The gastronomic tradition of the Province of Caserta is closely tied to simple dishes based on local products, but since it is in the region of Campania, a central feature is Mozzarella di Bufala. Celebrated worldwide, buffalo mozzarella is produced with exceptional craftsmanship and artistry in this province, often made into different shapes, such as braided or knotted, in addition to the traditional balls of cheese. The water buffalo milk is also used to make butter and other cheeses, such as burrino, burrata, smoked provola, as well as fresh and dried ricotta.
Local farms supply meat used to prepare cold cuts such as capicollo and pancetta tesa, but the province is famous for its salsiccia, a sausage seasoned in special terra-cotta vases. The list of wines locally produced is long and includes Asprinio di Aversa, Falerno del Massico and Galluccio, all labeled DOC.
Mozzarella di Bufala Insalata
A flavorful and spicy dish, but make sure that you always use fresh mozzarella.
Buffalo mozzarella (1 large ball for every 2 servings)
salt and pepper
olive oil for frying
4 cups arugula or mixed greens
For the sauce
1 large red bell pepper
1/3 cup mascarpone cheese
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove
1 small chili pepper
handful of basil leaves, plus extra for garnish
First make the sauce. Grill the red pepper, turning it often until it starts to char evenly on all sides. When cool enough to handle, peel away the skin, cut open the pepper and clean out the seeds and any pulp. Cut the pepper into smaller pieces and place in a food processor along with the oil, chili pepper, garlic, basil, salt and mascarpone. Process until smooth and add salt to taste. Place in the refrigerator while you prepare the other ingredients. Remove the sauce about 5 minutes before serving.
Set out a plate for flour and another for the breadcrumbs. Beat the eggs in a shallow bowl. Drain the mozzarella and slice each ball in half. Pat both sides of the slices dry with a paper towel. Dredge each piece of cheese in the flour, then the egg and then the breadcrumbs, making sure to cover the cheese entirely. Set aside on waxed paper. Repeat until all the cheese is breaded.
Heat the olive oil. You want at least an inch of cooking oil, so use a small pan and fry the cheese in batches. Gently slide the slices into the oil. Turn once the bottom is golden brown, about 3 minutes, then cook for another 3 minutes. Transfer to drain on paper towels and lightly salt each piece. Allow to cool slightly and drizzle the pepper cream sauce over the cheese. Serve over salad greens and garnish with fresh basil leaves.
Linguine with Colatura di Alici and Erbe di Campo
The anchovy sauce with pepper flakes combine beautifully with broccoli rabe.
1 lb linguine
1 ½ lbs broccoli rabe
4 cloves of garlic
1 tbsp colatura di alici (anchovy sauce)
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt to taste
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Wash and clean the broccoli rabe and cut them into 2” pieces; set aside. In a large pan, sauté the garlic in the olive oil until lightly golden, add the broccoli and season with salt. Cook over a medium flame until the broccoli is tender, then remove the pan from the heat.
Place a pot of salted water on the stove and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water. Once the pasta is cooked, drain it and add it to the pan with the broccoli. Toss the mixture over low heat; add the colatura and pepper flakes; toss again to coat the pasta evenly. Add a ladle of the pasta water to create a creamier sauce and serve.
Carne alla Pizzaiola al Forno
The key to a flavorful pizzaiola is to cut the steak thin and to tenderize. This flavorful dish is a favorite in Caserta and variations can be found throughout the region of Campania.
2 boneless sirloin steaks, butt cut, fat removed
8 oz red wine
4 large fresh tomatoes, chopped
4 tbsp olive oil
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 tbsp fresh oregano, chopped
½ tsp ground black pepper
4 oz fresh mozzarella
salt to taste
Preheat oven to 375°F. Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet over a high flame. Once the oil is very hot, quickly brown garlic, then add the meat and sear it quickly on each side. The meat should be just lightly caramelized. Add the wine and chopped tomatoes, followed by oregano, pepper and salt and simmer for 5-6 minutes. Place the contents of the skillet into an oven pan and bake for 45 minutes, uncovered. Add the mozzarella on top of the meat and cook for an additional 7 minutes. Remove from oven and serve.