What’s a month of Italian cuisine posts, without one on the fabulous cheeses the country produces? Here are my favourites:
My personal favourite is, and forever will be, Pecorino cheese. Made of sheep’s milk (hence the name, as pecora is Italian for sheep), there are several regional versions. The Pecorino Romano is most popular outside Italy, and made in Sardinia, as well as Lazio – the region in which Rome lies – and Tuscany. The cheese has a hard texture, and has a distinct salty taste. It’s great when shaved over the pasta, or just as it is. Romans use it in the Pasta Cacio e Pepe, made with the tonnarelli pasta, and loads of pepper.
The world famous cheese is traditionally made from the milk of water buffalo’s. A protected product, it can only be named Mozzarella di Bufala Campagna when produced in Campania, Lazio, Apulia, and Molise. The name derives from the Italian mozzare (to cut off). Mozzarella is a soft cheese, but firm. Most often used on pizza’s, and the fresh Insalata Caprese.
Different than most of the Parmesan cheeses in our local supermarkets, this one is the real deal. As with the other cheeses, it’s a protected product that can only be produced in several provinces or cities in Emilia-Romagna, and one in Lombardia. The hard cheese is usually grated over pasta, risotto, and soup. It is also shaved over carpaccio, or used as a gratin for dishes such as melanzane.
The only blue cheese you will ever see me eat, originates from the northern regions of Piedmont and Lombardy. Also protected under Italian law, only whole cow’s milk is used. Mold spores are added to the milk. During the aging, metal rods are being inserted and removed just as quickly which enables the spores to grow into hyphae in the air channels created. These hyphae (a sort of fungus) make for the characteristic blue veining of the Gorgonzola. The creamy cheese is used on pizza (namely the Quattro Formaggi), melted in a risotto, or as a sauce for short pasta’s such as penne.
What’s your favourite Italian cheese? Is it one of the four above, or a different one, such as Asiago, or Fontina? Let me know!