Caciocavallo

Caciocavallo (kah-ch’yoh-kah-VAH-loh). With a name like this it has to be good (to borrow a slogan). Caciocavallo, also known as “Horse Cheese,” is an interesting cheese. One theory behind how this cheese got its name is that it was designed to be carried on horseback, since it is usually sold in pairs, which could be slung over the horse’s neck and carried to market. (“A cavallo” means “on horseback.”)

Caciocavallo is an important cheese in southern Italy, and southern Italian cooking. Generally it is made from cow’s milk, but some smaller cheese makers in Italy make a version of caciocavallo from sheep’s milk. Also, I have seen a smoked Caciocavallo in stores in Sicily. A close cousin in texture and flavor is scamorza (skah-Mor-t’zah).

After maturing for between three months and up to three years, this pear-shaped pasta-filata (cheese made by stretching the curds into strands before molding them…mozzarella is also a pasta-filata cheese) develops an interesting and intensive aroma. When eaten young it has a sweet and creamy taste. The flavor becomes more piquant the longer the cheese matures. And the more mature caciocavallos can be used as a tasty grating cheese.

Caciocavallo is a good alternative to provolone, and can be used in just about any recipe that calls for provolone. For example, caciocavallo can be blended with mozzarella to make a delicious cheese pizza. Or it can be used quite effectively in an antipasto salad or as a grating cheese for pasta.

San Giovanni’s Pizza

This pizza is very Sicilian in style and presentation. However, as it goes with regional Italian cooking, it also happens to fall smack into the category of a sfincione (thick-crusted pizza of Palermo, Sicily). It can be listed on your menu under “Specialty Italian Pizza,” which will give your customers something new and different to try.

Makes 1 14-inch pizza

1 14-inch pizza shell

3 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup finely chopped yellow or Spanish onion

1 cup peeled, seeded, and chopped ripe Roma tomatoes, or

canned plum tomatoes, squeezed dry and chopped

3/4 cup dry breadcrumbs

3/4 cup diced caciocavallo

olive oil

Sheet the dough and put it on a screen or pan. Brush the dough lightly with olive oil. Pinch the edges of the dough to form a raised edge. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion. Sauté the onion until it becomes translucent. Add the tomatoes. Cook for about 7 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. Can be prepped up to this point and held.

Spread half of the breadcrumbs over the pizza crust. Spread half of the tomato sauce over the breadcrumbs. Sprinkle on the remaining breadcrumbs. Sprinkle the cheese evenly over the pizza. Drizzle some olive oil over the cheese. Bake.

Note: In classic preparation of this pizza, anchovies are mashed in with the tomatoes. It does add immensely to the flavor of this pizza, but not everyone loves anchovies.