Italian Food

Caciocavallo Podolico Italy’s Most Expensive Cheese

Caciocavallo Podolico is one of Italy's rarest, most expensive, and hardest to pronounce cheeses. How Caciocavallo got its name, why it's so rare and how it's made.

Want to know something that made this cheese lover really happy the other day? If you count local varieties it’s said Italy has over 2,000 types of cheese! Another Formaggio Fun Fact? Among Italy’s cheesy bragging rights, is one of the world’s most expensive types of cheese! Caciocavallo Podolico. How expensive? Oh… about $50 a pound is all, and guess who has had it?! If you think this Italian-Alps-living, cheese-loving blogger has you’re right! Think that sentence was a mouthful? Just wait till you sink your teeth into the world of Caciocavallo cheese with me. Ready?

Caciocavallo Cheese

First, let’s start with what Caciocavallo cheese is, where it’s from, and how it got its name. Caciocavallo is a hard cheese made from raw cow’s milk originating from southern Italy. Stretched and shaped by hand Caciocavallo cheese looks like an elongated figure-eight bulb. Caciocavallo’s rather unusual teardrop shape makes it easy to spot and legend has it, also gives it its name. In Italian “Cacio” means cheese and “Cavallo” means horse. Caciocavallo is thusly named because once shaped the bulbs are then tied in pairs and hung over a beam or a tree branch to mature ‘a cavallo’ or straddling a stick or branch as if on horseback. A bit more poetic than horse cheese if you ask me! So what’s the difference between Caciocavallo and Caciocavallo Podolico cheese?

Caciocavallo Podolico

I first discovered Caciocavallo Podolico Cheese at Formaggeria La Massaia in Vieste, Italy. We had just been wandering by when the site of an entire wall covered in Caciocavallo Podolico Cheese bulbs stopped us in our tracks. Suddenly it became clear we had been caught gawking by the cheesemaker himself inside. Little did we know he was about to give us a tour of his cheese cave!

Caciocavallo Podolico cheese being sliced open La Massaia in Vieste Italy
Caciocavallo Podolico cheese being sliced open La Massaia in Vieste Italy

On hearing I was new to Caciocavallo the cheesemaker threw open a door hidden behind those hanging cheese bulbs and waved us forward. With each step down those darkened cellar stairs, the smell of aging cheese intensified. It was here, standing among hundreds of bulbs of Caciocavallo that I learned the secret to his cheese.

Caciocavallo Cheese Cave at La Massaia in Vieste Italy
Caciocavallo Cheese Cave at La Massaia in Vieste Italy

What sets Caciocavallo Podolico apart is milk from the Podolica Cow. Caciocavallo Podolico cheese comes from a rare breed of Podolica cattle that graze strictly in the wild over difficult terrain near the Apennine mountains. This means Podolica cattle have learned to thrive with little water and lots of wild herbs. This means smaller milk yields (between three to six liters a day) that are high in fat and rich in flavor.

What Caciocavallo Podolio Cheese Tastes Like

Sometimes called “the Parmigiano Reggiano of the South” Caciocavallo Podolico has a strong, intense flavor. Podolica cattle graze on wild fennel, licorice, and myrtle. These intensely aromatic flavors are transmitted into their milk and in turn into the cheese. The most valued Caciocavallo Podolico cheese is aged for many years, some up to twelve! As with all cheese, aging Caciocavallo Podolico cheese intensifies the flavor and creates a more firm texture.

How to Eat Caciocavallo Cheese

Despite the cost and unusual shape Caciocavallo Podolico can be eaten like any other slice and serve cheese. That said harder-aged Caciocavallo is also perfect for grating over red meat sauces or Tajarin pasta with mushrooms. The flavor is intense and a little goes a long way.

Personally, one of my favorite things about Caciocavallo is that it has staying power both in flavor and in freshness. A good quality for an expensive cheese to have! Kept in a cool, dry place Caciocavallo will last for several months. Once cut, simply store it in cheesecloth and keep it in the fridge. 

How to Pronounce Caciocavallo

Caciocavallo can be tricky for native English speakers to get right on their first go. However, it is a lyrical cheese name when pronounced correctly. Listen to the way Caciocavallo is pronounced by the Italians making it in the following video.

Video of Caciocavallo Being Made in Italy and Pronounced correctly!

As with all Italian words, the trick to properly pronouncing Caciocavallo is to pronounce each and every letter paying special attention to the vowels. If you follow ALOR Italy (thank you!) you’ll know I’ve been sharing stories from my new Italian Alps life. Subscribe to join me for future tales from the Italian Alps and traveling Italy in search of all the Italian cheese I can try!

Now, back to the good stuff. How you can enjoy Caciocavallo yourself!

Where to Buy Caciocavallo

If you’re in Italy Caciocavallo isn’t hard to find. Since most of my readers are in America I know for you it might be trickier. Here are a few tips on where to buy Caciocavallo if your local cheese shops come up empty.

Murry’s Cheese one of New York City’s best cheese shops began bringing cheese to the masses back in 2015 when it partnered with Kroger. If you’re local Kroger leaves you empty-handed you can buy Caciocavallo online at Murry’s Cheese. If you’re lucky enough to have a Whole Foods near you try asking at the cheese counter and if not, ask if they can order it especially for you. Special ordering cheese is a trick that worked for me several times while living in America before La Tur became the It Cheese!

The afternoon we first stumbled on Caciocavallo in Vieste, Italy we feasted on it sliced and served with a side of tomatoes smashed on fresh crusty bread toasted with local white wine. This is what convinced me that Caciocavallo Podolico is absolutely worth the splurge! Especially when served up beside a gorgeous view of the Adriatic.

Caciocavallo Podolico Cheese for Dinner in Vieste Italy
Caciocavallo Podolico Cheese for Dinner in Vieste Italy

Eating in Italy is an education, it’s eye-opening. Quality ingredients with little to no preparation can yield a perfect meal. As a cheese lover, I couldn’t have found a better place to move to if I tried!

Cheese Fact Resources:

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