Rudolph Valentino Recipes
August 25th, 2013
Rudolph Valentino loved to cook. Most native Italians do. Between the 1920s and early 1940s fan magazines would publish recipes that went along the lines of STARS recipe for DISH. Main to dessert it did not matter. Many of these recipes still exist and there is even a lovely website dedicated to them.
While fascinating and a nice glimpse into the food of the time, it is very unlikely the stars had much to do with these recipes. One from the 1930s had Gloria Swanson making a sugary dessert, never mind that she was completely macrobiotic by that point. I am not sure who did them, but my guess would be it was either magazine staff writers or studio publicity men.
Rudy was given as the source for two recipes that I know of: “Rudolph Valentino’s Secret Spaghetti Sauce” and “Rudolph Valentino’s Chicken Parma.”
Italians are touchy about their food….put Parmesan on pasta and you will never hear the end of it. I consulted with a good Italian born and residing friend named Lorenzo, as to whether this recipe was even close to something Rudy would have used…or not. If you ever want to anger an Italian, show them an Americanized Italian recipe.
Lorenzo contended that Italians barely ever wrote recipes down, and barely do so now. Rudy likely grew up making his own sauces from memory and scratch. Ullman’s bookkeeping reveals Rudy maintaining a steady bill at “The Italian Grocer” on Hollywood Blvd near Whitley Heights well through 1926. So Rudy’s love of cooking never diminished. He cooked for friends, his son, his wife, people he hoped to work with (one rumor holds D.W. Griffith was one of his diners.) Rudy rant and rared over being called a pink powder puff, but I think if he had actually seen this recipe attributed to him there would have been an even stronger rebuttal. In addition to not usually making recipes, no real Italian calls it ‘spaghetti sauce’, they call it Pommarola.
This is the recipe billed in fan magazines and shoddily researched Valentino books as Rudy’s ‘Secret Spaghetti Sauce’:
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 large onion, diced
1-1/2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce
1 can (8 ounces) tomato paste
1 can (16 ounces) whole tomatoes, chopped and undrained
1 pound Italian sausage, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon fresh oregano
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary
1 can (2 ounces) anchovies, drained
1/2 cup red wine, plus more wine if needed
Lorenzo’s Reply in Italian:
La ricetta della salsa segreta di Rodolfo Valentino mi sembra il parto della fantasia di una persona che ben poco sa della cucina italiana. Gli italiani, proprio come me, preferiscono usare pochi aromi e davvero pochi ingredienti per I loro sughi per la pasta. La quantità di ingredienti di questa salsa mi fa ridere e mi chiedo quale mente malata possa averla inventata. Di sicuro non un italiano! Una cosa è certa, gli italiani non mettono mai assieme l’origano e il rosmarino e, in particolare il rosmarino, viene utilizzato solo per insaporire le carni e mai per I condimenti per la pasta. Mi chiedo anche cosa sia la “salsiccia italiana” siccome in Italia ci sono almeno 100 diversi tipi di salsicce. Un altro importante indizio che questa ricetta sia scaturita dalla fantasia di una persona che ben poco sa della cucina italiana sta nella folle combinazione che unisce salsicce e acciughe! Noi adoriamo le nostre acciughe ma mai con la salsiccia perchè la commistione dei loro sapori sarebbe davvero terribile.
Se è vero che Valentino amava quel tipo di salsa è facile capire perché è morto così giovane.
Lorenzo’s reply in English:
The recipe for Rudolph Valentino’s Secret Sauce appears to me to be a “fantasy” of someone who knows nothing about the Italian cuisine. Italians, such as myself, use very simple flavors with very few ingredients for their pasta sauce. The number of ingredients in this sauce made me laugh and wonder who could have invented this recipe. Surely not an Italian. One thing is for sure, Italians never mix oregano and rosemary; and rosemary is only used with meats and never in a sauce. Furthermore, I am not sure what “Italian sausage” is as we have some one hundred different types of sausages. Another clue that this is a fantasy recipe of someone who is not Italian, is the crazy combination of sausages and anchovies. We love our anchovies but never with sausage because those flavors would be terrible together.
If it’s true that Valentino loved that kind of sauce is easy to understand why he died so young.
Unfortunately I have yet to come across Rudy’s “Chicken Parma” recipe, though I think it would be highly amusing to see Lorenzo’s thoughts on it.
However I am not here to debunk badly written fan magazine bits attributed to Rudy (that’s what the rest of the site is for).
We are drinkers and Rudy was too…perhaps a little too much. He and George were both fans of Canadian Scotch, as Prohibition was in effect after 1919 till the early 30s in the US. One cocktail, “Blood and Sand” was named for Rudy’s film.
Blood and Sand Cocktail
A popular cocktail named for Rudy’s 1922 film “Blood and Sand”.
3/4 oz Scotch whiskey
3/4 oz cherry brandy
3/4 oz sweet vermouth
3/4 oz orange juice
orange slice for garnish
Pour the ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice.
Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Garnish with an orange slice
To top out the summer I present a new Rudy cocktail!
1/3 lemon juice
Mix with grenadine til red Mix with soda water or ginger-ale to taste (skip lemon juice and do a Sierra Mist is another variation)