A mountain cheese with DOP (PDO) protection from the areas of Veneto and Trentino Alto Adige. The name comes from the town of the same name which is the main area and the origin of the cheese. A firm cheese, almost the same texture as Parmigiano Reggiano, but only almost. When matured, it develops fine crystals that crunch between your teeth. Straw colored, firm and very compact texture. Some say it has small holes, never come across that. Matured from six months up to two years. The longer the ripening, the more developed flavor. Round and nice but very intense flavor that sits for a long time in the mouth. Maybe a hint of sharpness, only fascinating though, not anything that bites. You may feel a little salty sting. This is a cheese for a slice of good bread. Excellent for cooking as well.
To drink: Mature red wine, preferably Italian and Piedmont. A classy and well matured white will also do the trick.
A mountain cheese this as well, from the Brembana Valley Bergamo province up along the Swiss border. On September 21 the locals celebrate the cows coming down from the mountain. In many ways a traditional mountain ost. Firm and compact paste with oval holes. Varies in color, towards the white side in the winter time when the cows are fed hay, and more yellow in the summer when they graze on healthy and lush mountain grass. A raw and washed rind cow’s milk cheese with minimum maturity of 20 days. It is in my opinion not very long, so look for more matured ones. The taste is very neutral and fresh, but naturally becomes more intense with more time in the cellars.
To drink: Branzi prefers a little red wine in the glass, and then it’s possible to start with a Barbera and then continue on the Piedmontese quality ladder as the cheese becomes more and more mature.
A relatively firm cheese from southern Italy and Sicily. The cheese appears in many varieties, most of them pasteurised. Caciocavallo is a pasta filata style cheese, or stretched curd if you like. The name literally means horse cheese probably becuse two cheeses are tied together and originally was hung over a horse back for maturing or just as food supply. Most of them are tear-drop shaped, some are round and the Sicily variety is rectangular and big weighing from eight to fifteen kilos. There are three variants of this cheese that are more interesting than the others. First is Caciocavallo Palermitano from Sicily. Made of raw milk and natured from two to twelve months. Locally they also have an appetite for the cheese when very fresh. made at small farm dairies up in the hillsides where only traditional wooden equipment is used, vat included. The other cheese of particular interest is Caciocavallo Podolico made on the mainland in the provinces of Calabria, Basilicata, Campania and Puglia. Only milk from the Podolico breed is used. This is a Slow Food Presidium cheese. A very sturdy breed living outside all year round. This cheese is normally matured for three to twelve months in limestone caves. Worth looking for cheeses matured for two to three years, though. Occasionally available outside Italy. Last but not least Caciocavallo Casuentano da pascolo which is a well matured variety made in the Basilicata province with raw milk from Podolico cows. Stored for several years and is often referred to as the Parmigiano Reggiano of the south. This latter could then in some instances be a very well matured Caciocavallo Podolico.
Å drikke til: Red wines from the grape varieties Nero d’Avola and Aglianico.
A cheese from Piemonte, from the mountains near the French border. Quite rare and very similar to the French Bleu de Termignon. The best are the cheeses marked “Produtto della Montagna” or (even better) “di Alpeggio” which requires it is produced at an altitude of more than 1000 meters above sea level. Over time, the cheese may develop internal blue mould setting. Some manufacturers pierce the cheese to help blue mould developing. Matures for a minimum of 60 days, but preferably up to six months. Small production and difficult to obtain.
Fontina Val d’Aosta
This is Val d’Aosta’s most famous cheese. Unpasteurized cow’s milk cheese. Must be characterized as semi-firm. Have DOP (AOP) protection. This is a farmstead cheese, artisanal or industrial. It is important to be on the alert so you get one of the two former. Industrially manufactured Fontina “is just another cheese”. Pale yellow paste with a nice piercing of rather small holes. Comes as wheels as most mountain cheeses do. Being widely used for cheese fondue. A farmstead or artisanal cheese have a slightly sharp scent but with a taste of nuts as is the case for many mountain cheeses. The cheese is made twice a day, so one from morning milk and one from evening milk.
To drink: If you use for a cheese fondue, it’s only white wine that applies. Otherwise you can drink both Pinot Noir and Barbera; more on the elegant side than the complex side. If you are in the area, you drink local wine, of course.
