I had forgotten how much I particularly like Formaggio Fresco, pan fried with a sliver or two of garlic in a smidgen of extra virgin olive oil, sprinkled with a little dry oregano and de-glazed with a little red vinegar and a pinch of sugar (optional). This is how Sicilians like it.
Formaggio Fresco = Cheese Fresh….Fresh Cheese.
This Sicilian recipe is called Formaggio all’Argentiera.
Why All’ Argentiera?
An argentiere in Italian is a silversmith.
All’argentiera means “in the style of…as an argentiere would cook it”.
Why this name?
An argentiere can afford the price of meat, a poor person cannot, however, the poor can afford to buy and cook cheese and pretend that he is eating meat. The lovely smells dissipating from the windows of the poor will give passers-by the impression that just like a silversmith he can afford to eat meat. It is all to do with the making a bella figura syndrome.
The recipe is quick and easy, the difficulty could be finding what is called Formaggio Fresco. What is ‘fresh cheese?’
Some producers call Formaggio Fresco, Fresh Pecorino, but they are both young cheese (aged typically 15- 45 days depending on the manufacturer). It is a white, semi soft, smooth and milky cheese, good for slicing and for partially melting.
Pecorino is made from the milk of a pecora, (sheep), however, most Pecorino Fresco or Formaggio Fresco, especially in Australia is made from cows’ pasteurized milk, salt and culture (usually rennet).
Aged Pecorino, whether Romano (Roman), Sardo (Sardinian), Toscano, or Siciliano is the firm, salty and sharp cheese we are familiar with and used for grating – you can eat it too. In Italy they are DOP cheeses and made in the place of origin.
Stores that have Italian Produce are likely to have Formaggio Fresco but I have also seen some in a few good supermarkets.
In Melbourne I can buy Formaggio Fresco made by these manufacturers: That’s Amore cheese, they call it cacciotta and Pantalica make Bacio and Pecorino Fresco.
In Adelaide the manufacturers are: La Casa Del Formaggio and La Vera. I have seen La Vera sold in other Australian cities as well.
A little extra virgin olive oil to fry the cheese.
Also: 1 large clove of garlic (cut into slivers), pinches of dried oregano, 1-2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar and a pinch of sugar.
I prefer to use a non-stick fry pan.
Heat the oil; use medium heat.
Add the garlic, the slices of cheese and lower the heat. Sprinkle the cheese with some of the dry oregano.
Cook that side of cheese until golden in colour, turn the cheese over and repeat with the dry oregano….cook for as long again.
Add the vinegar and sugar ( I sometime do) and deglaze the pan.
SICILIAN CHEESE MAKING. A VISIT TO A MASSARO (farmer-cheese maker) IN RAGUSA. Formaggio all’argentiera