Scamorza al coccio

Back when we were young, before children and demanding jobs changed the landscape of our lives, we used to go out more often.  Now, evenings are centered around finishing homework, carpooling to practice, and doing laundry, while trying to stay ahead of the emails that stream into our inboxes.  Back then, it was just us, and we’d look at each other at the end of the day and ask, “Vuoi uscire?”  Do you want to go out? 

More often than not, we’d go to Annalisa and Franco’s birreria, Baraonda, in Rome’s Cinecittà neighborhood.  Annalisa and Franco were friends, and Baraonda was a dog-friendly place, which meant that we could bring our Newfoundland, Abby, with us.  After all, Abby was family – her mother was Annalisa and Franco’s lovely dog Thelma.



In summer months, we’d grab an outdoor table.  Without asking, Anna would bring us a Peroni and a Moretti Rossa, and a basket of taralli.  Then, she’d ask us, “Ragazzi, cosa vi posso portare?”   Often, we’d order la scamorza al coccio.

Scamorza is a pulled, cow’s milk curd cheese that resembles mozzarella.  While mozzarella is eaten fresh, however, scamorza is hung to dry until it achieves a soft yet firm texture.  Because it slices and melts well, scamorza is highly versatile.  It is often found in recipes for baked and fried foods that have a cheese filling.


A traditional scamorza dish, and the one we commonly ordered at Birreria Baraonda, is scamorza al coccio.  In this recipe, the scamorza is melted in a terracotta pan (coccio) along with sausage, cured meat, anchovies, mushrooms or sometimes vegetables, and eaten hot so that the melted cheese wraps around your fork.  If you don’t have a terracotta pan (we don’t), you can use individual-sized ceramic dishes and melt the scamorza in a hot oven or in the microwave.

Scamorza al coccio

Scamorza al coccio is classic Italian pub-fare comfort food, and it is as delicious now in our hectic lives as it was when it was just the two of us and Abby.

Your favorite accompaniment, such as: Mushrooms, Sausage, Anchovies, Prosciutto, or Speck

Prepare your accompaniment:

  • Sauté mushrooms in olive oil, salt and a dash of red wine.  Or, you can use very thinly sliced raw mushrooms.
  • Brown ground sausage without seasoning it.  Or, slice a whole sausage lengthwise and sear it on the grill or in a fry pan.
  • Slice your prosciutto or speck into small, thin pieces.
  • Place several anchovies onto a plate.

Scamorza al coccioScamorza al coccioScamorza al coccio

Scamorza al coccio

Thinly slice the scamorza, and layer it into ceramic dishes.  Add the accompaniment, and place it into a hot oven or in the microwave until the cheese melts.  Eat it hot.

Scamorza al coccioScamorza al coccio

Baccalà con patate

Here’s a bit of trivia for you – Italy is second among nations in the consumption of baccalà.  What is baccalà, you might ask?

Photo from http-www-academiabarilla-itricettelaziobaccala-alla-romana-aspx.jpg

Photo from http-www-academiabarilla-itricettelaziobaccala-alla-romana-aspx.jpg

Baccalà is merluzzo, or cod, which has been salt-dried, and is later rehydrated, cooked and consumed.  Baccalà is a relative to stoccafisso, or stockfish.  Legend has it that Norwegian Vikings used to air-dry cod and take it with them for nourishment on their overseas travels.  At the same time or shortly thereafter, whale hunters from Spain’s Basque Country devised a similar plan to support their nutrition needs on whale hunting trips.  Due to the higher temperatures in the Southern Mediterranean, though, the Basque people salt-dried their cod instead of air-drying it, to save themselves from an otherwise very fishy-smelling voyage.


Once considered a food of the people, baccalà is now a delicacy across all of Italy, and is prepared in a multitude of ways, in venues ranging from the household Italian kitchens to high end restaurants.  Recipes abound, their names often reflecting an Italian region or city: baccalà alla vicentina, baccalà alla livornese, baccalà alla romana, baccalà alla napoletana, baccalà alla calabrese.  

Photo from

Photo from

Baccalà is also essential to la Cucina Romana.  Filetti di baccalà are reliably found on the menù of all Roman pizzerie.  These batter-fried pieces of baccalà are the Eternal City’s preferred pre-pizza appetizer.  Moreover, entire baccalà stores, called baccalerie, supply any type of baccalà or stoccafisso you desire.  Alimentari Micheangeli, located in the working class Roman neighborhood of Centocelle, is one such baccaleria.

