Pomarico Scarcella

Ark of taste
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Scarcella pomaricana—or šcarcèddë, as it is known in the local dialect—is a rustic, savory Easter cake typical of Pomarico, a town in Matera Province. It is made from two discs of fennel-flavored dough stuffed with sausage, scuallëtë (or scallato) cheese, and hard-boiled eggs. The upper disc, which is thinner than the lower one, is often decorated and brushed with egg yolk before baking. Once baked, the approximately 1-kilogram cake is golden in color with a fragrant aroma and flavor. The preparation of Pomarico scarcella, in which all the women of the household took part, traditionally began on the evening of Holy Thursday (the Thursday before Easter Sunday) and involved making the lievito madre (“mother yeast” or sourdough), boiling the eggs, slicing the cheese, and making the sausage (the main ingredient) with matured meat from local nero lucano (black Lucano) pigs. The following morning, the dough was made with Senatore Cappelli durum wheat flour, extra virgin olive oil, salt, wild fennel seeds, and the lievito madre prepared the night before. The dough was kneaded for about half an hour and then left to rest for at least 2 hours until it formed a sort of friable, aromatic brioche. Once the dough was ready, the two discs were formed and stuffed with one or more layers of sausage, cheese, and eggs (strictly in that order). In the past, the number of layers of filling reflected the social status and wealth of the family; today, some people prefer just a single layer.

The origins of Scarcella likely date back to the pre-Christian era, and specifically to Greek culture, when the agricultural people made it as a votive offering and gift of thanks for the year’s first harvest. Greeks, whom the Romans considered skilled bakers, used to enrich breads intended as offerings with various characteristic spring ingredients, including eggs and cheese. During rites dedicated to the goddesses Demeter and Persephone, piglets were sacrificed as a symbol of fertility, which could explain the presence and importance of sausage in the recipe for scarcella. In later times, Christian meanings were attached to the various ingredients: eggs symbolized the death and resurrection of Christ, and sausage and cheese signaled the end of Lent. Today, Pomarico scarcella is prepared and available at various times of the year when the necessary ingredients are in season, though it is only available in limited quantities, and it can be difficult to find the traditional version since bakeries often deviate from the original recipe and use non-local ingredients.

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Production area:Pomarico

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Bread and baked goods