Your Guide To Italian Cheeses
For many, Italian cuisine is the epitome of flavor, depth and technique. From delicate pastas to complex meats, one thing heavily influences the power behind Italian dishes – formaggio! Out of the many Italian cheeses that have gained worldwide popularity, one above all is KING! Keep reading to see who!
Region of Origin: Lombardy
Texture: Crumbly & firm
Flavor: milk, sharp
Aged: Two styles. The softer, mellower dolce (sweet), and natural (aged), which is more intense and aged for over a year.
Pairs Best With: Red wine blends. Zinfandel. Beer. Figs.
Prepared with an unskimmed cow’s milk, gorgonzola cheese is made by heating milk to 82º – 93º F then adding milk enzymes, mold and rennet. After the curd is broken, a process of resting, drip-drying, ripening and salting will take place over the next 3 weeks to a month – during which the cheese will develop its blue-marbled color and particular flavor. Gorgonzola is an excellent addition to sandwiches, salads, burgers, pasta, popcorn, mac & cheese and dressings.
Region/s of Origin: Sardinia, Sicily and Tuscany
Texture: creamy, crumbly, firm
Flavor: buttery, mild, nutty
Aged: 5+ months
Pairs Best With: Soft, dry red wines. Jam. Honey.
A main feature in the cuisine of Rome and lazio, pecorino romano is derived from fresh, whole sheeps milk. With a thin rind and white / creamy yellow coloring, pecorino romano is the cheese that gives cacio e pepe spaghetti, bucatini all’amatriciana, gnocchi and pasta alla carbonara their unique and powerful flavor. Try it grated onto risotto, salads, vegetables and warm bread.
Fontina Val D’Aosta
Region/s of Origin: Aosta Valley
Type: Semi-Soft, Artisan
Texture: Creamy, dense, firm, smooth, supple
Flavor: Mild, nutty, strong, sweet, tangy
Aged: 90 days
Pairs Best With: Full-bodied red wine. Strong ale. Jam. Honey.
Where Danish fontina is recognizable by a red wax rind, Italian fontina has a natural rind that turns tan to orange-brown with aging. Made from unpasteurized milk of Valdaostan Red Spotted cows from the Aosta Valley, fontinas can vary from semi-soft and mild to firm and rich depending on aging. Fontina is perfect for fondues and is an excellent addition to polenta, gnocchi and on its own.
Region/s of Origin: Campania
Type: Soft. Brined.
Texture: Creamy, smooth, springy
Flavor: Milky, mild, floral
Aged: No aging, best fresh.
Pairs Best With: Beaujolais, Sauvignon Blanc and white wines.
Made from the milk of the regions domestic water buffalo, mozzarella di bufala has a higher calcium and protein content while having less cholesterol than cow’s milk. After curd is heated at a low temperature and mixed with a starter enzyme, mozzarella coagulates within a half hour. A process called spinning is then used to push and pull the curds together before it is finally shaped into a round, braided, in knots, or in small ball shape. Mozzarella di bufala is best enjoyed at room temperature close to where it is produced.
Provolone Val Padana
Region/s of Origin: Po Valley
Type: Semi-hard, artisan
Texture: Firm, grainy and open
Flavor: Buttery, tangy, mild.
Aged: 2-3 months for sweet taste or 4+ months for a sharper taste
Pairs Best With: Sauvignon Blanc, Beaujolais, Novello, or Barbera.
This whole cow’s milk cheese comes in a pear or cone shape. When aged for extended period of time, the soft, sweet & mild flavor becomes much more pronounced. American provolone is more similar to the provolone dolce (sweet). This cheese is excellent on sandwiches and flatbreads.
Region/s of Origin: Veneto, Trentino
Texture: Compact, crumbly, smooth.
Flavor: Sharp, full, mild, milky.
Aged: 4+ months – 2 years
Pairs well with: Chianti.
Asiago is an unpasteurized cow’s milk cheese produced on the Asiago plateau in the Veneto foothills of Italy. With a straw – brownish gray colored rind and dark yellow paste, this cheese is best used for grating, melting, slicing on a variety of salads, sandwiches, soups, pastas, and sauces.
Region/s of Origin: Sicily
Type: Hard, whey.
Flavor: Salty & sweet.
Aged: 90+ Days
Pairs Best With: Dessert Wines.
In Italian “Ricotta” translates to “re-cooked” and “Salata” means salted. This Cheese is made from the whey of sheeps milk. It is pressed, salted and aged to produce a cheese that is milky white in color with a firm texture and salty taste. Ricotta is traditionally used in Italian pasta dishes, but you can get adventurous by adding it to pancakes, cheesecakes, gelato, popped onto pizza, mix it into eggs and even make a dessert-like cannoli dip.
The King: Parmigiano Reggiano!
Region/s of Origin: Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Bologna, Mantua
Type: Hard, artisan
Texture: Dense & grainy.
Flavor: Nutty, savory, sharp.
Aged: ~2 years
Pairs Best With: White or Red, Sparkling or Still. Chianti or Prosecco.
This re tra i formaggi (“King Among Cheeses”) is referred to in English as parmesan. Parmigiano-Reggiano is made into large drum-shaped wheels that have a hard natural rind and crumbly, aged interior. The flavor is often described as spicy, savory, salty, fruity, caramelized and nutty. These complex flavors are what make Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese so popular. It’s sharp and powerful taste makes it the perfect addition to practically anything – from pizza and pasta to salads, dips, breading and so much more, we commonly find it grated to enhance its robust flavor.
May 16, 2018