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