When Stefano was a bambino, his grandmother had a little neighborhood alimentari, where she sold salt-dried baccalà, and also had a large basin of cold water with rehydrated baccalà ready for shoppers to buy and cook.  Baccalà con patate, a favorite of Stefano’s father, Andrea, was a frequent meal in their household during his childhood.

Remember, you need to start soaking the baccalà the night before!

Ingredients for 4-6 servings
One filetto di baccalà (salt cod fillet)
Half of a medium onion
8-12 medium potatoes
1 28-oz. can (in Europe, a 1 kg. can) of plum tomatoes
1/3 olive oil

At least 24 hours prior, place the salt cod fillet to soak in cold water.  Change the water every 3-4 hours as possible (don’t worry about changing the water overnight).


Chop the onion and cut the potatoes into small, uniform pieces.  Place the potatoes and onion into a large pan with 1/3 cup of olive oil.  Add the tomatoes, passing them through a food mill first.  If you don’t have a food mill, use crushed tomatoes, or run the whole tomatoes though a food processor or blender.

Baccalà con patate

Add a glass of water, cover, and cook over medium-low heat for 20-30 minutes until the potatoes are soft, adding water and lowering the heat as needed to prevent it from burning.  You do not need to salt the mixture – your fish will provide enough salt once you add it.

Baccalà con patate

Remove the fish from the water, rinse it and pat it dry.  Cut the fish into portion-sized pieces, and add it to the potato, onion and tomatoes.  Cook covered for approximately another 20 minutes, time for the baccalà to become tender and release its flavors.  After 10 minutes, taste for salt and add a bit if needed.

Baccalà con patateBaccalà con patate

Serve hot with crusty bread and a chilled glass of crisp, earthy white wine that can stand up to the saltiness of baccalà, such as Verdicchio or Frascati.

Baccalà con patate

Caffè Corretto, Gelato Affogato

These are the dog days of winter.  Here in the northernmost tier of North America, as as we slog through the snow and measure the temperature by windchill factor, the simple pleasures are what carry us forward as we patiently await spring’s arrival.

Caffè correttoBefore leaving the house in the morning, consider ‘correcting’ your coffee.  Spiking it, that is, with a shot of liquor that will warm you up and give you the kick you need to brace the cold outdoors.  Caffè corretto is an Italian coffee tradition.  Any time of day, but most commonly in the morning, Italian gentlemen will ask their barista to ‘correct’ their espresso with their liquor of preference  – Grappa, Cognac, Sambuca, or bitters such as Fernet or Cynar.

It is a tradition that may have originated in Naples, among the working class, who were looking to begin the workday with just a bit of extra forza.  Like all good ideas, the practice spread and is now common in all parts of the Italian peninsula.

Caffè correttoSo, the next time you are in Italy and wish to try an espresso with some fortitude, stop in a bar and ask for a caffè corretto alla grappa, or a caffè corretto al cognac.  Don’t sugar it, either.  That will throw off the ‘correction.’

Here in the States, unfortunately we cannot go into our local coffee shop and and ask for a a little brandy in our single shot espresso.  You could ask for one at the end of your meal in a good Italian restaurant, however.  In fact, that would be an excellent measure of authenticity – ask for a caffè corretto, and if they know exactly what you mean, then you’re at a true Italian restaurant.

Some correct their coffee by putting a shot of liquor in the espresso cup and then adding the caffè.  Others drink the two side by side.  Either way, it will add a warm boost to the start of your day.

Caffè corretto al CognacCaffè corretto alla grappa

Since we are on the topic,  we should mention another Italian merging of flavors involving both coffee and liquor.  Gelato affogato, which means ‘drowned’ gelato is a simple and brilliant ice-cream dessert.  A bit of bitter espresso poured over a scoop of ice cream – gelato affogato al caffè – adds complexity of flavor and sophistication to an otherwise plain dessert.

Gelato affogato al caffè

Or, for an adult twist, try gelato affogato al Borsci, also a bitter, or gelato affogato al whiskey.  In Italy, you would use gelato alla crema, a plain, cream-based gelato.  If you are not so lucky to be able to find that, a nice natural vanilla ice cream will substitute just fine.

Gelato affogato al whiskey

So, until the sun shines hot again, stay home and stay warm!