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Top 4 Italian Cheeses

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

Here are four cheeses that every gourmet traveler should sample when visiting Italy:

1. Parmigiano

Parmigiano Reggiano is the most famous of the Italian cheeses made from cow’s milk. Parmigiano is the Italian adjective of where it is produced, Parma. The mistake we, Americans, make is referring to the Parmesan produced in the states as the same as the authentic Parmigiano Reggiano. The difference is the original Parmigiano is aged between 12 to 20 months unlike the Parmesan of the states. The name ‘Parmesan’ in the EU, legally refers to the Parmigiano Reggiano DOP which means it was produced in Northern Italy. Outside the EU, Parmesan can be sold under the name but only generically like for example, Kraft’s Parmesan. Another difference is in the weight of the wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano(80 pounds) to the Parmesan wheel(24 pounds). That is probably why you can find the price for an average wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano starting at 490 Euro. Eeek!! It will last you a long time as well as fill your home with the delicious aroma of the authentic cheese. I don’t need to tell you what you cannot put Parmigiano Reggiano on, basically stirred into soup, grated over pasta, also eaten in chunks with balsamic vinegar. Is your mouth-watering? Any of you cooks out there know very well that it is the key ingredient in your homemade Alfredo and Pesto sauce. Ok, now my mouth is watering.

2. Pecorino

Pecorino is made from sheep’s milk and is another hard cheese that is delectable. There are four mature varieties of Pecorino cheese: Pecorino Toscano, Pecorino Romano, Pecorino Sardo, and Pecorino Siciliano. All are aged for different lengths of time that keep them separated from each other. Pecorino is most commonly used on pasta, but can also be fantastic dipped in honey. Do try it with the honey from Montalcino, the one with the granulated crystals. Oh so good! Although distinctively strong, and very salty, Pecorino is very popular in more southern dishes, Roman, Sicilian, with strong flavored sauces.

3. Gorgonzola

Moving on to Gorgonzola, I nicknamed the stinky cheese, which is made from whole cow’s milk. It is referred to as a veined Italian blue cheese because of the greenish blue mold that forms when it is aging. Gorgonzola is typically aged for three to four months. The name of the cheese comes from the town of Gorgonzola, outside of Milan, which is said to be the place it was made for the first time in 879. Although neighboring towns quarrel over if that is a fact. Nowadays, most of the production of Gorgonzola takes place in the Piedmont and Lombardy regions of Italy. For food preparations, Gorgonzola can be used as topping for pizza, melted into risotto or pasta, served with Polenta, and the classic eating it with some fresh bread.

4. Mozzarella

Last but not least, Mozzarella which is produced in the region of Campania. Let me count the types, Mozzarella di Bufala, Mozzarella fior di latte and Scamorza (smoked). Mozzarella di Bufala is made from water buffalo’s milk. It is always an option to add as a topping on a pizza, it is worth the 50 cents to add. Mozzarella fior di latte is derived from fresh pasteurized or unpasteurized cow’s milk. Scamorza comes from the southern Italian dilect “scamozzata” meaning “without a shirt” because these cheeses don’t have a hard surface covering the soft cured cheese. It is made from sheep’s milk originating, unlike the others, in the southern region of Puglia. As you all should know all these types of Mozzarella can be good on your favorite pizza, Mozzarella di Bufala and fior di latte is most commonly used with Caprese salads. All three can be added to your desired pasta dish to give you a surprise of cheesy goodness in your mouth.

No cheese can be without a piece of bread to nibble on before, during, or after your meal. Now I dare you to try each of these cheeses, or if you have, have a reunion of these cheeses at a party, a night in, or a sample at your local deli counter. A deliciously divine cheese can always enhance a party.

Photo of Pamigiano Reggiano originally posted by paPisc

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About the author

Venere Travel Blog writer katie greenaway

Katie has a true obsession with Italy and she has lived in Florence on and off for the past 5 years. She has been a tourist, vacationer, student, and an au pair. All of these experiences have made her into the person she is today. This is a place she documents her life with her own thoughts and audacious lifestyle: http://www.katerinafiore.com

4 responses to “Top 4 Italian Cheeses”

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  1. Tina says:
    January 14th, 2009 at 10:00 pm

    The best pecorino (from Tuscany) is Pecorino di Pienza! :-)

    I miss all those cheeses. Good work!

  2. Katie says:
    January 14th, 2009 at 10:01 pm

    Ohhh I never tried that one. I must try it when I return! Thanks Tina! :)

  3. Michael says:
    January 15th, 2009 at 9:07 am

    I disagree with the premise of this blog post. Aside from the freshness of these cheeses you will find in Italy, these are all readily available in many grocery stores in most countries. Why not spend your limited time in Italy trying new things and cheeses that are less common and/or non-existent in your country? For example, Pecorino Sardo (sheep’s milk cheese made only in Sardinia) is one of the best sheep’s milk cheeses money can buy, Toma (from Piemonte & Val d’Aosta) is a delicious soft or semi-soft cow’s milk cheese that you can find as is and variations packed in herbs.
    Cheese is a way of life in Italy (and many European countries) and is also a very local thing. If you go into any market in Italy, you’ll find cheeses you may not find outside of the town that you’re in, certainly more than blogs and even wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Italian_cheeses).

  4. Scintilla says:
    January 15th, 2009 at 10:03 am

    Great round-up. I would have said the four of these cheeses too.
    I didn’t know that Scarmoza meant shirtless and I didn’t know it was from sheep’s milk and I use it all the time!

    They are all so versatile and a staple ‘must have’ ingredient in my fridge.


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