First of all, let’s clear a big misunderstanding: Focaccia al formaggio is not a proper “focaccia” it’s not a flat bread with holes on the surface leaking extra-virgin olive oil.
It is, actually, an ancient savory pie, mede of a shell of thin unleavened dough filled with a creamy and melted fresh cheese.
The capitol of this gluttony is Recco, a small coastal village few kilometers east of Genoa, as well as the small villages in its backcountry where indeed a fresh creamy cheese has been produced since century.
There are documents backdating focaccia al formaggio even on 1198, when it was prepared to celebrate in the (wonderful) San Fruttuoso Abbey the departure of Liguria soldiers for the first crusade.
It is also said that in the Middle ages thanks to this food – made with the very few products available: flour, oil, fresh cheese and water – the Genoese population could escape the Saracen invasions taking refuge in the hinterland.
In the 1800 this very local product started to became famous. People from Genoa, especially rich people, started travelling to Recco just to taste the famous focaccia (one of the first example of food tourism!) and many restaurants and bakeries started baking it every day extending the period in which it was eaten, previously limited to the Feast of All Saints, when the focaccia was given to the people for free.
Nowadays, Focaccia al formaggio of Recco is one of the few Liguria IGP product, which means a food product that according to the EU regulations is protected because strictly linked to a defined geographical area and as far as produced in that area. This implies that you can taste the original “Focaccia di Recco al formaggio” only in a small area of the Italian Riviera (indeed the area around Recco and Camogli) and that any other cheese pie produced elsewhere – though with the very same ingredients and methods – cannot be formally called “focaccia di Recco”, on pain of a hefty fine! Here is the list of places where you can eat – or take away – the IGP Focaccia di Recco.
The recipe of this pie has very few ingredients and is fairly easy:knead the dough, let it rest, stretch it in a thin layer, cover a cake tin, spread the cheese, cover with another thin layer of dough, seal and bake at high temperature.
Mine is long, instead, because I want to follow you step by stepas if I were close to you. I give you small tricks and precise directions on how to prepare a perfect stretchy dough (commonly called “pasta matta” – creazy dough), which is the secret to obtain at home a focaccia al formaggiovery similar to the one sold in bakeries of Recco and Genoa.
Even more! To show you the best how to prepare our Italian Riviera cheese pie I have prepare a short video. Watch it and preparing the cheese pie will be a piece of cake!
Here, also, some other small tips for when you prepare your focaccia al formaggio:
- If you have a good olive oil, use it. It is not mandatory to use extra-virgin olive oil. Sometimes extra-virgin olive oil is too acid and too tasty and tend to cover the other flavors.
- Bake the pie at the highest temperature possible in your oven. Usually home ovens reach 280°- 300°C the newest. This will make the dough bake very quickly whilst the fresh cheese just melts without baking.
- For making the cheese pie at home we usually use a fresh Italian cheese called “stracchino” or “crescenza” original of Lombardy and Pedimont which is creamy, has a spreadable texture and no rind. It usually has a mild, slightly acid and delicate flavour. The bakeries and restaurant in the Recco area use, instead, only the cheese traditionally produced in the immediate backcountry, which is very similar to stracchino. If you cannot find stracchino at your cheese monger you can try to buy it online. For the US I found the website Sensibus which sell on-line stracchino. Otherwise you can try to make it at home! Writing this post I stumbled upon a website which gives you all the directions! Here is the link for the crescenza recipe.
- Are you fond of the Liguria street food? Then do not forget to try also my recipes for making at home the famous traditional focaccia and farinata.
- Once you have mastered the pasta matta making you can try all the Italian Riviera savory pies, such as the chard pie, torta pasqualina (the artichoke pie), or the pumpkin pie.
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