Caciocavallo of the Migrant - Gastro Obscura

Meats & Animal Products

Caciocavallo of the Migrant

To circumvent a meat ban, Italian immigrants hid their soppressata in balls of cheese.

Picture this: It’s the early 20th century, and you are leaving your hometown in Southern Italy to board a ship that will take you thousands of miles across the Atlantic to build a new life in the United States. You really want to take comfort foods with you, such as your beloved cheese and cured pork, but it’s illegal to transport meats into the country. You can, however, bring cheese. What do you do? A resourceful group of migrants from Vallo di Diano, a town in Salerno, managed to solve the riddle: You hide the pork inside the cheese.

That is how caciocavallo dell’emigrante, literally the “caciocavallo of the migrant,” came to be. It’s a sort of Russian doll–like ball of cow or sheep cheese (caciocavallo) with spicy pork (soppressata) at its center. The name of the cheese, which references a cavallo, or horse, derives from the traditional cheese-making technique of hanging it in pairs, linked by a rein-like rope.

Today, there are only a handful of cheese-makers that still create this cheese-salami ball, following a recipe that has been handed down, mostly orally, across generations.

Where to Try It