Scamorza

Scamorza is the Rodney Dangerfield of cheeses –– it gets no respect. But it should –– this is a cheese that restaurant owners should take a hard look at. Just the idea of offering, say, a specialty pizza using scamorza will get the attention of any customer simply because the name is not one that they are accustomed to seeing every day.

Scamorza is a cow’s milk cheese, and it is quite similar to mozzarella in many respects. Like mozzarella, scamorza is a pasta filata cheese. Beyond that, though, the texture of scamorza is chewier and has quite a bit less moisture than mozzarella. Also, the flavor of scamorza is more piquant than mozzarella, and that definitely adds interest. In addition to giving it a try on pizza, it is an excellent cheese for an antipasto tray or appetizer (using cold cuts, olives, peppers, etc.). And a panini made with scamorza and prosciutto is quite a treat.

In Southern Italian dialect the word scamorza means “dunce.” Probably this relates to its shape (somewhat like a pear), with its prominent and distinct pointed “head” which is formed by the cord that is used to hang the cheese while it is being processed.

All Scamorza sold in the U. S. is imported from (mostly) the Lombardia region of Italy, where I have seen it in cheese shops (especially around Easter and Christmas) in a variety of bird and animal shapes (pigs being one of the most popular shapes).

Barbecue Chicken & Scamorza Pizza

This may sound like an unholy alliance, combining a classic and rare Italian cheese with good ol’ American barbecue sauce, but it works just great. Smoked mozzarella is the cheese typically favored for a barbecue chicken pizza. Be adventerous, however, and try scamorza — the piquant flavor may yield just the flavor profile your customers seek.

Yields: two 12-inch pizzas (recipe can be scaled up in direct proportion)

2 12-inch pizza shells

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 whole skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into small cubes

1 cup bottled barbecue sauce of your choice (I prefer K.C. Masterpiece)

1 cup chopped red onion

11/2 cups shredded scamorza

In a skillet set over medium-high heat, warm the vegetable oil for 1 minute. Add the chicken. Stir and cook until the chicken is cooked through, about 4 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pan with a slotted spoon and reserve. (Can be prepped ahead and held in the cooler).

In a large bowl, toss the cooked chicken with the barbecue sauce to coat. Divide the chicken equally between the two pizza shells. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of red onion evenly over each pizza. Sprinkle an equal amount of the cheese on each pizza. Bake. 

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