According to historical records, Caciocavallo cheese was already being produced as early as 500 BC. The writings of a Roman author Columella, dated around 45-35 BC, describe the production process in detail, making Caciocavallo the oldest Pasta Filata (stretched curd cheese) variety in the world.
While the name literally translates to “horse cheese,” Caciocavallo has nothing to do with horses. It’s made with either sheep or cow milk, though the latter is more common. While large commercial creameries have switched to using pasteurized milk and starter cultures in the last couple of decades, many regional and artisanal varieties are still made in traditional ways, with raw milk. The name apparently comes from the tradition of suspending the cheese over a wooden rod called “Cavallo” (It. for “horse”) to mature.
Caciocavallo cheese texture and flavor greatly depend on its maturation process. Younger Caciocavallo (Semi-Stagionato) has a soft, springy texture similar to Mozzarella and a mellow, sweet flavor. The more the cheese ages, the harder its texture becomes, with Extra Matured variety fitting the description of hard cheese, with its dense, dry, and crumbly texture. Caciocavallo Stagionato and Extra Stagionato have a robust, sharp, and salty flavor with a distinct tang and noticeable spiciness that becomes more well-pronounced the more mature the cheese.