salsa genovese, fish with a Ligurian pesto sauce.

Gnocchi all Romana

Then an interposed Tramesso of Gnocchi alla romana, discs made from semolina flour topped with butter and melted cheese. Next an Umido (stew) of Pesce a taglio followed by an Arrosto grilled Anguilla (Comacchio eel).

Anguilla alla Griglia

For dessert, a Dolci of Pasticcini di marzapane e gelato di pistacchi, marzipan filled pastry tarts and pistachio ice cream. The meal is meatless and makes grand use of ingredients to end the Lenten fast and prepare for the Easter table.

Pasticcini di marzapane e gelato di pistacchi

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