Italian hard cheese which in shape and texture is similar to Parmigiano Reggiano. The scope of application for the two cheeses is much the same. Grana Padano is perhaps the oldest hard cheese in Italy, first made by Cistercian monks in the Chiaravalle monastery near Milan about 900 years ago. Comes in three varieties Grana Padano which matures for nine to sixteen months and has a light “creamy” consistency and is only slightly crumbly. Grana Padano oltre 16 mesi is more crumbly and with a more pronounced taste. Grana Padano Riserva matures for 20 months or more and is the one of the three varieties that has the most of everything. The cheese has had an Italian DOC since 1955 and a corresponding PDO from the EU since 1996. Is made once a day from raw cow’s milk, where the evening milk is skimmed and makes the cheese relatively lean. An everyday cheese in Italy, like Parmigiano Reggiano, but is much cheaper than the latter and is mostly used in cooking, grated. The cheese can be made over a large area in northern Italy. Comes in wheels of 24 to 40 kilos. Grana Padano Trentingrana is a special variant with its own certification that is manufactured in the province of Trento.
To drink: If you want to enjoy some cheese and a glass of wine, it’s probably quite similar to the wine selection for Parmigiano Reggiano (see below).
Blue Cheese from the Val di Susa in Piedmont along the French border. Produced only during the summer months when the cows and goats graze in the mountains. Can be made from cow’s milk or goat’s milk. A blue cheese without typical blue veins. More a faint blue fringing in an otherwise rather anemic Relatively firm cheese,cheese when it comes to color. Fairly dry texture but with a creamy expression in the mouth. Sharp in flavor and definitely a cheese for the connoisseur. A cheese that is best enjoyed in small quantities. Dry salted, making sure it is not as salty as many other blue cheeses. A relatively rare cheese.
To drink: A port will be just fine, Recioto della Valpolicella as well, and Amarone if you want drier but equally powerful wine.
Parmigiano Reggiano is a hard, crumbly cheese from raw skimmed milk from cows that are fed on grass and hay. Can only be produced in the area around Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena and Bologna (all in Emilia-Romagna), and Mantova in Lombardy. Also known as Parmesan colloquially. Parmigiano Reggiano DOP has protection from the EU (AOP). All cheeses are checked after one year of maturation, and those that are approved get a stamp. The others are sold as second class. The most common age is two years, but have personally tasted six years old. Intense sweet and nutty flavor, with hints of baby sick. Parmigiano Reggiano is also much used for cooking. Grated. Mainstream i Italy, fairly exotic in the rest of the world. Most often the cheese is made with with milk from Holstein cows, look for varieties made with milk from Vacche Rosse, Bianca Modenese or Bruna Italiana, though. They are the best.
To drink: I would prefer a Barolo. The more mature cheese the more mature the wine. But white will also do , we are talking upper class Burgundy.
A firm, raw milk cheese from the Cueno province in Piemonte. To be labelled Alpeggio the herd must graze at pastures higher than 900 meters above sea level. Quite rustic with a natural (mucor) rind. The rind looking rather scary actually. Don’t let that frighten you off. Just cut it away. Crumbly, but turns creamy in the mouth. No fixed maturing time for this cheese, so look for variants matured for six months or more, in my opinion they are the best. Raschera is also what you call a mountain cabin in the Piemonte area.
A cheese made from skimmed cow’s milk. The milk was separated and the cream was used to churn butter. So Salva Cremasco is a cheese made from excess milk. Hence the name Salvatore coming of salvare (to save in Italian). they saved the surplus skimmed milk and made as a cheese from it. A DOP (AOP) cheese. hails from the area just east of Milan in southern Lombardy. Unpasteurized, but there is a pasteurized version too. Matured at least for 30 days, but can be matured up to a year. Compact, relatively dry, ivory colored paste, almost without holes. A certain sharpness as young turning into a more rich and full flavor with age. Try a ripe pear with it. I was also recommended a chutney made of green tomatoes.
To drink: Dry, fruity white wine from northern Italy. For the beer hounds; Try a Lager.
Scamorza is a pasta filata (streched curd) styke cheese from the southern Italy. The name rembles Mozzrella, because the origin og make is much the same. That said, they are two very different cheeses. Scamorza can be smoked, in which case it is called Scamorza Affumicata and natural and called Scamorza Bianca. This is a cheesew from the southern Italian countryside, so it can be made from skimmed as well as full fat milk, can be industrial or from a farm dairy and it might be from raw or pasteurised cow’s milk. It might even happen it is made from other types if milk, mostly farm made cheeses that. The cheese is not matured for that long and some of the cheeses will in that process be smoked and obtains a yellow/brown colour. The natural cheeses are more on the white side. All cheese come with ribbons probably used for hanging up while matured. Mild and sweetish flavour with a light touch of smoke. Compact and elastic texture due to the way it is made.
