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Ancient Roman Chicken a la Fronto

Updated on March 15, 2015

I love cooking Ancient Roman Food

I often dream of living in Ancient Rome. As a wealthy matron of course, not as an ordinary citizen or an over-worked slave, but living in luxury as one of the elite.

In the absence of a time machine, I instead stage dinner parties with food based on Ancient Roman recipes and encourage my friends to wear fancy dress as they dine on my cheesecake, fig-stuffed pork and my savoury chicken. All cooked first century style.

This is my version of Pullum Frontonianum which translates to Chicken a la Fronto, so named for a Roman author of a lost treatise on agriculture. He won't mind at all that I've put my own take on it.

The Pioneer Mediterranean Diet

There's nothing difficult about cooking Ancient Roman food, the hard part is deciphering a recipe which lists ingredients without measurements and makes no mention of cooking times. The part I enjoy is understanding what the ingredients actually are,and most of the time finding a substitute for them.

The ancient Romans cooked very much like Italian cooks do today or to be more precise, like Sicilian.cooks. If you can imagine a contemporary Italian meal without tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, corn polenta or pasta. Sound bleak? It wasn't.

Try this chicken a la fronto

The original recipe

From Apicius Pullum Frontonianum : Pullum praedura, condies liquamen, oleo mixto, cui mittis fasciculum aneti, porri, satureiae et coriandri viridis et coques, Ubii coctius fuerit, levabis eum, in lance defrito perungues, piper aspargis..

Brown chicken, season with garum and oil, add dill, leeks, savory, fresh coriander and cook. Remove when cooked, coat with defrutum on a serving plate, sprinkle pepper.

Garum and Defrutum

For Garum I used Ilaria Gozzini Giacosa 's suggestion of reducing a litre of grape juice to one tenth, stirring in 2 tablespoons of anchovy paste and a pinch of dried oregano. This, and other recipes, are in her book A Taste of Ancient Rome.

You could use fish sauce straight from the bottle, or diluted.

For Defrutum, I reduced 2 cups of red wine (a cheap cabernet shiraz ) to one third.

The nitty gritty

Chicken pieces as the Ancient Romans served them

Chopped to finger-food size and treated with herby, lightly salted seasoning and rich wine flavour.

Baked in the oven for less than an hour.

Prep time: 15 min
Cook time: 45 min
Ready in: 1 hour
Yields: 2 - 4


  • I kilo chicken pieces
  • 4 small tender leeks
  • 1 small bunch each of fresh dill - savory - and coriander
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. garum
  • 2 Tbs. defrutum
  • pepper to taste


  1. Bundle together and tie up the leeks and the herbs securely into a bouquet
  2. Brown the chicken pieces on their own - with no oil or seasoning. Transfer to a baking dish
  3. Add the leek and herb bouquet to the dish. Mix the garum with the olive oil and pour over.
  4. Bake in a low oven for 45 minutes or until pieces are cooked.
  5. Remove from oven, place on a serving dish and pour the defrutum over.
  6. Add pepper to taste.
Cast your vote for Chicken a la Fronto recipe

Fronto ready to eat

How about you?

Have you ever tried to cook an ancient recipe?

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All comments are greatly appreciated. You don't have to be an ancient chicken to leave yours

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    • profile image

      RomeFan 3 years ago

      I love Rome and I also love cooking Roman and Italian foods. And this Ancient Roman Chicken a la Fronto recipe could be a great addition to my cook book. Thanks for the share!

    • mariacarbonara profile image

      mariacarbonara 4 years ago

      Interesting dish. Nice to discover how they actually at in those times.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      thank you for this - very interesting

    • nyclittleitaly profile image

      nyclittleitaly 6 years ago

      I bet the food is good. I would love to try it.

    • profile image

      blanckj 6 years ago

      Very interesting. I've never thought about ancient recipes before. Why not?

    • Jessica-Burde profile image

      Jess Mahler 6 years ago from Lehighton, PA

      I'd like another option on the poll - "No, it never occurred to me." Sounds interesting, I'll have to give this recipe a whirl, and maybe see what other ancient recipes I can dig up.

    • profile image

      GiftsBonanza 6 years ago

      I imagine your dinner parties would be quite a treat - sounds delicious!

    • kimbesa2 profile image

      kimbesa 6 years ago from USA

      Looking forward to trying an ancient recipe! Thanks!

    • jmsp206 profile image

      Julia M S Pearce 6 years ago from Melbourne, Australia

      I think I might try this one!Sounds relish and to think

    • Grandma-Marilyn profile image

      Grandma-Marilyn 6 years ago

      Oh, definitely one of the elite and be able to eat this fantastic dish. You wouldn't be able to eat it if you were at any other level.

    • Spook LM profile image

      Spook LM 6 years ago

      Ah, to be a Roman senator and have this dished up?

    • Kylyssa profile image

      Kylyssa Shay 6 years ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

      I love your ancient Roman recipes!

    • profile image

      miaponzo 6 years ago

      Thanks for this delicious sounding recipe! I all for chicken recipes of all kinds!