4 medium eggs
3 cups grated [Parmigiano Reggiano] cheese*
2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon pepper (optional)
*Pecorino comes closest to home-made country sheep cheese made in Molise prior to World War II. However, the majority of first-generation immigrants from Molise living in Montreal (including the contributor's mother) now use Parmigiano Reggiano for this recipe. Possibly, the reason why many Italian immigrants switched from using Pecorino cheese to Parmagiano Reggiano is because Pecorino has a very sharp flavor, not easy on the palate.
Tomato Sauce made with Fresh Tomatoes [See recipe]
Tomato Sauce made with Tomato Paste [See recipe]
Peperonata ["Chabot"] sauce [See recipe]
Chop fresh parsley.
Add grated cheese to the eggs. Mix well.
Add chopped parsley. Mix well.
The mixture should be thick enough so that it can easily be molded. If the mixture is too soft, add more cheese. If the mixture is too hard, add a touch more beaten egg.
Take a handful of the mixture and shape it into a roll -- about 3 inches long and 1 inch thick.
Cook the cheese rolls for about 20 minutes in a tomato-based sauce such as "peperonata" or in any other kind of tomato-based sauce that one would stew vegetables in.
Serve the cheese rolls either warm, with red peppers or other kinds of vegetables, or cut up the cheese rolls into small pieces and serve them at room temperature as part of an entre.
Apparently, "cace e ova," "cheese and eggs," was a very popular dish in Molise prior to World War II. Back then, according to my mother, the cheese balls were shaped to look like eggs. In present-day Italy they are often shaped like regular "meat balls." Back in the 1930s "cace e ova" was considered a very special dish (again, according to my mother). Even the well-to-do reserved this dish for very special occasions. The poor often served this dish on Easter Sunday in lieu of lamb, possibly, because it was as a cheaper alternative. Nonetheless, the dish does require a far amount of cheese, so it's not a cheap meal by long shot. Prior to World War II the cheese balls would have been sliced; each guest would have received a slice or two (Not more than that!). Apparently, "cace e ova" was often served with home-made spaghetti. Spaghetti, because it took a great deal of time and skill to do, was also considered rather special, and was reserved for special occasions.... Version I of this dish does not include breadcrumbs. Supposedly, this is the more "authentic" version (according to my mother), but that's hard to say. I suspect most cooks in the 1930s did add breadcrumbs. Firstly, because it would have reduced the cost of the dish, and secondly, because breadcrumbs actually would have improved the taste of the dish (In my opinion). For "cace e ova" with breadcrumbs see Version II .... One more thing -- in present-day Molise the dish is also made with lamb. It's called "agnello cacio e uova." I suppose minced lamb meat is added to the mixture, but I'm not one hundred per cent sure. I asked my mother about it but all she could tell me was that prior to World War II (when she was growing up in Molise) meat was not included in "cace e ova." At that time the dish was seen as an alternative to meat -- a cheaper alternative obviously. Back then sheep cheese was a lot less expensive than any kind of meat, including chicken or pork. How things change.... Photo: Mary Melfi.