This cheese is a type of stretched-curd cheese made out of sheep’s or cow’s milk. It is made with cow’s milk in designated areas of Southern Italy, in the regions of Basilicata, Calabria, Campania, Molise and Puglia and gained protected geographical status, since 1993.
Many different types of caciocavallo exist in Italy and several are recognized as P.A.T. (“Prodotto agroalimentare tradizionale”, traditional regional food product), for example Caciocavallo podolico or Caciocavallo di Godrano, but only Caciocavallo Silano has the better Protected geographical status (PDO).
While it is generally produced throughout Southern Italy, over the wide area of Apennine Mountains and of the Gargano peninsula, only in Calabria it is shaped like a tear-drop, very similar in taste to the aged Southern Italian Provolone cheese, with a hard edible rind.
The origins of the Italian name of caciocavallo are literally in the expression “horse cheese”, but it is thought that the name derives from Latin “cascabellus” with the meaning of “sleigh bell” for its shape of a hanging ball.
Caciocavallo was first mentioned around 500 BC by Hippocrates.
Calabrian matured pecorino cheeses are referred to as stagionato (“seasoned” or “aged” ), which are harder but still crumbly in texture and have decidedly buttery and nutty flavours. There are anyway two other types of semi-stagionato and fresco, which have a softer texture and milder cream and milk tastes. Further, it is usual in Calabria, also Pecorino Pepato (literally, “peppered Pecorino”), to which red pepper corns are added. Today many other additions are made, for example walnuts or rocket or tiny pieces of white or black truffle.
But a typical example of sweet or seasoned Calabrian Pecorino is the cheese of Mount Poro, another is the Crotonese Pecorino cheese; in both cases, pure sheep cheese with a 4 month seasoning and a spicy flavour.
Generally, of the six main varieties of Pecorino, all of which have Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status under European Union law, Pecorino Calabrese (“Monte poro” and “Crotonese”) is probably the less known outside Italy.
It is common that important export markets mostly deal with Pecorino produced on the island of Sardinia, while are less known the other mature PDO cheeses, like:
- Pecorino Toscano,
- Pecorino Siciliano (or Picurinu Sicilianu in Sicilian) from Sicily,
- Pecorino di Filiano from Basilicata
- Pecorino Crotonese (from Crotone in Calabria).
Instead, in many Italian recipes you can find such cheese and a good Pecorino Stagionato. It is often the finish of a meal, served with pears and walnuts or drizzled with strong chestnut honey. Pecorino is also often used to finish pasta dishes.