Roman Recipes – Ofellae Ostian

A Roman Recipe

In this recipe Ofellae are highly seasoned meat pieces taken from salted belly pork. A modern day equivalent might be spare-ribs as the dish seems to be quite common and may even have been a kind of fast food. The pork is scored, marinaded and then cooked whole and finally chunks of meat are served with a sauce.

This recipe calls for the belly pork to be marinated for 3 days in a blend of spices including asafoetida and then roasted whole. This resin was known for its meat tenderising qualities and you’ll find that the long marinading process will render the meat very tender. It is particularly good as a party dish – but make sure there is some left over for the cook!

The joint can also be served whole, however, if your guests are more adventurous they can also eat with their fingers.


• 1 ½ kg piece of belly pork or diced pork
• 1 tspn peppercorns
• 1 tspn lovage seed
• • 2 tspn dill seed
2 tspn cumin seed
• generous pinch of asafoetida resin or powder
• 2 bay berries or a large fresh bay leaf
• 3 tbsp fish sauce

Sauce Ingredients

generous freshly ground pepper
½ level tspn ground lovage seed
2 tbsp fish sauce
50 ml a dessert wine
a little starch to thicken.


1. Put all the seeds and the asafoetida together in a small frying pan and dry roast them until they give off their aroma. Grind them to a fine powder and add the fish sauce (together with the bay leaf if bay berries are unavailable).

2. If you’re using whole belly, turn it on to its skin and trim any loose flaps of meat. Using a very sharp knife, cut through the meat down to the skin in strips 3 cm wide.

3. Turn the meat and cut the opposite way creating cubes that are still attached to the skin which should not be cut at all.

4. Rub the spice and fish sauce mixture all over the meat, rubbing it into all the crevices. Turn the meat over on to a tray, cover and put in a fridge for up to 3 days. 24 hours will suffice but longer will ensure the best results.

5. If you’ve used diced pork, add the marinade and mix it well to ensure the meat is well coated.

6. When required, put the whole joint meat side up in a roasting tin along with any remaining marinade, add a little olive oil and roast in a medium oven (375°F, 190°C, gas 5) until well done and the meat comes away from the skin relatively easily.

Serve the joint with a sharp knife so that your guests can cut off their own chunks or the diced meat into a bowl with a separate bowl of the sauce to use as a dip. Bring all the ingredients for the sauce to a gentle heat and thicken with the starch and serve as a dipping sauce with the meat.