Scamorza is a cheese that is produced with cow’s milk and semi-hard “pasta filata“: it is in the form of a flattened sphere, weighs an average of 500 grams and is recognized as a traditional food product of the regions of Campania, Abruzzo, Molise and Puglia.
The scamorza is produced with fresh milk which is heated and then calf rennet is added: the two ingredients are coagulated and the paste is then treated with very hot water, necessary to create the right tough consistency, an essential characteristic of scamorza.
At this point the scamorza is immersed in a solution of water and salt for a few hours and then left to mature for a few days. The scamorza is generally served as an appetizer or side course in italian cusine, melted in a pan and accompanied with ham, but it can also be used to flavor main courses.
History of Scamorza
Scamorza is a cheese originating from Southern Italy, but is currently produced in other different regions such as Abruzzo or Molise. It seems that the term scamorza derives from the verb “scamozzare” which in Italian literally means to eliminate a part.
The word refers to the precise gesture made by the cheesemaker who breaks the upper part of the dough and creates the unmistakable bottleneck shape of this curious cheese.
Scamorza is the most ancient dairy product of Campania Region history, so documented that it has been represented in Neapolitan cribs since 1600.
According to tradition, the scamorza cheese was born by mistake during the processing of provolone or caciocavallo, which inadvertently went sour.
Until a few decades ago, when cheese production was a purely homemade activity, smoking took place in the chimneys of the house. Each family, in fact, raised its own cow, feeding it with wild herbs, milked it and, therefore, personally proceeded to the cheese-making and smoking of the different cheeses.
Today, a stone room has replaced the classic fireplace in the house… But nothing else has changed compared to the past and it is enough to enter the smoking room to realize it.
As soon as you light the brazier, immediately the whole room is saturated with the smoke produced by the fire. A fantastic scent is spread everywhere and is transmitted unchanged to the scamorza (changing at the same time color & flavor, even adding more flavour to taste!).
It is only in this way that Scamorza Affumicata is made… according to the traditional recipe and strictly cold smoking.
How Scamorza is made and The Art of Traditional Smoking
The technological-productive scheme of this dairy product basically follows the same of fresh scamorza cheese except for the smoking phase.
Raw milk is poured into the boiler and heated to a temperature of about 33-35 °C with the addition of liquid calf rennet: coagulation takes about 30-40 minutes. The curd is broken into cheesy granules the size of a grain of maize, which settle at the bottom of the boiler.
Once a part of the whey has been removed, the curd is matured under whey for 6-7 hours at a temperature of 38-40 °C, then extracted to begin the spinning phase.
After cutting the curd into strips, it is placed in boiling water (85-90 °C) to enhance the plasticity of the casein and ensure good stretching. The portioning and moulding of the cheese is followed by consolidation of the curd in cold water.
The cheeses are salted in brine (20-22% NaCl) for a period ranging from 30 minutes to 2-3 hours.
The Scamorze produced are then tied in pairs with Raffia string and subjected to the final smoking process using straw smoke at 40-50 °C for 10-15 minutes.
Spheroidal in shape with a slight central bottleneck, Scamorze have a thin crust, formed by a soft, smooth, brown/hazelnut skin layer (characteristic of the smoking process).
The paste is white, but has a more aromatic aroma and a more intense flavour than the classic variant (due to the treatment they undergo).
Caciocavallo vs. Scamorza
Provola and Scamorza are terms that are often confused and used a bit as synonyms, even if they are not exactly the same thing! They are two stretched-curd cheeses that look very similar, but still have some differences.
“Provola” would derive from the word “proof”, which indicated the amount of pasta extracted during the processing of the cheese to control the degree of spinning. Provola is a stretched-curd cheese that is made mainly from cow’s milk, although there are provola made from goat’s or buffalo’s milk.
Scamorza, whose name derives from “scamozzare”, that is, severed head, is a semi-hard cheese typical of Campania. The processing of the scamorza, involves cooling the cheese wheels in water, then the brine for half an hour and then finally, the seasoning.
The shape of the Scamorza, is usually that of a flattened ball, with a “head” at the top, narrowed at the center by a cord. The provola, instead, has a different shape, resembling a big pear, with a weight that can reach even the kilo and a colour tending to white.
They both have a very delicate taste, stronger and stronger if subjected to the smoking process before maturation.
Most Popular kind of provola: the Caciocavallo
Among the most famous types of provola is absolutely the Caciocavallo to be in pole position. Caciocavallo is a stretched-cheese matured cheese typical of Southern Italy, produced with cow’s milk with the addition of only rennet, milk enzymes and salt.
It is kept hanging from a beam (hence the name) and is shaped, with a shape reminiscent of the number 8, with two rounded bodies joined by a bottleneck at the point of support on the beam. With a good, delicate and particular taste, it is one of the traditional Italian food products.
Provola, Scamorza and Caciocavallo regardless of their differences are some of the most famous Italian cheeses in Italy and abroad! Used for the creation of numerous appetizers, as well as for the creation of first courses or side dishes, they give the whole course an extra touch of flavour!
Pasta With Scamorza and Radicchio
Pasta with radicchio and scamorza cheese is one of those dishes that will win you over at the first fork. The preferences on the table tend to be expressed through two categories: lovers of intense and decisive flavours and supporters of delicate and light-tasting dishes.
A combination that will delight palates in search of bold tastes is certainly the one between giggles and cheeses. The bitter and dry notes of this vegetable in fact go well with the sweetness and creaminess of certain cheeses, including scamorza and provola which are certainly the best choice.
If you want to make a first course that contains all the nuances of taste and flavor, from the most bitter to the sweetest and most delicate, try this pasta with radicchio and scamorza.
Preparing it will be very simple: first choose a short, ribbed pasta format (like shells, paccheri or penne rigate) that absorbs the goodness of the sauce, soften the radicchio while cooking with a little broth and add the scamorza only to the last one so that it melts slightly, but not too much, with the heat of the pasta.
2 Garlic Cloves
1 Shallots or half white onion
2 Whole Radicchio Heads
500 ml vegetable stock
600 gr Pasta (Shells, Paccheri, Penne Rigate)
250 gr Scamorza or Scamorza Affumicata
Parmesan Cheese as much as you like
- In a frying pan prepare a sauté with finely chopped shallots and a drizzle of oil. After a few minutes add the radicchio cleaned and cut into strips, wet with the stock and leave to cook over medium heat until the liquid shrinks.
- Boil the pasta in salted water, drain and, leaving aside a ladle of cooking water, pour the pasta into the pot with the radicchio.
- Add the scamorza cheese cut into small pieces, add the Parmesan cheese.
- Bake for 4/5 minutes at 180 C.
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