Å drikke til: Dry white wines or beer of pilsner type, especially if you have a smoked variant.
From northern Italy, Lombardy to be more exact, but can also come from a wider area such as Piedmont and Veneto. From cow’s milk. The cheese is off-white in color with a soft rind that looks pink dirty white with mildew stains if it has been stored for a while. Cut away these. The rest can certainly be eaten. A pure milk flavor, outspoken saltiness and with age also a nice touch of acidity. Available in both pasteurized and unpasteurized, but the unpasteurized, as superior as it is, is very rare.
To drink: Barolo or Barbaresco. This is the an Italian cheese, but if you want to drink French, a red wine from the southern Rhône fits well.
Toma di Bettelmatt
A raw milk cheese made in the far north of Piemonte, more specifically Val Formazza in the north of the province of Val d’Ossola. Many different cheeses are made on the farms in this area, something they have been doing for hundreds of years. Toma di Bettelmatt, which is made on several farms, is considered the best. A summer cheese, only made for a few months, and in limited numbers. Matures for about 60 days. Light yellow in colour, compact consistency, but some holes occur and may vary from cheese maker to cheese maker So can also the size of the wheels. Toma di Bettelmatt i always branded with a burn mark in the rind with reference to which farm has made the cheese. A little dry in the mouth and typical taste of herbs and a little barn yard. Some claim that the cheese tastes like the herb Mottolina (Ligusticum mutellina) which only grows in that area, but that does not have to be the case.
To drink: Red wine, and perhaps most preferably ripe Barolo. That said, there are excellent wines from Val d’Aosta worth trying.
Torta di Peghera
Semi-soft raw or termised washed rind cheese from cow’s milk that made on small farms in Val Taleggio, Lombardy. Pale golden thin rind with hints of orange color. Touch of barnyard aroma. Rich flavor, but not pungent. Long lasting in the mouth. Nice acidity. Serve with onion marmalade. Use melted on polenta, but also good as is with bread. Quite oily cheese with its 54% fat in dry matter. Matured at least 45 days. Cylindrical in shape and weighs 2.4 kg. I recommend the cheeses made with raw milk.
To drink: White wines from the Voignier or Arneis grapes. Light red wines from Lombardy.
A beautiful goat cheese from the area around the town of Castelmagno in the province of Cueno a few hours drive southwest of Alba. Semi firm with a slightly creamy consistency. White cheese with natural rind. Mild, tasting of milk with good sweetness that appears towards the end of the taste curve. Produced by the cooperative La Poiana. Cylinder shaped and weighs about half a kilo. Perhaps hard to get outside the region of production, but at the week-end market in Alba on the other hand, you will find it.
Robiola di Roccaverano
An old cheese this Italian goat cheese. For that’s what it is, although it also comes as a blend of cow, sheep and goat. Known as early as 300 years BC. As a curiosity it can be mentioned that Pliny who died in 79 AD, appreciated this cheese. From the Langhe area of Piedmont. Have DOP (AOP) protection, so have the blends so it is important to read the label. 2 latti, 3 latti etc. I prefer the pure goat cheese, milk from goats that are fed only on fresh grass. Pasteurized and skimmed goat’s milk, so it’s here only because it is such a delight. In season from February/March to October. Handcrafted on small farms while the blended ones are made at large dairies. Great goat flavor with pronounced acidity which is rounded off by ripening and the flavor becomes more barnyard and “old goat”. Soft ivory colored rind, that reddens with age. Often eaten with some extra virgin olive oil and fresh figs. Also good with walnut and raisin bread.
To drink: A dry, fresh, white wine from the Langhe area. A lager for the beer freaks.
Robiola di Capra
Also known as La Rossa because it is wrapped in cherry leaves tied with a red ribbon. Comes from the Cueno province in Piemonte where it made at farm dairies. Made of raw goat milk from February/March through October. Matured for a minimum of 20 days, but might well be matured longer. I have tasted cheeses matured for two months and they are fully ripe and just fantastic. Very white paste and red brown freckled rind.
To drink: Fruity, dry whites. Lager if you are a beer fanatic.
