A Beginner’s Guide To Italian Cheese

Italian cheese is more than just delicious; it carries a piece of Italy's rich history. But did you know? The first cheese was made in Italy more than 5,000 years ago, and the Romans were some of the first people to make it. The Romans were masters of cheese-making, and their techniques have been passed down for centuries. Cheese was an important part of the Roman diet, and was also often used as a source of protein and calcium.

Italy's diverse regions and local farming practices have given rise to a wide variety of cheeses, each reflecting a distinct cultural identity. With more than 400 different types of cheese, Italy has something for everyone, from mild and creamy mozzarella to sharp and pungent gorgonzola Whether you're an ardent cheese lover or simply curious about the rich culinary traditions of Italy, the wonders of Italian cheese will never cease to amaze you. So next time you’re in a ‘cheesy’ mood, remember to pick your favourite Italian cheese wisely. 

1. Parmigiano-Reggiano

Parmigiano-Reggiano

Known as the "King of Cheeses," Parmigiano-Reggiano originated in the Emilia-Romagna and dates back to the Middle Ages when monks in that area began experimenting with cheese-making techniques. The result was a hard, granular cheese with a nutty and savoury flavour. It is often grated over pasta dishes or enjoyed on its own as a table cheese.

Parmigiano-Reggiano is made exclusively from unpasteurised cow's milk sourced from this region as well as the ones around it. The cows are fed a specific diet that includes locally grown forage and hay, ensuring the cheese's distinct savoury flavour and top-notch quality. 

Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese has a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status ensuring that only cheeses produced following specific guidelines within the designated region can be called Parmigiano-Reggiano. This protection guarantees that consumers around the world can experience the authentic taste of this extraordinary cheese.

So, whether you're savouring a slice of Parmigiano-Reggiano on your favourite pasta or grating it over a bowl of risotto, you can appreciate the centuries-old craftsmanship and the dedication that goes into creating this remarkable cheese. 

2. Gorgonzola

Gorgonzola

A renowned blue cheese from Italy, Gorgonzola cheese hails from the Lombardy region of northern Italy, and is said to have been created in the town it is named after, Gorgonzola. 

The origins of Gorgonzola have two tales attached to it. One popular story suggests that the cheese was discovered by chance when a forgetful cheesemaker accidentally left some curdled milk out overnight. The following day, the cheese was found to have developed blue veins that gave it a unique flavour. Another story attributes the invention of Gorgonzola to a local innkeeper who stored leftover cheese in a damp cellar, leading to the growth of blue mould. Regardless of its exact beginnings, Gorgonzola popularity grew rapidly in the 12th century.

Now, there are two types of Gorgonzola that are consumed widely: Gorgonzola Dolce (sweet) and Gorgonzola Piccante (sharp). Gorgonzola Dolce is aged for a shorter period, resulting in a milder and creamier cheese that is used as an ingredient in sauces, salads, and risottos. Gorgonzola Piccante, on the other hand, is aged longer, intensifying its flavours and creating a more crumbly texture. It is served on cheese platters or used in cooking to add depth to dishes. Gorgonzola continues to be celebrated as a true gem of Italian cheesemaking and for its centuries-old traditions and craftsmanship.

3. Mozzarella

Mozzarella

A staple in Italian cuisine, this fresh, milky cheese has its roots in Campania and Puglia in southern Italy. The term "mozzarella" is derived from the Italian word "mozzare," meaning "to cut off," which refers to the process of shaping the cheese into smaller portions and stretching them by hand.

The origins of mozzarella can be traced back to the 12th century, where it was first made by monks in the region who were known for their dairy expertise. Traditionally, Mozzarella was made solely from water buffalo milk and consumed on the same day to ensure its freshness. It was known as Mozzarella di Bufala Campana (Mozzarella with Buffalo Milk). Eventually, however, cow's milk became more widely used due to its availability and lower cost, leading to the creation known as Fior di Latte (Cow Milk Mozzarella).

Mozzarella gained popularity beyond Italy's borders in the 19th century when Italian immigrants brought their cheese-making traditions to other parts of the world, notably the United States. Today, mozzarella is savoured worldwide and it has become an essential ingredient in many Italian dishes like pizza, Caprese salad, and baked pasta dishes like lasagna.

The traditional fresh mozzarella has variations to it such as smoked mozzarella (scamorza) and burrata. Burrata is a decadent cheese made from mozzarella curds filled with a creamy mixture of mozzarella and cream.

The mild flavour, and the stretchy texture of Mozzarella cheese can be enjoyed fresh, on its own and or melted over a pizza.

Italian cheese is a testament to the country's culinary heritage and the passion of its cheesemakers. Whether you're indulging in a classic mozzarella-topped pizza or savouring the complex notes of an aged Pecorino, each bite tells a story of tradition, craftsmanship, and the love for exceptional ingredients. So, embrace the diversity of Italian cheese and let it elevate your culinary experiences to new heights.

If reading all about cheese has got you craving for this pantry favourite you can try our Garlic & Cheese Pull Apart Bread which is loaded with a blend of Mozzarella and Cheddar Cheese or our Parmesan Straws which are layered with traditionally aged Parmesan Cheese, hand-rolled, and baked to perfection. Get your authentic and honestly Italian goodies home delivered to you, today from our website.

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