The Caciocavallo is a Sicilian cow cheese produced in the whole of south Italy and in particular in Sicily, in different part of the island.
It is considered one of the most ancient cheese ever made in the Mediterrenean area, as Hippocrate back in 500 B.C., was the first one to write about the art of preparing this cheese by the Greeks.
In Sicilian dialect its name is “cascavaddu” or “cosacavaddu”, while in Italian language is a combination of cheese (cacio) and horse (cavallo) because apparently the “provole” were tied over wooden beams and left them there to mature. Nowadays it is preferred to think that the word comes from the Turkish language “qasqawal”, which is a similar type of cheese produced in that area (Turkey and Greece).
Something different happens for the unique quality of the caciocavallo ragusano, a DOP (Protected designation of origin), which instead, is produced in the whole of the Ragusashire, deep south of Sicily, in the province of Ragusa but also some town and villages in the province of Siracusa, and has a long and parallelepipedon shape (pic above).
It is a semi-hard streamed stretched cheese, but it can become hard if matured for long. Normally aging time can go from a minimum of one month to a year or over.
According to the recipe you are cooking, you can use either the fresh, the semi or the very matured caciocavallo. For the last one we also use it grated in mixture of veggies, omelettes or on top of particular pasta dishes, instead of Parmisan, when a stronger taste is needed.
The number of Sicilian recipes we use caciocavallo in, is just countless: from any ‘pasta a minestra‘ dish to veggie pies, focaccias, pizzas, or the typical “scacce” from Ragusa, but also in main dishes like the falsomagro roll, and of course, let’s not forget its own triumphant and powerful one: “the cacio all’Argentiera“.