Scamorza (pronounced [skaˈmɔrtsa]) is a South Italian semi-soft, stretched-curd cheese made from pasteurized cow’s milk, though variations with buffalo’s milk or sheep’s milk also exist.
Scamorza cheese is traditionally prepared in Italy’s Apulia, Campania, and Molise regions using the spun paste method (pasta filata), which is also used for caciocavallo, mozzarella, provolone, and other cheeses.
A close relative to mozzarella, scamorza cheese is made from the same cow’s milk base, columnist and restaurant critic Craig LaBan writes for The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Its curds, however, are broken up into smaller pieces that make the cheese drier. With that being said, it comes as no surprise that Italians’ second name for this cheese is mozzarella passita for withered mozzarella.
The milk is curded, the cuts are cut into pieces, and the pieces get strained from the whey. Then, the whey gets heated, and the fresh curd is left to mature in it for a few hours—allowing acidity to develop through the bacterial fermentation of lactose into lactic acid.
When the curds float to the top of the hot whey, they’re kneaded until they turn soft and chewy. Then, they’re cut and shaped into round, pea-like balls that get tied with natural fibers to a string about 2/3 toward the way to the top and hung in the air to dry (via Culture Cheese Mag).
Scamorza cheese is aged for two weeks and is then sold as it is (and labeled scamorza) or smoked over flaming straw (and labeled scamorza affumicata).
Scamorza has a white color, milky aroma, and a creamy, subtly sweet flavor. Smoked scamorza, on the other hand, is brown on the outside and brown-yellow on the inside. It has a nutty, almost woody smell and a sophisticated smokey taste.
Its name, descriptive of the preparation method, comes from the Italian verb scamozzare, which means to behead.
To enjoy this cheese, eat it fresh or melted.
Scamorza can be eaten on its own, sliced thinly on an antipasto platter, grated onto Melanzane Parmigiana or Pasta Pomodoro, or used as a gooey and melty filling for filled pasta shapes or Calzone pizza.
To slice scamorza cheese, use a soft cheese knife (that kind with holes on the blade), a cheese cleaver (also known as a cheddar cleaver), or a well-sharpened chef’s knife. When slicing scamorza, keep the rind on; it’s edible and packs a richness of aroma and flavor.
Pair scamorza cheese with dry white wines such as Falanghina, sparkling Spumante, or full-bodied reds such as Aglianico, Nero d’Avola, and Pino Nero, and Primitivo.
Tightly wrapped in parchment paper or plastic wrap and kept refrigerated, scamorza cheese will last for 3 to 4 months. The cover of the cheese is edible and does not need to be discarded when sliced.
Don’t leave scamorza cheese out for a long time. The dairy fat will start to melt, causing the cheese to sweat. Eventually, the fat will oxidize and turn rancid, spoiling the taste of an otherwise perfectly good ball of cheese.
However, if you do make that mistake and the cheese hasn’t turned sour yet, wipe the sweat on it with a paper towel, double-wrap it tightly in paper or plastic, and put it back in the fridge as quickly as possible.
In case you keep smelly foods in your fridge (for example, diced onions, smoked fish, or others) and you’re worried that your cheese could catch an odor from them, consider getting a cheese keeper.
Scamorza cheese can be frozen for prolonged storage of up to 12 months. Though you could freeze it whole, you could also cut it into smaller chunks or grate it and put it in a freezer bag for easy thawing.
Thaw frozen scamorza cheese by transferring it to the fridge for 12-24 hours the night before you plan to eat it (or until the cheese is fully defrosted). Use within 6 days of defrosting.
Scamorza bianca, or “white scamorza,” is unsmoked scamorza cheese. It has a white color, soft and elastic texture, and a plain creamy flavor that very much resembles mozzarella.
Scamorza affumicata, or “smoked scamorza,” is smoked scamorza cheese that’s been hung on a string and aged for two weeks. It has a straw-yellow color, dry and chewy texture, and a complex flavor that stands in-between mozzarella and mature cheddar cheese.
Scamorza cheese isn’t always sold smoked. After two weeks of ripening, the cheese is sold as it is (scamorza bianca) or smoked (scamorza affumicata) for 15 minutes over flaming straw.
Scamorza cheese doesn’t necessarily need to be cooked, so it’s perfectly good to be eaten raw, by itself as an appetizer or as part of a meat and cheese platter. However, it melts lusciously onto baked goods, which is why many Italians also choose to bake with it.
Dry, smoky, and a great melter, scamorza is a great cheese for topping your pizza with. You can mix it with other cheeses, such as mozzarella, parmesan, and pecorino, or grate it coarsely on its own.
Mozzarella and scamorza are both made from cow’s milk, using the same cheese-making technique called pasta filata (spun paste). Mozzarella cheese is intended to be eaten fresh, and not aged or fermented, so it’s creamy and wet. Scamorza cheese, in contrast, is aged for two weeks and often smoked, which is why it’s drier and has a more mature flavor to it.
Scamorza and provolone cheese are aged cow’s milk cheeses made using the pasta filata (spun paste) method. Scamorza, aged for roughly two weeks, is drier and chewier, whereas provolone, usually matured for two months, is softer and more buttery.
Substitute scamorza cheese for dried mozzarella or provolone. To add a bit of smokiness, mix 3 parts mozzarella cheese with 1 part mature cheddar, or go for a smoked provolone variety such as Provolone Dolce and Provolone Piccante.