Hard ewe’s milk cheese, but usually semi soft when young. Originally from Sardinia. Available in four varieties. From Sardinia comes Pecorino Sardo. The most famous is Pecorino Romano, which is largely produced in Sardinia, but also in Lazio and Tuscan Grosseto. Then there is Pecorino Toscano from Tuscany, and finally Pecorino Siciliano from Sicily. All are PDO cheeses. Three maturity levels: Fresco, semi-stagionato and stagionato as the most mature and hardest. In addition, countless blends of herbs and spices. A weird variety is with living fly larvae in the cheese. It can be found on Sardinia, not allowed to sell to the public though. Most Pecorinos with famous and well known names are made with pasteurised milk, you won’t find them here. Below is a selection of the finest Pecorinos made with raw ewe’s milk. Mind you, the older and harder the cheese gets, the more pronounced salty taste the cheeses have.
To drink: On a general note, mature reds from Tuscany, if you can afford Super Tuscans, go for it.
Pecorino is a ewe’s milk cheese that can be made in several places in Italy, and carries a name accordingly, although this is not entirely true. A lot of Pecorino Romano is made in Sardinia. Most varieties available abroad are pasteurized. But there are alternatives like the ones below, all of raw ewe’s milk. Look out for them.
This is a variant of raw ewe’s milk from sheep that must have been raised in Sicily. Made in wooden cheese vats on farm dairies or small artisan dairies. Has PDO protection and the annual production is only around 40 tons. The cheese is matured for a minimum of four months, but often longer.
This is a variant from the northwestern part of the region Basilicata, located quite far to the south. Has PDO this too and of raw ewe’s milk. Made in copper vats at small farm dairies. The sheep are typical Mediterranean breeds. Comes in two varieties; Semistagionato and Stagionato, the latter stored the longest.
Pecorino dei Monti Sibillini
This comes from the Marche region and is made from raw ewe’s milk up in the mountains, according to old traditions where they use a mixture of animal and vegetable rennet to get as firm a curd as possible. This cheese has a Slow Food Presidium.
From Sardinia, but this is another cheese than Pecorino Sardo. They are often perceived as the same cheese. Unlike the Pecorino Sardo, the Fiore Sardo has the protected designation of origin, PDO and is made from raw milk. This cheese also come as a slightly smoked variant, some prefer it smoked other don’t. The area of use might also differ. I prefer it unsmoked by the way.
Formaggio di Pecora di Bitti
This is a farm cheese from Bitti in the Nuoro area around the middle of Sardinia a little towards the east coast. Not so old this one, without me knowing when it was first made. Raw ewe’s milk of course. Matures for a minimum of 30 days, and is softer when young than when it turns older. The taste is towards the rustic and barn, with a slightly sharp spice. The cheeses are cylinder shaped and weighs three to four kilos.
Pecorino dell’Alta Baronia
Baronia is an area in the north-east of Sardinia. It is not a very old cheese historically, basically the shepherds kept goats and made goat cheese. Today, however, it is Pecorino sheep that rule. Farm cheese from raw ewe’s milk. This is a Slow Food Presidium cheese. The cheese is cylindrical with a fairly large variation since a cheese can vary from three to ten kilos. Minimum maturity is two months. Some cheeses that mature longer are smeared with local olive oil. A hard rind, the cheese is compact with a few holes. It is otherwise quite soft as young but hardens quickly with age. The taste is sweet with some spices. The scent is vegetal after all the Mediterranean scrubs that the ewes graze on, as well as hints of barn. The cheese is made from December to June.
Bitto, or Formaggio Valli del Bitto cheese is from the Valtelline Valley in Lombardy. Taking its name from the River Bitto which flows through the valley. Have DOP (AOP) protection. Made only in summer when the cattle graze in the mountains. The main ingredient is raw cow’s milk but 10 to 20% raw goat’s milk should be added. Important that Valli del Bitto is pinter on the rind. Stores incredibly well, up to 10 years. Winter cheese is called Valtellina Casera. Relatively rare.
To drink: Mature Barolos.
Testun Foglia di Castagno
A Piedmontese cheese made of goat’s and cow’s milk. Probably most cow’s milk. Wrapped in chestnut leaves and matured in oak barrels for three years. This means that it has a wonderful, sweet and nutty flavor. It becomes slightly bluish without it being prominent. It is defined as a firm but it is creamy firm, and it melts on the tongue. Just to enjoy. Can be difficult to find.
To drink: A good, ripe Piemontese. I would prefer Barolo from the top shelf, but a good Barbaresco will of course also be amazing.