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 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.
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.